Wondering whether to stick with your job or strike out on your own as a solopreneur? If you're curious about the self-employed life, there's never been a better time to try it out. That's the word from futurist Jacob Morgan, author of The Future of Work. He spends most of his time researching how technological, demographic, marketplace, and political changes will affect the workplace over the coming years. And he says all signs point to the ascendance of the self-employed worker.
"The big picture for freelancers is very good," he says. "It's going to be a huge area going forward." Why is the future so rosy? Here are some trends Morgan says will benefit all solopreneurs.
1. You will have more security than your employed friends.
The security of a steady paycheck is one reason many people traditionally stick with full-time employment. Unfortunately, that security has gone the way of the passenger pigeon. "All over the world, we're seeing this idea that job security is no longer relevant," he says. Once employees would stay at large firms for 30 years or more, then retire with a nice pension. Today, he says, average employee tenure is less than five years, and less than three years for Millennials. "Nowadays, when a company is struggling, the first thing it tends to do is cut jobs."
Smart solopreneurs work for a diversity of clients, not just one. This means that unlike full-time employees, you can't be laid off and lose your entire income all at once. And while the loss of a client can certainly make a dent in your earnings, finding new business is a quicker and easier process than finding a full-time job. So there's an argument to be made that solopreneurs have more income stability, not less than their full-time employed counterparts.
2. Demand for solopreneurs is growing.
In a worldwide Oxford Economics survey commissioned by SAP last year, 83 percent of executives said they plan to increase their use of freelance workers over the next three years. Ironically, in many cases those contract workers will be replacing full-time employees that the company laid off during a cash crunch.
3. Employers will create their own marketplaces.
You already know about sites like Elance.com and oDesk, designed to bring freelancers and people who want to hire freelancers together. In a new trend, numerous industry-specific startups are helping match those with specific skills or industry experience to companies that need those abilities. Morgan predicts this trend will go one step further in the future, with companies setting up online marketplaces. Solopreneurs on their approved list will be able to visit these sites and select the projects they want to work on.
4. There's no ceiling on your earnings.
As an employee, how much would you expect your income to increase next year? Unless they're working on commission or toward some hefty performance-based bonus, there's probably an upper limit on how much more employees can make this year compared with last year. "The average freelancer expects to increase earnings 43 percent next year, while the typical employee expects a 3 percent raise," Morgan says.
Obviously, not all those dreams of 43 percent year-over-year increases come true, or else there'd be some very wealthy freelancers out there. And of course there's always the danger that you'll lose a major client or be prevented from working and then your income my drop precipitously. Still, given the possible up side, and the fact that there's no job security anywhere anymore, the prospects for freelance income are looking better and better.
5. The Affordable Care Act means you aren't held hostage by health insurance.
Many would-be freelancers have hung on to full-time jobs over the years because they need the benefits, in particular health insurance, with good insurance options few and often unaffordable. Obamacare changed all that. With your ability to pay for health care now decoupled from your employment, you're freer than you've ever been to give the solopreneur life a try.
6. Co-working locations are growing.
Don't have space for a home office? Fearing the loneliness of working alone? Co-working locations can solve those dilemmas, as well as the need for high-speed internet. Fortunately for solopreneurs, these locations are proliferating and Morgan says their numbers are going to keep growing.
7. Technology is here to help.
With chat, file-sharing, web-based collaboration, and knowledge-management tools proliferating, it's easier than ever to stay in touch with clients and work closely with their employees. And with videoconferencing becoming more of a norm, you can interact with the rest of your team often, no matter where you're working.
8. It's easier than ever to test the waters.
That's what Morgan advises if you have a full-time job but are curious about the solopreneur life. "Now is an excellent time to do it but I would do it in a smart way," he says. "Create some profiles on some freelance sites, do a little moonlighting, and see how it goes. If it goes well, you can devote more effort to it. If not, you'll have learned it's not for you."
9. You'll be part of a growing movement.
The self-employed will become a force to be reckoned with over the next few years, with our ranks swelling to 60 million by 2020 if Intuit's famous prediction from 2010 holds true. A new crop of companies are designed to support freelance work. Associations where freelancers band together are on the rise (such as my group, the American Society of Journalists and Authors). Increasingly, these solopreneur groups are making their voices heard in the political arena as well. Even as a solopreneur, you'll never be alone.