55 million freelancers are changing the face of the U.S. labor market

By Mary Hansen, President Mary Hansen Writes

35% of the U.S. workforce is working remotely
How many times have you daydreamed about taking up freelancing and ditching your day job? Me, too. Apparently, you and I are not alone in that kind of thinking. Many Americans have done more than daydream – they considered the challenge and more than a few took the plunge.

In fact, a recent independent survey, Freelancing in America: 2016, revealed that roughly 55 million U.S. freelancers collectively earned an estimated $1 trillion in 2016. This means that more than one-third of the American labor force works independently at least part-time, and according to the survey, is doing quite well.

So, what does freelancing look like?
Well, it doesn’t necessarily look like what one might imagine. You may picture yourself sitting in a quiet room alone, working diligently on projects that somehow mysteriously find their way into your inbox, and easily matching that former corporate paycheck by working just a few hours per week. Ah… all that free time to vacation and live the high life.

Or not. According to Hongkiat Blog, freelancing is not the easy way to pursue success. In Nine things you should know about freelancing full-time, Publisher Samar Owais says, “Freelancing can be a lonely profession. While previously you work right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an office environment, now you’re working from your home, isolated from society.” The potential pitfalls and obstacles also include difficulties with clients, undeveloped negotiation skills, and lack of self-discipline.

Of course, work does not magically appear on a freelancer’s desk. In fact, unless the freelancer is actively pursuing clients, work is probably hit and miss with feast or famine conditions prevailing on the books. Freelancing is work – hard work.

Then, what’s the draw?
Well, how about independence? Setting your own hours? Taking a vacation every summer (or maybe two or three throughout the year)? Choosing your ideal clients? Or working from an exotic location?

According to successful freelancer, Matt Keener, author of the best-selling guide, Executive in Sweatpants, “helping people” is his number one reason. “As freelancers, we’re able to match our abilities to the exact needs of clients. In my opinion, this is the ultimate in professional fulfillment.”

What are the pros and cons?
An article by Freelance Writing, 5 Major Pros and Cons of Freelancing, highlights scheduling, mobility, creativity, and flexibility as pros. Freedom, in other words. It also reminds hopefuls that not all is rosy. Payments may be delayed, clients may be difficult, and benefits like insurance and pension are mostly non-existent.

On a more positive note, Freelancer’s Union is attempting to change the landscape for independent workers by pooling subscribers to qualify for lower insurance premiums and better retirement options. Their website offers a search box for options available to members.

What’s the biggest take-away?
Rikke Dam, writing in 11 Characteristics of successful freelancers and entrepreneurs, points out that hard work is perhaps the single most important characteristic of succeeding on your own, “If you think that building your own business is the miracle cure for work, think again. If you’re not prepared to work hard, the entrepreneurial life will quickly show itself to be an impossible dream.”

Second on Dam’s list is communication, “You can’t run a business without communication.” Healthy communication means letting all involved parties know if a project is on schedule or running behind. It means asking for everything you need in the way of information so that you can do the best job possible. It means telling your clients that you appreciate them and enjoy working with them.

As Maya Angelou wrote, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

In Conclusion:
For many, freelancing is more than a job – it’s a way of life – a way of looking at relationships and work. Yes, it provides many benefits, not the least of which is the freedom to do things your own way. It also requires a great deal of determination and persistence. If you don’t mind hard work, have a valuable service or product to offer, and are good at what you do, freelancing could be just the ticket for you. Do your due diligence and find your best market. Then give it your all!

Best wishes for your success!

About the Author:
Mary Hansen blogs from her Arizona desert home. When she’s not blogging, she’s working on her memoir or painting the desert landscape.

St. Conti Communications (St. Conti) is a public relations and marketing communications agency based in Southern California and specializing in supporting high technology, green technology and similar companies. For more information about our agency and how we can help you, contact Donna St. Jean Conti, APR, at dconti (at) stconticommunications.com. St. Conti has on-staff and subcontracted professionals ready to provide media relations, social media, writing, research and other services.

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