According to a study conducted by Upwork and the Freelancer’s Union, freelancers comprised 36% of the US work force and contribute $1.4 trillion each year to the economy.
The same study predicts that by 2027, freelancers will actually make up the majority of the workforce in America.
This is an unprecedented rise in popularity given that not too many years ago full-time freelancers were only a tiny fraction of the workforce in the US. So what is that has thrown gasoline on the fire of the freelance economy, and what can we expect the future of freelancing to hold?
Factors Contributing to the Growth of Freelancing
In recent years, a number of factors and scenarios have come together to create the perfect storm for freelancing, allowing freelancers from around the world to budget their way into the gig economy.
It isn’t any one of these factors that's been the only force behind the growth of freelancing, but rather a combination of all of them together. Some of the main factors contributing to the rapid rise of freelancing are:
By far one of the biggest driving forces behind the growth of freelancing is the technological advances that have made it possible for freelancers to perform a wide range of jobs while working remotely.
Popular online freelancing platforms enable freelancers to connect with clients who are looking to hire someone to complete a project.
And, through various apps and software, freelancers can perform everything from graphic, design and even software development using only their laptop and WiFi connection.
Changing Ideals of the Perfect Career
A couple generations ago, the ideal career was a steady nine-to-five position in an office with good benefits and a good salary.
For many people, this is still the ideal career. For a growing number of others, though, the ideal career has changed. More than ever before, people are starting to value other career benefits such as the ability to set their own hours and the ability to work remotely and travel when they please.
This is especially true of the millennial generation, who, on the whole, value these benefits more than any generation before them.
Since freelancing offers these career benefits in spades, it has become a natural choice for those who want something different out of their career than what a traditional career offers.
Increased Demand for Freelancers
As the freelancing economy has grown, many companies have begun to realize the benefits of hiring freelancers as part of their workforce. Freelancers allow companies to be more flexible and versatile in how they go about completing various projects.
For example, if a company needs a logo designed, they are able to quickly hire a freelance logo designer online for a one-time project rather than having to go out and recruit a graphic designer to join their company as an employee.
Freelancers also provide companies access to a diverse base of skills and backgrounds that they can leverage.
Before the freelancing economy, a US company would be largely limited to hiring US employees and local ones at that.
Now, though, a company can recruit freelancers from all over the world and make use of their diverse backgrounds and skillsets to come up with more innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.
Combined, these three factors have created the perfect conditions for freelancing to rapidly grow, and right now we are just looking at the beginning of freelancing and the rapid increase in popularity.
So, What Does The Future Of Freelancing Actually Look Like?
Experts agree that we are in the middle of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and plenty of big changes are still to come in regards to the way people work and the careers they pursue.
This is true for both the freelancing economy as well as the more traditional careers. Outlined below are some of the possibilities for what the future of freelancing holds in store.
Automation Remains a Big Concern
There’s no doubt that automation is eating into many of careers that people once commonly held. Today, automation taking the place of employees remains a big concern. Companies suffer and businesses can fail as a result.
However, freelancers are better prepared to survive this challenge than most employees. For one, surveys show that freelancers are more aware of the challenge that automation presents, with 55% of freelancers saying they are concerned about the impact of automation versus just 29% of non-freelancers.
Beyond this, the roles that freelancers play aren’t likely to be replaced by a machine anytime soon.
Robots and AI may be able to fulfill many positions, but we’re still a long way away from coming up with an AI that can adequately perform creative tasks common in freelancing such as sales copywriting and design.
The Freelancing Economy Will Continue to Grow
The factors driving the growth of freelancing aren’t likely to slow down anytime soon, and, as already mentioned, freelancers are expected to comprise a majority of the workforce in the United States by 2027.
Freelancing may have experienced a major boom in recent years, but analysts agree that we are just at the beginning of that boom rather than the end.
Freelancers Will Begin to Exert Political Influence
In one study, 72% of freelancers surveyed said that they would consider crossing party lines to support a political candidate who indicated that they would support the interests of freelancers.
Freelancers face several political hurdles, such as high small business taxes and access to healthcare. As the freelancing workforce continues to grow, you can expect their political influence to grow as well.
Wrapping It Up...
There's two ways about it, it's an incredibly exciting time to be involved in the freelancing economy.
Businesses all over the world have just begun to realize the value that freelancers are able to offer, while at the same time talented workers all over the world are just now beginning to realize the benefits that freelancing offers over a traditional career.
As the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution continues to shape the way people work and the roles they fill, freelancers are uniquely positioned to make the most of the ever-evolving economy that we have today.