4 Truths About Freelancing Your Boss Doesn’t Want You To Know

The world is changing. It’s time to change with it.

According to Upwork the freelance workforce grew to 55 million in 2016 — a rise of 2 million from 2014.

Freelancers now make up 35% of the U.S. workforce. And it’s estimated that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing in some way.

This is awesome.

The internet has exploded and given infinite opportunities to everyone with access to it.

Yet, plenty of unhappy workers are still in their 9-to-5 job hoping for a raise and an early retirement. Why?

Fear.

This is completely understandable. People like their steady paychecks, their office buddies, and the feeling of security that conventional employment appears to provide.

Change can be uncomfortable.

And viewed from the apparent ‘safety and security’ of employment, freelancing can appear rocky, lonely and low-paid.

But these are myths — prejudice’s left over from years gone by.

In reality, 79% of workers say freelancing is better than working a traditional job.

But employers have a vested interest in keeping you in your place while they need you.

Become a freelancer and take back control of your life. Here’s the truth about freelancing that your boss doesn’t want you to know.

1. Freelancing Is More Secure Than Employment

Businesses tout ‘job security’ as a key benefit to employment.

But, these days “job security is a complete myth, as is long-term employment,” saysJacob Morgan, author of ‘The Future of Work’.

“Companies lay off employees in droves…by the thousands! They just make sweeping cuts when they need to. The average employee tenure is under five years and for millennials it’s under three years.”

Why? Two reasons: automation and globalization.

Take the U.S. steel industry. It lost 75% of its workforce between 1962 and 2005. But according to a study published in the American Economic Review, shipments did not decline.

The reason? A new technology called the minimill.

Then there’s globalization.

Developments in communication are making it easier for businesses to outsource jobs to cheaper workers in developing companies.

In 2013, U.S. overseas affiliates employed 14 million workers. The four most affected industries are manufacturing, call centers, technology, and human resources.

And, when the next recession hits — and it’s only a matter of time — there’ll be another spike in layoffs and unemployment.

And want to know the worst part? You have absolutely no control.

In a discussion about the differences between freelancing and regular employment on Life Hacker, SergioAM said:

“Due to downsizing at my last full-time job, I got hit with the realization that a full-time job gives you a false sense of security… You get stuck in this mindset that you’re guaranteed that amount of money biweekly, you have healthcare, a 401k, [paid] vacations/holidays…
 You start to feel safe in that bubble. Then when it pops, everything comes crashing down and you feel completely and utterly helpless.”

Don’t put yourself in that position.

Think of it like this: If you’re employed, you only have one ‘client’ and one source of income. But freelancer’s have multiple clients and multiple sources of income.

The lesson? Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

An investor wouldn’t invest in only one company, they would diversify their portfolio to minimize risk.

So why wouldn’t you do the same with your income?

The only way to have a truly secure income, is to have many sources of income.

If you lose a client as a freelancer, worse case scenario, you earn less that month while you find another client to take their place.

It’s nowhere near as devastating as losing a job, and all your income.

Ask yourself, what would happen in your life right now if you unexpectedly got laid off?

The key to thriving in the new economy is adaptability.

Jacob Morgan says, “What you ‘know’ doesn’t matter nearly as much as your ability to learn new things and apply those learnings to new scenarios and environments.”

For real security, freelance with multiple clients to diversify your income. Then focus on repeat customers to maintain a stable monthly income.

That way, you’re in control.

2. You Can Earn More Money as a Freelancer

Forget the ‘starving artist’, many freelancers make bank.

Like Holly Johnson who earned $225,000 in 2016 from her freelance writing alone.

And according to global payment platform Payoneer, in most countries, freelancers earn more than average workers.

“Any successful freelancer is charging 2x or more the hourly rate an employee would get for the same job,” says freelancer Myrna Minkoff.

“I just invoiced a job at roughly $250/hr. I’m a writer. You’d be hard pressed to find a 9-to-5 writer making $500k doing the kind of work I do. (Granted, I don’t have 40 hours a week of that kind of work, either. But at that rate, I don’t need to.)”

Here’s why it’s so great: Freelancing is a meritocracy.

The harder you work and the better your skills, the more money you make.

Sounds fair, right?

But in your job, if you bust your a$$ for the entire year and knock expectations out of the park, you might get a promotion.

…to another role with a fixed wage slightly higher than your previous one.

“If you look at wage stagnation and income inequality, it is across the board for all workers,” says Sara Horowitz, Founder and Executive Director of the Freelancer’s Union.

“What we are really showing is people have many different ways of putting together their career to make up for that declining wage. Freelancing is the key way they can do that.”

As a freelancer you get paid for the value you create, not the hours you clock.

Which do you want as a motivator: hours clocked in the office, or value given to the world?

Like any career, freelancing can take time to get going.

But Upwork reported in 2016, that the majority of freelancers leaving a full-time job had earned more within one year. With 73% of freelancers agreeing that technology is making it easier to find work.

This infographic from Zeqr shows some reasonable estimates of income for different freelancing jobs:

Look, it’s not the fact that you can earn more money as a freelancer that matters. But that you’re in control of how much money you earn.

And when we think about job security once more, being the sole influencer over how much money you earn just makes sense.

Become a freelancer to lift the cap on your income, and start getting paid for the value you produce.

3. People Go Freelance By Choice

Your boss might have you believe that freelancing is the last resort of desperate no-hopers.

This is another myth.

People are becoming freelancers in droves.

