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The Bold Faced Blog™

August 30, 2013

The World is Going Freelance – But Should You?

Posted 4 years 24 days ago by Sheila Ellian Lewis

Recent figures from the Freelancers Union suggest that one-third of the workforce is self-employed or provides some form of contingent work.  Another study from Intuit forecasts that 40 percent of us might be in some kind of freelance or contingent work arrangement by the end of the decade. Recently Shane Snow, Chief Content Officer of Contently, outlined the reasons why he thinks the trend is here to stay on LinkedIn. He noted:

  1. Work is no longer a place  - our office is now our computer
  2. Online talent exchanges now allow people to more easily find and hire workers anywhere in the world
  3. Millennials will be 75% of the workforce in less than 12 years – it may be over generalization but it seems likely that this coming generation will be even more comfortable with working via the Internet.
  4. The possibility for long tail specialization – employers can now get precisely the skill they need, for example a writer who is an expert in cloud computing in a specific industry, rather than relying on a full time generalist.
  5. The economics can work for both sides – employers needn’t waste money on extra capacity, while specialist consultants can make more money and focus on the areas that particularly interest them.

While all this sounds very positive for businesses like Shane’s that rely on independent workers, does it only show one part of the picture? 

For starters, not every job is suited to the independent or remote model.  There will always be jobs where employees need to physically be in the same place at the same time.

Consulting isn’t for everyone

More interesting, from our perspective is that not everyone who could work on a contingent or independent basis either wants to, or is suited to the life. Being a consultant effectively means running a business where you are responsible for marketing, sourcing and completing the work, chasing down the bills and being tough enough to keep all that turning over month after month.  The issues of health insurance and benefits, particularly in the US, are very real barriers for many people and personal preference also plays a part. While those who choose the independent life will likely see increasing acceptance of our choice as a “real” career, we will continue to see many who are pushed into it without the desire or the discipline to thrive.

Beyond this, it still remains to be seen whether a workforce made up of independents will actually work for businesses. What you gain by having specialists on tap, you may lose if you don’t have anyone around who remembers the last time the company went through a similar exercise. It seems likely that businesses will settle on a blended approach with some full-time, some part-time and some independent contributors. There’s definitely an opportunity for consultants but as the “blend” changes, we may start to see other changes too.

What changes are you noticing, and what do you think is really going on behind the numbers? We’d love to hear your views in the comments.

 

Tags: consultants workforce

Categories: categoryEmployment Trends

1 Comments


  • email:kymberlainebanks@gmail.com
    Kymberlaine Banks 4 years 20 days ago
    The dramatic impact of baby boomers retiring and millenials taking over the work force makes me feel sorry for Gen X :-). Interesting and provocative content and questions. A key challenge to a workforce made up of independents will be the ways in which they intentionally connect to share knowledge and help each other grow. Great article!

    Reply

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