To Make Work, Work — We Must Work Together
We are at the starting line of a marathon that is dramatically shifting the way we work. At the forefront of this change is the increasing percentage of independent workers, or freelancers, who make up 20% of the American workforce.
Independence and freedom are two of the driving forces behind the movement towards the “free agent” economy — defined as individuals who purposely don’t associate with any one employer, career or entity. Instead, they are their own employer, career and entity — many times all in one.
This difference in perspective has resulted in greater optimism, confidence and feelings of accomplishment — both for the individual freelancer and the independent worker population at large.
But to what expense are we, as a society, fueling the rise of the freelance economy?
The answer, unfortunately, is a lack of community.
Community is the bedrock that interconnects us all.
Community shows itself in both the physical and digital arenas — from the brick-and-mortar meeting space to an open online forum. Both provide the foundation for individuals to meet and grow their professional network — all while creating a safe and comfortable atmosphere to share opinions, ask for advice or merge skill-sets.
The bad news, however, is that the demand for connective outlets is greater than the supply — blockading a percentage of freelancers who now report increasing feelings of loneliness, isolation, depression, and anxiety.
These symptoms, combined with a lack in affordable and accessible healthcare, childcare, and housing concoct the perfect disaster for independent workers.
If life is a rollercoaster, freelancers have been riding through the entire theme park for years.
For “traditional” workers, that’s a big price to pay — especially in our current economic climate. To know where and when your next paycheck is coming from is to know stability and safety. This is undeniable of course — but, at the same time, unfulfilling to roughly half the American workforce.
The freelancer’s goal is that of interdependence — with paying clients who will provide a stream of income while choosing how and when that income will be derived. Independent workers see this as learning as much as one can about oneself— in an attempt to bridge, create, and expand their individual strengths with others.
But a lack in community puts a dagger into that ability to connect — an ability that freelancers need addressed in order to ease the hardship.
It’s often worth repeating that one can accomplish anything you want alone, but it can never replace the greater, more meaningful accomplishments that you can achieve with others.
It is true that freelancers, collectively, are benefiting from a short-term rise of physical and digital community-oriented services that are both accessible and affordable. We see it on social media with Facebook’s push for a more transparent and inclusive platform and we see it on the ground with WeWork’s expanding coworking presence. These are all positive signs for which freelancers, creatives, and small businesses should be proud of.
But there is no happiness to be found in Facebook or in WeWork— or in any one particular product or service as a standalone entity that we hope will shine for as long as we live.
Instead, when we diversify our options — we gain the ability to connect with others in a myriad of ways — ways that solve the same need for building the next physical or digital connectivity space. This is the space where real happiness resides.
The ability to connect stems from a hard-fought, yet never-ending journey that freelancers travel to make these connections come alive — for it is the journey that forges the path to community.
There’s a long road between finding oneself (as a freelancer) to finding yourself in others.
To make work, work —to achieve true freedom and independence — is to have a greater number of accessible and affordable ways to bring people together.
We already know that a successful future is possible for those changing the nature of the way we work. But freelancers need more than that — they need more options to build a successful future that is not only possible, but probable.
How is this achieved?
It is achieved by recognizing that there are not many options to connect with others when you work for yourself. But when the entire independent workforce recognizes the shortage of community — that’s when the magic happens.
So, let’s get to work.