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The Freelance Generation: The Surge of Self-Employment, Its Perks, and Challenges

Millennials are officially the largest generation in the workforce, and they are re-architecting the world of work and professional standards. Their younger counterparts, Generation Z, are joining the forces in defining a new future of the work by rejecting the hierarchical power within manager-employer contracts.

Instead, they seek autonomy and purpose in their professional lives, and self-employment allows them to take back control over their careers. Eurostat shows that self-employed people make 14 percent of total employment in the European Union. Statista’s survey from 2019 shows that 53 percent of Gen Z and 40 percent of millennials across the Atlantic work as freelancers.

The freelance world allows these young professionals to satisfy their diverse interests and cash in on their skills while also keeping the luxury of a flexible schedule and their independence. It’s perhaps little surprise then that we are experiencing the highest rate of self-employment in the last 20 years. And to exacerbate matters, the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic is arousing a surge in remote work across all generations. As the second wave of coronavirus continues, many job seekers will no doubt feel safer working from home.

In such an environment, it’s safe to say that remote work and self-employment are likely to be a major part of the future of work. So it’s a good time to evaluate the perks and hurdles of self-employment.

The Good

Freedom of choice and benefits of a team

Freelancing gives workers the liberty to select their jobs according to their interests and skills. They have the power to accept or decline clients. Hence, freelancers can follow their passion and dedicate as much time as they want to steer towards their career goals.

However, project-based freelancers still need to report to their clients and attend meetings. Although that affects their freedom of flexible working hours, it allows them to have a sense of being part of a team.

Having control over their work helps freelancers retain the spark of doing what they love, and being part of a team fuels their social needs. It gives a reason to get on a call or a face-to-face video conference with other people. Meetings and check-ins, although time-consuming, help give structure to their day. And collaborating with a team can have the effect of motivating one to work better, because the enthusiasm of the team pulls everyone along.

Work from home or anywhere in the world

Being able to work from the comfort of one’s home, favorite cafe, or even a beach is very appealing alternative to working in an office for many people. After all, the only things you really need to get work done are a good internet connection and a laptop. Freelancers can take their work wherever they want, even if that somewhere is on the other side of the world. Many wanderlust project-based freelancers are living their dream of seeing the world while earning their living, or simply enjoying the freedom to change their work environment as they please.

Schedule flexibility

For many, the future of work entails a lack of rigid supervision and strict work hours that confine workers to their workplace. One of the best perks remote work offers is the freedom to choose one’s schedule. Some feel more productive in the morning, while others might be night owls, and they can work according to their preferences.

What’s more, they can work at their own pace and rhythm, dedicating themselves to one project or several simultaneously. That allows freelancers to align their schedule with their desired lifestyle. They can be workaholics or leave more time for hobbies, and have more control over planning their time off.

Upskilling

Project-based freelancers have the opportunity to grow a set of unique skills that arise from each business and client with whom they collaborate. In the course of their work, they have to reckon with different departments and customers and their expectations and work requirements. Because of this, they can upskill themselves and polish their abilities, making themselves attractive prospects for other tech companies.

The Bad

Uncertain contracts and future

When working for an organization, employees know with utmost certainty whether they will have work in the next month and what their assignments will be unless unexpected circumstances arise. On the flipside, project-based freelancers encounter the same challenge each time a project is over– the future usually isn’t certain, and they don’t know where their next payday will come from. Project-based freelancers have to deal with this uncertainty quite often. It’s part of the lifestyle.

Loneliness and work overload

Freelancing may sound dreamy at first, but in the long run, some people may find that it can get lonely. Freelancers rarely have coworkers next to them and someone to chat with during the breaks. Most of the time, they work and take their coffee breaks alone.

Besides, when working from home, it can be hard to maintain a work-life balance. Many remote workers report a difficulty in knowing when to shut down for the day. That often results in stress and a feeling of work overload.

Administrative responsibilities

Whereas working in an organization frees the employee up from administrative responsibilities; the organization takes care of paying professional taxes, there is no invoicing involved, they often provide corporate insurance, and so on. A freelancers needs to take charge of all of their administrative tasks, do their own bookkeeping, and take care of extra costs such as insurance; all on top of their normal work.

Embracing Self-Employed Partners

Obviously freelancing is not for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that this group of professionals is not growing by the day. With the benefits of freelancing greatly outweighing the challenges for many, especially with Millennials and Gen Z, we can expect to see this sector swell in the years to come. The future of work is not too far away.

With a large number of youth drifting away from the rigidity of traditional jobs to the autonomy of self-employment, governments and the tech industry should implement policies that welcome and nurture self-employed individuals. There is a rising need to accommodate their professional needs so they can make the maximum use of their skills to grow business in general. That includes creating a hiring strategy that covers flexible working hours, costs and the integrations of freelance employees into the team.

Tech businesses have much to gain from working with the freelance generation. They will have a vast and unique set of skills to choose from, as well as the opportunity to save costs and work more agilely. And indeed, many tech companies are already taking advantage of the aptitudes and attitudes of this cohort for mutual benefit.

At BeGreator, we have our fingers on the pulse of the market when it comes to the demands and trends in the tech and data freelance market. It’s our aim to keep you up-to-date with the latest news and information so that you can take control of your freelance career and always be on top of what the market wants. For more content, follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook!

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