More People Than Ever Ditching Their Jobs and Going Freelance

A noticeable shift is happening in the business world. While companies look to outsource some of their work to freelancers, which threatens future job prospects along with job security for their existing workforce, more employees than ever are leaving to freelance, or are at least thinking about it.

Rather than moving to freelancing to meet the demand from corporations, knowledge workers are considering making the leap or doing it because they’d had enough of corporate life. This should be cause for concern to employers looking for a high-quality team of long-term employees.

What is the Trigger Encouraging Employees to Seek Other Options?

Cutbacks, a series of layoffs, and outsourcing has made it clear to former corporate lifers that while companies demand loyalty, often they fail to offer it to their employees.

Shareholders come first when hard times hit, spurring layoffs rather than accepting a short-term fall in profits. This makes it evident where their employer’s priorities truly lie; “We want you until it’s inconvenient; then we don’t need you anymore”. And workers are listening.

Why Didn’t This Movement Start Sooner?

While many people consider starting their own business – whether a full-blown business with plans for a substantial workforce and rapid growth or as a freelance solopreneur – it hasn’t been that accessible previously.

To start a business costs a considerable sum of money. When employees are saddled with a house and car payments, perhaps some kids and a partner, starting their own business was seen more as an ill-advised risk. Even a luxurious indulgence with other employees looking on wistfully when they saw a former co-worker make the move. The feeling was often that it was safer huddled inside the company for security than risk going it alone.

So, What’s Changed?

The internet and to some extent, globalisation.

The Internet

With the rapid increase in internet usage, it’s opened new business opportunities. Freelancing doesn’t look as scary as it once did. As more employees consider it and talk to people who’ve already made the leap successfully, it seems less daunting to follow suit.

The final straw is often a deep level of dissatisfaction in their job and/or the company they work for; a promotion that never happened; a series of pay rises that haven’t kept up with the true cost of living; co-workers who they’d rather not have to work with. Take your pick.

Globalisation

Globalisation also is a factor. While it means there’s greater competition and the added risk of an employer outsourcing their job or replacing them with a foreign employee paid half their salary, it also has positive implications too. As businesses and tasks have gone online, more companies are willing to work with individuals to save on costs.

A freelancer can provide a more personalised service than a larger agency or has more specialisation than a company can deliver in-house. The opportunity pool has grown substantially along with the access to markets across the world.

FreshBooks & Their Self Employment Survey

FreshBooks, the cloud-based accounting software that’s popular with freelancers and solopreneurs, ran a survey through Research Now near the end of 2017. They wanted to better understand whether more people were moving into freelancing and if so, why?

Their survey looked at 2,700 knowledge workers who were employed, as well as independent workers and small business operators.

They found that significantly more men than women were considering self employment. More baby boomers (39%) were already in self-employment with Gen X (33%) not far behind and Millennials (18%) bringing up the rear. However, an alarming 44% of millennials wanted to be self-employed, demonstrating a strong independent streak there.

For those people considering leaving their employer, they cited lack of control of their career (43%) and financial reasons (33%). Hope for better health was also mentioned along with time with family members. In terms of the financial aspect, two-thirds of respondents said they wished to earn more when self-employed set against just over half who were self-employed and did make more.

Despite the firm belief that a college degree was required to get a good job, almost two-thirds of people considering leaving corporate life were graduates and nearly a quarter hold a master’s degree.

Is Being a Freelancer Healthier for You?

The healthier aspect has often been mentioned both by people already independent and those who were strongly considering it. Things like spending a lot of time on daily commutes, limited time to relax or de-stress from the work week, and a dependence on convenience foods were key motivators.

Interestingly, of those surveyed on behalf of FreshBooks, over half had become healthier as a result of the move from a regular job. Not only that, but 71 percent reported being happier in their new career versus 61 percent in a job.

Most people surveyed who considered self-employment felt that it was going to require them to work longer and harder. However, this didn’t seem to deter that many people.

What Type of Work is Open to Freelancers?

There are many types of freelancers. However, freelancing does tend to attract many programmers and creatives who produce graphic design, photography and other useful work.

For the programmers, they often enjoy picking their projects and working hours to suit them. At times idiosyncratic, the typical anti-social nature of coders is better suited to online projects either solo or with collaborators which doesn’t require a corporate overseer. As the thinking goes, if the work isn’t inspiring in the corporate world, maybe they can cherry pick more interesting projects out in the real world. That may or may not be true, however, as that’s somewhat idealised thinking without the pressure of business and personal expenses to be covered.

For creatives, they find it difficult to locate jobs where they can explore their creativity fully. It also makes little sense in their minds to produce logos for design clients of their employer when they can produce them through their own design agency or as a freelancer for hire on individual design projects.

What Online Platforms Support Freelancers?

While there are freelancers who like to do everything themselves, mostly they prefer to focus on their own business or client work and leave the platforms to others.

The trend has been to use portfolio platforms to show their photography, graphic design and other work to potential clients and not try to product their own site alone. Mindful of the limited time in the day, freelancers wish for their work to look its best but to not get bogged down on the technical side if it’s not already their strong suit, e.g. a web developer.

Format is one such portfolio platform where freelancers can show their work. They have themes to choose from for a standalone website to show their portfolio in the best light (see these Format portfolio examples). Each site is heavily customisable and easy to use. A freelancer can save considerable time getting started by showing previous work from side hustles while they were still employed.

For people thinking about freelancing or who’ve made the jump, looking professional to contacts without it costing the earth is important. They need to gain some momentum fast or they never get off the ground. Streamlining the setup process without sacrificing the presentation of their portfolio in a classy way is paramount to put their best foot forward.

Many former employees often end up freelancing or producing independent projects for their former employer. This is the best of both worlds as it provides the new freelancer with a stream of steady income and the former employer retains their talents under a new structure.