Freelancing No Longer Plays Second Fiddle

An EcoChi Vital Abstract

This article was published in September 2019 by Anna Codrea-Rado, Monocle, Issue 126, Volume 13, p.93 - 96.

When I lost my job, I realized I’d been thinking about my career backwards: I had been focusing on what work I wanted to do not how I wanted to work. Mine is the generation that entered the workforce in the long shadow of the global financial crisis. The objective was straightforward: to secure employment. Any job would do. The unspoken understanding was that self-employment was too risky in such uncertain times, the less-desirable plan B. There were no booths promoting freelancing at any of the career fairs I attended. Yet here I am, an accidental freelancer. And my only regret is not seeing freelancing as the career plan A it can be. It took losing my job for me to realize that getting a salaried position still has no guarantees. There’s a paradox to freelancing –  unpredictable work can be more secure than a full-time job. As a freelancer you’re more agile, able to see the threats coming down the road and divert course. As a journalist, I can see that this is true in my own industry. In 2019 alone, there have been more than 3,000 job cuts in the media and yet, for the first time in my decade-long career, I don’t feel at risk. I’m not the only person who’s going it alone. According to the most recent figures from the Office of National Statistics, the number of self-employed workers in the UK is at an all-time high, having increased from 3.3 million in 2001 to 4.8 million in 2017. More than 15 percent of the country’s workforce has gone solo, with economists predicting that even more will follow suit. Of course, those freelancers need support to make self-employment a viable long-term career option, to make enough money to not only pay their bills but feel relaxed enough to enjoy the flexibility of the freelancing lifestyle. There’s no getting around the fact that you do need some basic business knowledge, but the digital economy has opened that up for more people. Freelancing isn’t for everyone, but neither is a staff job. The focus should be on guiding workers, particularly those at the beginning of their careers, to forge a path that works for them.

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