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How Freelancing Will Impact Traditional Work

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The Future of Full-Time Jobs in the Age of Freelancing

Jun 10, 2019
the modern work environment - freelancing

Introduction

There are approximately 6 million open jobs in the U.S.  People with talents and skills that are in high demand have a unique opportunity to exercise a high degree of control over their work life – where they work; how they work; compensation packages; and a host of other arrangements.  

Technological advances have paved the way for seamless integration of remote working environments.  The ability to handle many activities – even large projects – from anywhere in the world is at hand.

This is creating a feedback loop – traditional work is now in a talent competition with freelancing as more people choose to freelance.  The disruption created by the freelancing expansion has caused the World Economic Forum (WEF) to report in its “The Future of Jobs,” that we are in a 4th Industrial Revolution.  Some are predicting that by 2027 the majority of the workforce will be engaged in freelancing to some degree.  How does this affect the full-time employment status quo?

Full-Time Jobs in the Age of Freelancers

Bottom line – despite a multi-year economic expansion that has created more full-time, traditional jobs than there are available workers, more and more Americans are choosing the lifestyle and independence that comes with freelancing.  See our article “The Future of Freelancing” for detailed information on the current and future of freelancing.

As more workers pursue the flexibility of independent careers and more companies pursue an on-demand workforce to scale labor efficiently, the industry is buzzing about what the freelance economy will mean for the labor force and economy overall.

So, what impacts will this new age of freelancing have in store for the traditional career? What type of disruption will we experience?  The outlook from progressive organizations (in competitive talent markets) is that businesses will be compelled more and more to emulate freelancing in the following ways:

  • Provide increased freedom and autonomy by making use of remote work – ensuring technologies are available to allow employees to make their home their office.
  • Leverage Work | Life Blur to their benefit – this includes making services available in the workplace that are available at home and vice versa.
  • Instill ownership in employees – this means making the company more transparent and giving employees a stake in it, through ownership mechanisms

In addition to these near-term impacts, we should see independent contractor workstreams becoming a critical part of overall talent strategies, which is where the real disruption and innovation in the labor economy will occur.  Identification, assessment, intake and accommodation of the freelance labor force will be serious challenges to the existing state of affairs in the U.S.

Old curmudgeons may not be so enamored with this brave new world.  In a Time Magazine opinion piece “Who is the Freelance Economy Hurting?” political strategist Charles D. Ellison writes –

“Gone are the days when Ward Cleaver strolls through the front door after a 9-to-5 white collar grind. First add June to that equation—she’s working, too, while the Beav and Wally are left latch-keyed to their own smartphone-fueled devices because their parents’ freelance work comes without the benefit of regular hours. The generational impact of the “freelance revolution” doesn’t stop at the nuclear family—imagine Millennials hunched over laptops in the local Starbucks or overwhelmed Gen-X’ing parents hustling for both paycheck and flexibility.”

All comedy aside, the fact is we are sailing into uncharted waters and the macro-economic fallout of this adventure is not known.  Ellison writes on –

“But the freelance economy is troubling given the unbending and unforgiving realities of today’s economic environment. Among traditionally underserved populations, who face income inequality, stagnant wages, and underemployment, disrupting tech enthusiasts prompt more anxious questions than giddy answers. A ballooning freelance workforce means a permanent state of non-permanent wages, adding more uncertainty to an economic environment saddled by stuck income.”
abstract showing the many facets of freelancing

Whether Ellison realizes it or not, he’s alluding to two different segments of the Gig economy, the Commodity side vs. the Talent side.  The talent component of the Gig economy is what we’ve talked about in this article thus far – the creative and professional portion.  The commodity side is the portion of the new economy occupied by more traditional service offerings – Uber and Lyft being examples.  Speaking of disruption, Uber and Lyft have both sparked some good old-fashioned turf wars in your favorite cities.

Here’s  a final fact to take away, Harvard Business Review cites a study that shows working from home improves work performance by 13% and reduces cost $2,000 per employee as a result of decreased office expenditures.  This is in addition to reduced stress and higher morale.  This type of information is not going unnoticed by businesses.

Will We All Become Freelancers?

There’s no doubt freelancing will play a major role in our future working lives.  This past year over 57 million Americans took on freelance work in some capacity – that’s 36% of the U.S. workforce, up from 53 million in 2014.  The Freelancers Union now predicts freelancers will make up a majority of the U.S. workforce within a decade.

The disruption created by the exponential freelancing expansion has caused the World Economic Forum (WEF) to report in its “The Future of Jobs,” that we are in a 4th Industrial Revolution.

But while many of today’s workers are swapping long commutes, outdated workplace hierarchies, and the nine-to-five grind for the freedom to be their own boss and set their own hours, the fact is that not everyone will.  People who are going to be successful long-term freelancers need to be high functioning in certain areas.  “No, We Won’t All Be Freelancers In The Future Of Work” details these 4 major areas and identifies potential characteristics that would indicate a lesser or greater proclivity for freelancing:

  • A Specialized Skill Set
  • High Demand Skills
  • A ‘Solopreneurial’ Mindset
  • Emotional Intelligence

Conclusion

All indications are that both freelancing and traditional work will undergo evolution – very likely for the better.  Freelancing work will migrate toward traditional employment in terms of establishing portable benefits and conventional protections.  Traditional work may take on certain aspects of freelancing, such as additional prospects for telecommuting as well as expanding opportunities for participation in the company beyond employment.

Freelancing will touch all of our lives more and more – whether we’re buyers or sellers in this expanding industry.  What we don’t fully realize yet is how expansive and exactly what implications it will have for the workforce at large.

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Written By:
Kerrie Gill, PMP, ITIL

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