Are You Prepared for the Freelance Economy?

are you prepared for the freelance economy

I have a friend, a talented friend who is excellent at her art: makeup artistry.

She works for one of the largest beauty brands in the world, but she’s not practicing her art. Instead, she’s holding on to a more secure role in talent development.

Why? In her case, to be a successful makeup artist she has to freelance. And the freelance life is full of uncertainty.

But the 9 to 5 isn’t working for her either. While the traditional workplace offers her the security she needs with a weekly paycheck and benefits, it doesn’t offer her what she needs mentally and creatively.

Luckily there are major shifts happening in the workplace that influence the options we have as freelancers, entrepreneurs, side hustlers, and traditionalists. Big changes are coming our way.

Here’s where the future of work is heading, how it will impact you, and what you can do to prepare.

By 2020, 50% of the Workforce Will Be Freelancers

The 9 to 5 is dead or broken.

The freelance economy and entrepreneurship on the other hand are on the rise. According to Brian Rashid, Contributing Writer at Forbes, 50 percent of the workforce will be freelancers by the year 2020.

Moreover, a PWC Future of Work report from June 2016 cited the following:

  • Two-thirds of employees surveyed agree that future career paths will be determined by workers, not their companies.
  • 63 percent say the eight-hour workday will become obsolete.
  • 68 percent say work will be conducted remotely versus in a traditional office.

Professionals are redefining their careers so that our work fits into our lives versus our lives fitting around our work. We have an opportunity to sit in the driver’s seat, which is both empowering and a responsibility.

What Makes The Freelance Economy Possible?

There are many forces at play, including technology, the digital age, and a shift in our generation’s values system.

Millennials value growth, challenge, autonomy, and making a difference over financial stability. We want to align with organizations that have similar values.

To add to the shift, technology is changing the way we work. Platforms specifically are connecting people with more independent work opportunities than ever before.  

For example, Fiverr, a marketplace for digital services, allows freelancers to offer extremely niche services from logo design, to marketing services, to viral content creation, and more.

Other companies like Contently connect writers with brands and organizations. This is a win-win as companies have more affordable options to bring in talent, and writers have access to more job opportunities.

Online education platforms like Udemy and Skillshare also empower coaches, teachers, and authors to create classes and sell their services on their platforms. Freelancers and entrepreneurs can now line up multiple revenue streams to support their businesses.

Furthermore, co-working is changing how entrepreneurs and freelancers work. While working independently was once an isolating, work-from-home experience, today entrepreneurs and freelancers have the physical space to come together as a community.

Mutual interests and passions married with physical proximity don’t only have emotional and mental benefits, but this combination is good for business as we can tap into each other’s resources and brainpower. 

So What Does This Mean for Us?

With the rise of the freelance economy, competition in the workplace will increase. After all, there are already many artists, digital marketing consultants, career coaches and tech entrepreneurs.

So, we have two options.

We can panic and say – meh, f*** it.

Or, we can work to differentiate ourselves, and identify our niche.

For example, through Fiverr, professionals have adopted extremely niche roles from writing BuzzFeed listicles to creating a cool hipster logo.

So how do we differentiate ourselves?

Learn to Be Creative

The first step is to tap into our creativity to find new ways to solve problems.

If you think you’re not creative, think again. As I say often, creativity is about thinking differently and being solutions oriented; it’s not about painting and art.

The misrepresentation and lack of creativity begins with our education. Our education system often fails children at teaching this skill.

For example, liberal arts are not nearly as valued as mathematics and science and learning the “hard skills.” With standardized tests and the pressure on children to succeed, school is more about test-taking instead of thinking critically and problem solving.  

Sir Ken Robinson, a British author, speaker and international advisor on education is on a mission to bring creativity, the arts, and a new way of learning to schools, and he has already brought significant attention to this issue.

We’ll continue to see changes in education as the future of work approaches because problem solving is the key skill we need to tackle some of the world’s greatest problems and to contribute in a meaningful way.

To boost your creativity, try the following:

  • Reduce the noise around you. Carve out a few minutes a day to think, escape and build your imagination. Read stories or books you wouldn’t normally read. This isn’t only helpful for developing a new skill, it’s fun and relaxing.
  • Study and practice brainstorming techniques, namely flaring and focusing. Let yourself invent and write down wild ideas, the ideas the person next to you may find ridiculous. Lose your inhibitions.

Be Entrepreneurial & Learn to Connect

In addition to tapping into our creativity, we have to learn entrepreneurial skills even if we’re not looking to found the next Uber.

We have to learn the art of connection and community, and abandon the “networking” mindset. How can we collaborate and work together to solve problems? Where networking is about “me,” community is about “us.”

Get clear on what you care about and what you stand for.

If you don’t know where to start, think about what social issues are calling you right now.

  • What are you reading, and what blog posts speak to you?
  • What TED talks are you watching?
  • When you’re tuning into the news, what do you find yourself devouring, or when do you get most emotional?

What you care about right now is a perfect starting point to seek out communities or work that most align with your interests and values.

Build Your Self Awareness & Tell a Story Around It

We need to invest in our personal brands, but this requires significantly more than updating our LinkedIn profiles. We need to get clear on our strengths and key drivers, and then tell the right, authentic story around it.

This is tough to do, but start with asking 10 friends, family, and colleagues what your “super power” is. Is there a common thread in their answers?

Getting clear on this is critical in identifying your niche and understanding how you can add value in an increasingly competitive workplace.

In Conclusion

The freelance economy is fast approaching, and we can’t afford to lack self awareness and keep spinning our wheels.

While we’ll have more freedom, autonomy and the opportunity to tap into our best selves (a privilege if you ask me), the change will also put some burden on us professionals. Health insurance and benefits will be our responsibility, as will differentiating ourselves from the crowd. Planning ahead is more important than ever so that this can be an opportune time.

There are other major trends impacting the future of work, such as artificial intelligence, basic income, and more. Stay tuned for future articles as I start to dig into these deeper.

For now, let me know what you think. Does the future of work excite you or scare you? And if it’s both, that’s fine too. Share your thoughts and insights in the comments. And if you’re not a subscriber, enter your email below.

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Logan says:

    Great article. Love the concept that we need to build our self awareness. It’s key to our foundation and not taught nearly enough in schools. Excited to see where the future of work is headed, although big change does feel intimidating…

    • Belma McCaffrey says:

      Thanks for your comment Logan! I agree some aspects of change can definitely be intimidating. But preparation helps. I’m currently reading “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly, and he covers AI and how it will impact our jobs in the future. He calls out the importance of working alongside technology vs. running from it. Thanks for being a reader and sharing your POV!

  • Very informative, especially the practical ways we can quickly get clear on what we care about! It’s hard to find our passions but that’s a great method of zeroing in fast. Todd Rose wrote The End of Average, which explains the concept of jaggedness – celebrating an individual’s varied talents and interests. Jaggedness is the opposite of average. He argues that once we hire people for this instead of singular skills, employees will be happier and thus give their best selves to work. Creativity is an expression of passion, in the end.

    • Belma McCaffrey says:

      Hi Julie! Thanks so much for your comment, and for sharing Tod Rose’s perspective. I’m going to check out The End of Average…sounds like it’s right up my alley. Also agree that finding your passion is not easy. “What’s your passion” is such a big, daunting question. I think if we can focus on what areas we want to serve, it becomes a lot easier.

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