We have watched trends in the workplace come and go with each generation, but for some of the trends, their staying power leaves such a mark it is sure to influence the tapestry of everything that will follow. The trend I am talking about, specifically, is freelancing. We are watching priorities change with each generation entering the workforce. Professionals are no longer forced into a cubicle box with a 9 to 5 schedule and a week of vacation.

There are platforms popping up around the world for creative entrepreneurs, for professionals, for designers - to become freelancers almost overnight. Marketplace connector sites, like Spoonflower, allow home crafters to turn designs into commerce and allow professional designers to freelance more, shifting the design economy to be more accessible for freelancers at all levels.

Freelancing Requires Low Barrier to Entry Technology

I started my career in the textile industry over 20 years ago when this kind of design work required a full studio with expensive technology and equipment, making freelancing next to impossible unless you could command an artistic premium. Today, Spoonflower allows you to prototype without a full studio through a marketplace that offers on-demand printing with a low barrier-to-entry, making small boutique firms and independent designers competitive over in-house and big agencies. The company was founded in 2008 on a dream of empowering individuals to create, print, and sell their own artwork on fabric, banners, wallpapers, artwork, and much more.

The New Design Economy

By creating a marketplace that allows users to design, print, and sell their own designs, sites like Spoonflower are quickly helping designers everywhere take control of their time. We are becoming the most empowered workforce yet, balancing a perfect blend of the old and new with workers who have their own ideals about freedom, money, and the value of their time.

In addition to a rise in technology support, there are organizations and apps to support freelancers in their client relations, time management and overall business organization. "It has been surprising to me that freelancing, being touted as the fastest growing segment of the workforce, has very little support system in place," noted Emily Leach, Founder of the Texas Freelance Association. Because of their strength in marketing and business support for freelancers, Emily's Austin-based organization has seen a 30% growth in membership going in to its second year and the annual conference is projected to have a 200% growth in attendees at their third event in February 2017. Interestingly, their membership is comprised of around 90% creatives making the organization's mission conducive to the needs of designers and other creative freelancers.

Design Freelancing Smarter But Also Harder

Platforms and marketplaces like Spoonflower are empowering the designer community and supporting creative entrepreneurs at just the right time, because more and more, creative individuals are seeking full or part-time self-employment as a way of finding freedom. Allison Polish, President of Spoonflower says that the community has grown to over 3.5 million individuals, with their top designers earning at least $20k annually. At $8k less than I made straight out of Rhode Island School of Design back in the 90's, this is not yet close to a living wage for any designer, but it can help create exposure for your freelance design services.

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Elizabeth Felts, Textile Designer credits Spoonflower with helping her re-ignite her independent design work when her daughter Emma went into high school. "Spoonflower has made it possible for me to expand my offering as a freelance/design consultant from a focus on jacquard weaving to printing my own designs and keep up with the market shift. Having tool to add a new market and provide access to many other creative people has been great." Although Elizabeth's success has not been huge on Spoonflower, she finds value in the feedback on what she is designing and using a "vehicle for custom design" when working with clients.

With over 350,000 designs to date from featured from artists all over the world, the Spoonflower marketplace is the largest design collection by independent designers in the world. Those numbers are large enough to garner attention and, if that level of success is any indicator, the numbers should continue to climb with the pace of freelance growth whether or not you sell designs or your design capabilities.