Freelance revolution and freelance realities

Is the independent, freelance sector our next great job generator and a path to living the dream?

Freelance revolution

Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers Union, writing for The Atlantic, says the surge of freelance workers is the “industrial revolution of our time” (link here):

…Today, careers consist of piecing together various types of work, juggling multiple clients, learning to be marketing and accounting experts, and creating offices in bedrooms/coffee shops/coworking spaces. Independent workers abound. We call them freelancers, contractors, sole proprietors, consultants, temps, and the self-employed.

And, perhaps most surprisingly, many of them love it.

This transition is nothing less than a revolution. We haven’t seen a shift in the workforce this significant in almost 100 years when we transitioned from an agricultural to an industrial economy.

Freelance realities

But going it on your own is no piece of cake. Alex Williams, writing for the New York Times, followed the entrepreneurial ambitions of disenchanted, well-credentialed escapees from Corporate America and found that realities can be tough on dreams (link here):

Plan B, it turns out, is a lot harder than it seems. But that hasn’t stopped cubicle captives from fantasizing. In recent years, a wave of white-collar professionals has seized on a moribund job market, a swelling enthusiasm for all things artisanal and the growing sense that work should have meaning to cut ties with the corporate grind and chase second careers as chocolatiers, bed-and-breakfast proprietors and organic farmers.

….The lures are obvious: freedom, fulfillment. The highs can be high. But career switchers have found that going solo comes with its own pitfalls: a steep learning curve, no security, physical exhaustion and emotional meltdowns. The dream job is a “job” as much as it is a “dream.”

Sorting it out

Both views are real. For those who have a promising, marketable new service or product and a desire to create their own business, the independent route may be the one to go. However, virtually every start-up requires grit, determination, countless extra hours, and a dose of luck and timing to succeed.

Creating new enterprises and fostering healthier ways of earning a living are vital parts of a responsive solution to the surfeit of dysfunctional organizations currently in existence and the economic challenges people are facing. I hope that combinations of private, non-profit, and public sector support can help people turn their good ideas and aspirations into reality.

4 responses

  1. One way to make freelancing more attractive and take away one big negative is to have universal health care. Another is to have a strong Social Security program that will provide a reasonable retirement with COLAs to supplement savings to those who freelance. Until then, I know too many people who are working 60 hour work weeks and living with nasty bosses and co-workers because they need the health insurance and retirement plans provided by corporations.

  2. This would be a wonderful idea if our laws, social safety nets, and tax code were revised to support those who want to make a go of it on their own. Freelancers are really people who want to start their own businesses, but the tax code, the social safety net, and the laws do not protect them from exploitation by more powerful corporate interests who can squash them and leave them vulnerable to not having health insurance (or losing unemployment and having no income while starting up).

  3. Agree wholeheartedly that current regulations and protections work to the disadvantage of freelancers, self-employed, etc. That’s why the work of the Freelancers Union is so important. They get it in terms of the need for reforms in eligibility, benefits, legal protections, etc.

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