More people than ever are freelancing. In fact, after recently surveying more than 6,000 adults in the U.S., the freelancing platform Upwork and Freelancers Union estimate that 57 million people are now making money outside the confines of a regular job. Collectively, freelancers now generate nearly $1 trillion in income, contributing more to the economy than the construction and transportation industries. And skilled freelancers--those who do things like programming, marketing, IT and business consulting--make $28 an hour, on average. That's more an hour than 70 percent of American workers make. And the younger the worker, the more likely they are to freelance. More than half of Gen Z workers ages 18-22 have done some kind of freelance work, compared to 40 percent of Millennials, 31 percent of Gen Xers and only 29 percent of Baby Boomers.
OK, so the Gig Economy is real. But is it for you? Maybe or maybe not.
I've worked on both sides of the fence. My first job out of college was a salaried position working in corporate communications writing speeches and newsletter articles. It was fantastic to count on a regular paycheck, paid vacation and comprehensive health insurance. But then I started having kids and the money my husband and I were spending on daycare started to not make sense. So, I quit.
Once the kids were a little older, I wanted an income again and began freelance writing for individual clients as well as contributing to media outlets, including Inc., which has been my main gig for the last decade. Here's what I've learned along the way.
Generating your own income can be stressful
Your phone, garbage and electric bills, insurance premiums and mortgage are due every month, regardless of how much work you have. And how much work you have is entirely dependent on your ability to sell yourself and do quality work which clients will re-hire. Keeping your pipeline full is all up to you. This can feel like a lot of pressure.
Working whenever and wherever you want is liberating
Can't sleep at 2 a.m.? You can work if you want to. Need to run kids around during the day? Freelance at night. Want to travel and clock work at the same time? I've written countless articles sitting in the passenger seat during a driving trip with my husband at the wheel and a bunch of kids in the backseat. I find this kind of multitasking weirdly gratifying.
It helps to have a spouse who can provide health insurance (or a side job which will offer it to you)
Health insurance is broken for anyone who's self-employed. I know this because my husband and I had to buy our own insurance for years. This is exorbitantly expensive and you end up with a huge deductible anyway. In our family this was fixed by me going back to school and getting a hospital nursing job which I do on the side of freelance writing. Nurses generally have good health insurance. Freelancers do not.
Not driving to an office every day is pure heaven
Much of the work which freelancers do can be done remotely. Commuting and clocking into a desk job five days a week can be soul-killing. I never want to spend my time that way.
Working from home takes discipline
Countless methods of procrastination exist on the home front. In addition to all the digital distractions which any office worker can use to waste time, at home you also have domestic duties, pets, and a refrigerator full of food to steal your attention away from getting work done. I find it helpful to get dressed as if I was going to a regular job because doing so makes me feel like an achiever keen on productivity. Not brushing my hair and teeth and staying in my pajamas has the opposite effect.
Having a part-time job as backup is ideal
That's unless you possess skills which are in high demand and you're convinced earning a good living working independently won't be an issue. As I've mentioned, in addition to my freelance work I also work part-time as a registered nurse. The regular paycheck I receive from my nursing job takes some of the pressure off me as a freelancer. And it's fun to do two widely divergent things for pay. The diversity keeps me interested and engaged.
Technology makes finding freelancing work easy
I've used and like Upwork, but other platforms exist which can connect you with clients who need the services you offer. Upwork alternatives include Freelancer.com, PeoplePerHour.com, Fiverr.com and Guru.com.