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As the Freelance Economy Nears $1 Trillion, It’s a Good Time to Be a Freelancer

The U.S. freelance is booming.

Americans, notably youthful Americans, are becoming a member of the freelance financial system in droves thanks to new developments in expertise, work flexibility and a host of different components, in accordance to the sixth annual Freelancing in America report, a survey co-commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union.

“With a strengthening labor market, we will increasingly see people work on the terms that they prefer, and for many that means freelancing,” Adam Ozimek, Upwork’s chief economist, stated in an announcement. “The stronger economy provides more optionality and opportunity, and as a result, more people are seeing freelancing as a long-term choice.”

They embrace canine walkers, Etsy sellers and laptop programmers — and so they don’t essentially ascribe to the “gig worker” label. The survey discovered that they like the phrases “independent worker” or “self-employed.”

With all gigs thought of, the freelance raked in almost $1 trillion in 2019, towering over different mainstay industries similar to mining, transportation and building. The report additionally discovered that 35% of all U.S staff, aka 53 million folks, freelanced in 2019. 

Of these freelancers, almost 80% stated they achieve this “exclusively,” an indicator that for thousands and thousands of staff freelancing will not be a stop-gap or a Plan B. It’s a profession selection.

How to Cash In on the Freelance Economy

Want a piece of that $1 trillion pie? Here’s how to get your footing in the freelance .

Build a Portfolio on Freelance Websites

In the budding levels of your freelance profession? You could also be most snug with freelance platforms, which make it simpler to discover purchasers. And that’s a large ache level for these new to the , Laura Poole informed The Penny Hoarder. 

Poole is a non-fiction editor with greater than 20 years of full-time freelance expertise. She trains different freelancers at conferences and workshops throughout the nation.

Freelance web sites “should be a launch point,” she stated, warning that the steep charges of most websites aren’t all the time sustainable. They compound in the long run when a lack of conventional advantages and quarterly taxes are considered. 

Still, they’re a place to begin. Upwork is one in every of the best-known websites, nevertheless it isn’t the just one. The prime freelance web sites embrace Fiverr, Freelancer and Guru. All have comparable service charges that run between 10% and 20% of every mission.

Network Through Professional Organizations

Freelancing is all about networking, Poole says. The extra folks you already know, the much less you’re beholden to the ever-growing charges of freelance web sites.

“Figure out who your ideal client is,” she stated. “Then go directly to your clients.”

Several industries standard with freelancers have nationwide organizations, similar to the American Advertising Federation and the Society of Professional Journalists. Each group has native chapters that host occasions and provide assets to members. Their web sites typically submit area of interest jobs and freelance alternatives as properly.

Pro Tip

Freelancers Union, the group that co-commissioned the survey, helps freelancers with job boards, freelancing guides, help with well being care, moveable retirement advantages and extra.

Use Apps to Land Gigs

If you’re not up for pitching corporations in hopes for a big-ticket mission, begin small with gig work — what the freelance research deemed “unskilled services.”

Numerous apps specialise in versatile, service-industry work. The hottest gigs embrace ridesharing, delivering packages or meals and operating errands round city.

The Penny Hoarder writes extensively about gig apps. You can examine the prime corporations with our guides and assets:

And for people in Chicago, Uber just lately launched a gig-work app referred to as Uber Works, which pairs  job seekers with short-term gigs at native companies.

Keep Up With Job Boards


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As freelance and distant jobs are booming in recognition, extra job boards are beginning to specialise in aggregating these kinds of alternatives. While they’re not as complete as the freelance platforms, they do compile freelance jobs… without spending a dime.

Remote.co: Remote.co doesn’t submit 100% freelance gigs, nevertheless it does submit 100% distant jobs, a lot of that are freelance. Industries embrace clerical work, enhancing, writing, advertising, software program improvement, engineering and customer support.
The Penny Hoarder’s Work-From-Home Job Portal: Our journalists personally vet each single job and firm that we write about on our Work-From-Home Job Portal. Our focus is on hourly jobs at professional corporations. Plenty of our posts are about freelance work, however we additionally embrace full-time and part-time gigs. Customer service, writing, enhancing, advertising and IT jobs are by far the hottest.
Mediabistro: As its title implies, Mediabistro is targeted on jobs in the media , an ripe for freelance work. You can filter out precisely what you need to see — freelance, full-time, part-time, by and by location.

If all else fails, there’s all the time the old school method, after all. A chilly pitch by no means harm anybody. So discover a enterprise or writer in your area and ship them an e-mail. Our information on how to pitch a story walks you thru precisely what to embrace in the e-mail and offers recommendations on how to discover the proper folks to pitch.

“A polite, cold email can get good results,” Poole stated.

Challenges of Freelance and Gig Work

While the ’s earnings and workforce are hovering, freelancing doesn’t come with out setbacks.

The survey discovered that 59% of freelancers describe residing “paycheck to paycheck,” in contrast to 53% of non-freelancers, and so they’re extra doubtless to have debt — particularly pupil loans. That’s doubtless as a result of freelancers have a tendency to be younger and extremely educated.

“More than one in three Americans are freelancing,” Caitlin Pearce, government director of Freelancers Union, stated in the announcement. “But this workforce continues to face significant challenges in being able to access affordable healthcare and fundamental protections so they can get paid fairly and on time for the work they do.”

Finding Health Care

Health care entry for freelancers has been a main problem for years. A 2016 research additionally by Upwork famous that 20% of full-time freelancers had been uninsured, and that debt and entry to advantages had been key ache factors.

In the U.S., employers are main suppliers of personal medical health insurance. Though there are lots of upsides to self-employment, freelancers are left to foot rising medical health insurance prices on their very own.

The Penny Hoarder outlined six methods freelancers can discover inexpensive well being care, together with Freelancers Union advantages, personal insurance coverage for the self-employed and gig corporations that present medical health insurance for his or her staff.

Working Outside the 9-to-5

Flexibility is unquestionably one in every of the largest attracts to the freelance life-style. But for 46% of freelancers, that flexibility is a lifeline.

Many freelancers in the survey reported well being points, caretaker duties and different familial causes that maintain them from working conventional jobs.

“Freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they’re unable to work for a traditional employer,” the research stated.

Some disabled staff find yourself in the gig financial system — not all the time by selection. The Penny Hoarder spoke with a number of coverage specialists about working whereas on incapacity advantages and located that some folks with disabilities scrape by with gig work as a result of they face discrimination in the conventional office.

Getting Out of the Gig Economy

This illustration shows a person working as a ride share driver.
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Independent work is usually romanticized as a method to break the 9-to-5 chains, however the actuality isn’t all the time so glamorous.

The survey discovered that 60% of freelancers, a strong majority, are in the area by selection. But the flipside implies that 40% of freelancers are doing so out of necessity.

Relying on revenue from inconsistent gig or freelance work could possibly be financially harmful in the long-term. Rideshare drivers, for instance, might love the capacity to take fares each time they need. But if one thing goes fallacious, say a automobile accident or a breakdown, they’re left to pay for the repairs and to discover a new method to cowl hire by the finish of the month.  

To keep away from such points, The Penny Hoarder recommends creating a aspect hustle exit plan that establishes clear monetary or profession targets earlier than taking over the further work.

As the freelance financial system continues to balloon yr after yr, the perks — and there are lots of — are certain to entice many staff. 

Just thoughts the rising pains.

Adam Hardy is a workers author at The Penny Hoarder. He makes a speciality of methods to make cash that don’t contain stuffy company places of work. Read his ​newest articles right here, or say hello on Twitter @hardyjournalism.

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