The Gig Economy: Appeal of Better Work-Life Balance Points to Growth of Freelance Workers

One of the great benefits of having a freelance career is the freedom to take control of your time to better balance your work and personal lives. That’s not to say that always happens. Self-employed professionals often feel driven to work longer hours since we don’t have the security of a steady paycheck, retirement benefits or even the safety net of unemployment benefits.

Yet the thought of better work-life balance has strong appeal to employees in the conventional workplace. According to a survey by ReportLinker (Freelance Workers, Happy in the Home Office, Embrace the Gig Economy), one-third of U.S. workers say they would consider leaving the security of traditional employment to work as freelance or independent contractors, and nearly half (47%) say that they would be willing to make the transition in the next three years.

In fact, that transformation is already taking place. While 74% of the U.S. workforce is employed in full-time and/or permanent positions, more than 1 in 10 have joined the gig economy, which includes working for sharing services (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit) as well as short-term freelance projects.

For traditional workers, the opportunity to be their own boss has the strongest appeal (18%), followed by flexible working hours (17%) and a better balance between work and personal lives (17%).

Not surprisingly, those who have been in the workforce longer are more likely to consider a freelance career. One-quarter of mid-career workers (35-54 years old) say they’re considering leaving their traditional jobs to freelance. Obviously, freelancers require expertise and experience in their field to be successful, as well as a strong work ethic. While work ethics involve characteristics that are inborn (such as honesty, respect, humility), others are developed through years of experience (i.e., dependability, professionalism, getting along with others). And, as the report states, to do well in the gig economy, independent contractors need to be able to set their own goals, manage their own time and workload, juggle multiple priorities, promote themselves and solve a wide range of problems on their own. Amen.

Those who have made the leap to a freelance career are, for the most part, satisfied with their decision. The study found that 38% of freelancers say they’re “strongly convinced” that they’re happier than traditional workers, and 84% say they “feel a sense of purpose” working in the gig economy. We at UrbnPro strongly echo that, but then, let’s face it — the traditional workplace has suffered from rapidly declining employee engagement for a long time. A recent report by TINYpulse (2017 Employee Engagement Report: The Broken Bridges of the Workplace) found that the number of employees “who feel strongly valued at work” dropped to 26% from 31% in the previous year.

All of the morale-killing practices that take place in the conventional corporate environment (i.e., lack of transparency, lack of recognition, feeling disconnected from peers) will continue to drive more workers toward self-employment. As the ReportLinker study pointed out, while almost half of traditional workers are thinking of going freelance in the next 3 years, others are considering the possibility, even if it’s further on the horizon. More than a quarter (27%) said they think they could make the move to a freelance career in 3-5 years, and 26% said they could do so in more than 5 years.