How to Thrive in the Freelance Economy

When it comes to the future, freelancers will own the workplace.


Source: Creative Lab / Shutterstock

The rise of technology has enabled more people to create their life around work. Millennials have a “life-first” attitude, and this is impacting all generations, as humans seek to have a fulfilled life, not a “work-filled life.”
With the increase of robotics and automation, the nature of work is rapidly changing. Jobs as we know them today will not be the jobs of tomorrow.
Freelancing allows workers to meet three needs:

  1. The need for freedom of where the work is and how it’s done
  2. The need for building work around life (flexibility)
  3. The need to control money to live life

The traditional workplace of the postindustrial age suited the landscape of what people wanted. A postwar culture looked for stability and guaranteed income to create secure homes for families.
Fast-forward to the liberation of the technology age, and you have a cultural narrative that is focused on living and working anywhere while creating one’s best life.
Where postwar culture was based on survival and the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy, we now have a massive cultural shift toward self-actualization.
In my travels, I have talked to numerous drivers working for the freelance technology firm Uber, and they all cited the freedom, flexibility, and ability to earn as much or as little as they want as the key reasons they drive for the company.
Firms such as Upwork, Freelancer, and others are growing at exponential rates as more freelancers join and book projects. Freelancers annually contribute approximately $1.4 trillion to the economy. One in three workers will freelance as either a part-time or a full-time activity, and almost half (47%) of Millennials freelance—more than any other generation.
In the future of work, employers won’t be focused on hiring and retaining full-time or part-time workers. The focus will be on building a team of freelancers they can rely on and call on as needed.
With the rise of robotics, jobs won’t really be lost because new jobs will be created, which means freelancers will take the majority of those newly created jobs.
So why will freelancers grab these new jobs? They know they are only as good as their performance on their last project. Therefore, they are constantly upgrading skills, staying on top of tech innovation, and actively seeking new opportunities—more reasons why freelancers will own the future of work!
The good news for employers is that business in the future will consist of workers that will include some full-time employees, part-time employees, and freelancers.
In traditional business, you would hire and train an employee to do a job and invest in training and skill development; in modern and future business, companies will hire more freelancers to fill the gaps of skills that your current team may lack.
A great example is a multimillion-dollar manufacturer that I do consulting work for; rather than hire a full-time graphics and Web design firm, it has outsourced to a freelancer. The freelancer provides all of the benefits of having an in-house graphics and Web design person without the added cost of a full-time salary, healthcare benefits, etc. But there is a risk to freelancing: getting too few projects to pay the bills. However, the incentive to work hard and perform is high because of this very same risk.
There is opportunity for both workers and employers with the rise of freelancers. For workers, there will be more options to either supplement current earnings or travel the world while working. For employers, it creates a greater ability to leverage remote teams and hire for specific project skills.
Profitability and productivity will be positive as businesses leverage the types of jobs that require full-time, part-time, or freelance talent. The only downside is that leaders need to get much better at leading diverse teams and leveraging talent to achieve results.

Cheryl Cran
Cheryl Cran is a Future of Work Expert and author of “NextMapping – Anticipate, Navigate and Create the Future of Work.” Cran is also the founder of NextMapping/ and the CEO of parent company Synthesis at Work Inc.For over 2 decades, Cran has built a reputation for delivering extraordinary value to clients that include AT&T, Bell Mobility, Omnitel, Gartner, British Telcomm, and Manulife, as well as midsize companies and entrepreneurs in industries that include technology, health, agriculture, finance, insurance, and more.NextMapping was developed as a proprietary business solution brand that encompasses all of Cran’s work and research on the future of work, as well as the leadership needed to navigate change in the workplace. It’s time to not just hear about the future but also use NextMapping to get there! Technology in the workplace must be used to prepare for the future, with a focus on how technology can enhance outcomes for people.