Intuit reported that self-employment in the U.S. rose to 36% in 2016–17% rise in the last 25 years — and is projected to reach 43% by 2020.

So are these people driven to freelancing out of necessity?

Nope.

According to Intuit’s study, of the 55 million Americans that currently identify as contingent, only 11% reported joining the gig economy because they couldn’t find full-time employment.

Chartered accountant-turned travel blogger ‘Bren On The Road’ sheds light on the growing pull of self-employment:

“People assumed I just hated working, but that wasn’t necessarily true. Others thought I was just lazy. Others thought I was simply proving a point. But it was none of that.
 Instead, it was a deep-seated unhappiness, a result of spending my whole life working so hard for things I had never wanted in the first place.”

Thankfully, 63% of freelancers say that perceptions of freelancing as a career are becoming more positive:

It seems the prejudice that surrounds freelancing is breaking down as the benefits are increasingly recognized.

Musician and entrepreneur Dana Fontineau recounts the words said to her by a fellow musician:

“You know, I used to think that freelancing was a dirty word. I used to think it was the last resort if I couldn’t win a job. But now I see it means that I can create the life I want, the way I want.”

And according to the Recruit Works Institute, 76% of people surveyed indicated interest in working on a freelance basis.

And this is not just a case of ‘the grass is always greener’.

Half of freelancers say there is no amount of money that would get them to stop freelancing and take a traditional job.

The same study goes on to say that “Freelancers are more likely to feel respected, engaged, empowered, and excited to start each day.”

Holly Johnson describes the year she made $225,000 from her freelance writing:

“I went on 11 vacations… mostly with my kids. I barely got dressed, choosing to spend most work days in my pajamas on my couch.
 Best of all, I put my kids on the bus at 8 a.m. each morning and stood smiling at the bus stop at 3:40 p.m. each day. I also had ample time to be a parent and a wife.”

Stop caring what other people do or don’t think about freelancing. Build the life you want.

4. Freelancing Doesn’t Have To Be Lonely

In the office you have your work friends, but freelancers just spend their lives in their PJs like Holly right?

That’s certainly an option, but what about those of us who need a little more human interaction?

Two words: Coworking spaces.

A coworking space is a membership-based workspace where a diverse group of independent professionals work in a shared communal setting.

User experience researchers write that coworking spaces “expanded significantly in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008/9”, adding that this “style of work emerged in response to the slow plod of austerity, hollowed-out corporations, underemployment and career insecurity.”

And coworking is growing fast — just look at this graphic from Deskmag’s 2017 Global Coworking Survey:

It’s true that freelancing often lacks the built-in structure and community that a typical job provides.

But coworking solves these issues.

The Coworking Manifesto — an online document signed by thousands of coworkers — clearly articulates the values that the coworking movement aspires to, including:

  • Collaboration over competition
  • Community over agendas
  • Participation over observation
  • Friendship over formality

And according to Deskmag, community is the most important reason people join a coworking space.

A sentiment echoed by travel blogger Monika Pietrowski, who writes that “the biggest advantage for me is the people interaction and social setting.”

Most coworking spaces provide more than a desk and ultra-fast wifi too.

Many provide call booths, conference rooms, free coffee, weekly events, and are accessible 24/7 — giving you complete flexibility over when you work.

But if everyone’s chatting over frappacappamochalattechinos, are these places productive?

Yes.

In an article for the Harvard Business Review, researchers were surprised to discover that coworkers “report levels of thriving that approach an average of 6 on a 7-point scale.”

“This is at least a point higher than the average for employees who do their jobs in regular offices, and something so unheard of that we had to look at the data again.”

And, the 2016 Global Coworking Survey reported that coworkers are happier at work than other people.

Sold?

But what about those without access to coworking spaces?

There’s still plenty of other places you can go.

Public libraries are a great option and many cafes are accustomed to people working on their laptops.

Wesley Verhoeve, founder of Family Records, wrote an article for Fast Company titled, ‘Why You Should Work From A Coffee Shop, Even When You Have An Office.’

He says, “The experience of working out of coffee shops was so positive that even after we moved into our new [office] home, I made sure to get in a few ‘coffee shop days’ each month.”

He goes on to list the benefits of working from a cafe:

  • A change of environment stimulates creativity.
  • Fewer distractions.
  • Community and meeting new people.

Use a service like Workfrom.co to find great places to work.

And as a freelancer, you can spend more time with the people who actually matter to you.

In the discussion between freelancing and employment on Life Hacker, Yorkshiretealover shares:

“I’m having the immense pleasure of being with my son 24/7 (except when he’s at school). If I were working a regular job, I’ll be leaving home while he would be still sleeping and would get home way after he would have arrived.”

And importantly, you don’t have to spend time with people who irk you — no more pacifying that annoying colleague or boss.

Got an annoying client? Find another client to replace them.

So freelancing doesn’t have to be lonely. In fact, it can be more sociable as you‘re not tied to interacting with the same people every day.

Jim Rohn famously said we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.

Don’t you want to be able to choose who those people are?

Conclusion

Advances in globalization, automation and communications are drastically changing the world of work.

This is good news for those looking to capitalize on the gig economy.

Freelancing gives you the security and flexibility devoid in traditional jobs. And perceptions about freelancing are changing as more and more people (and companies) capitalize on the benefits.

So stop trading your precious hours for money and start trading value. You only get one life — live it on your own terms.

The world has changed. It’s time to catch up.


Originally published at blog.thenopantsproject.com on September 14, 2017.

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