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Is the Great Resignation Driving You to Freelance?

What to consider before you go it alone

You can barely read news headlines these days without seeing something about the unprecedented Great Resignation. And with roughly 4.4 million U.S. workers quitting their jobs as of September 2021, an all-time high — many have decided on becoming independent contractors, at least for now.

Are you thinking of joining the Great Resignation for freelance work? There are clear signs that this worker segment is growing rapidly.

If you are thinking of taking the leap, know that you’re in good company and in demand:

If you've got it under consideration, be sure you understand the pros and cons of freelancing versus a regular job before you make the move. Do you prefer the security of a paycheck, skills advancement and the camaraderie of a regular team — or do you crave freelance independence, flexibility, and entrepreneurial growth potential?

Consider whether you have the mindset to succeed in a more independent environment.

fizkes/Shutterstock
Source: fizkes/Shutterstock

A study conducted by Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group from November 2019 to January 2020 found that 60 percent of 700-plus U.S .business leaders surveyed would prefer to “rent, borrow, or share talent” with other companies, and 60 percent anticipate a core workforce with fewer full-time staff.

Fifty-three percent of working Generation Zers are currently freelancing, more than any other generation, according to Websiteplanet.

More Millennials are now freelancing full-time (40%), suggesting it’s becoming a lifestyle choice rather than supplemental income.

A survey of 6,001 U.S. working adults by Upwork and the nonprofit Freelancers Union found that half of all freelancers now view working independently as a permanent career choice — versus a form of temporary income. In addition, it suggested that 10 million more Americans are long-term freelancers versus just five years ago.

But like anything else, there are some risks.

The pandemic may actually come to an end some day! And when that welcome day arrives, it may have some impact on the allure of avoiding the office from a health safety standpoint. Still, many see the wisdom of having a hybrid workplace long-term. And the increased hiring of contract workers during the pandemic is a trend that is here to stay.

Not all corporate jobs were made equal when it comes to freelancing. Positions in management, manufacturing, engineering and administration are more likely to be handled on-site, for example.

You must have the right mindset if you plan to essentially change your status from employee with a regular paycheck to entrepreneur. Yes, entrepreneur — as you will be creating your own business, and sometimes as a freelancer you may even outsource certain functions. You may not always be a one-person band.

If this is the first time you’re opting to work from home as a career, other than during lockdown, you may want to consider the positives of both types of work before deciding. Remember that no decision is permanent, but it’s worthwhile being strategic.

Pros of Staying in Your Job

1. Regular paycheck and benefits. This is the most obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. It can include everything from health benefits, sick and vacation days, education reimbursements, 401k matches, and disability insurance to workers compensation and more.

2. Skills advancement. The argument can be made that by working independently, you’re still learning from clients and colleagues. But the learning curve is typically far greater at a traditional job, where there is ongoing supervisory interaction, often from multiple sources or layers of management.

3. More delineation between work and time off. Theoretically, with a regular job, you have a workweek and weekend to turn off work, depending on the level of your position of course. You have your designated time off and vacation; and you take it. In addition, there is not the distraction of marketing oneself for new business opportunities.

4. Being part of a community. One of the most valued aspects of a great job is the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment gained from building something meaningful with team members.

Pros of Becoming a Freelancer

1. Freedom in whom you work for. Now you’re on your own. You don’t exactly work for yourself; you really work for your clients. In practice that means you have many bosses to juggle. The good news is that you get to pick and choose, and that can be very liberating, especially if you select clients you like, where you can be of most value. And via several platforms, you can get help marketing your services.

2. Flexible hours. You likely have worked remotely during the pandemic and have seen the benefits of working at various hours of the day and/or night. When personal or family issues arise, being a freelancer can feel like a godsend: No more worries about lengthy explanations or, worse, job security. You need to create structure and discipline, however, because having unlimited time can otherwise be a curse.

3. Variety of work. One of the best aspects of freelancing is the diversity of projects and people. You will rarely have routine days because there are multiple clients. Ramping up, you may have lonely hours or days without a team at your side, but that’s when your local coffee house, client meetings, networking, and Zoom calls come in handy.

4. Opportunity to scale up. Being a freelancer can be a steppingstone to a full-blown company, something big you’ve always dreamed of doing as an entrepreneur.

Leaving your job is a major decision that shouldn't be taken lightly, and how you do it will live on in memory. So take care to leave well and leave a good impression.

As any independent project worker knows, it’s hard work when you’re on your own. But hard workers have a strong work ethic wherever they are, whether working for someone else or not. The question is, are you motivated to succeed on your own? If so, then you will thrive.

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