Survey Debunks Freelance Misconceptions

Many freelancers pleased with money, opportunities, lifestyle

If you’ve been hesitant to embrace a freelance lifestyle because of fears of erratic pay, sparse opportunities and a stressful life, a new study may leave you more open to giving freelancing a try. Not only are many freelancers finding professional and financial success, but 76% say they are happier being their own boss than working for a traditional employer.

The number of freelancers has grown from 53 million in 2014 to 56.7 million in 2018, according to research garnered from a survey of 6,001 workers. The survey, commissioned by freelance platform Upwork and Freelancers Union, an organization that advocates for independent workers, was given to 2,100 freelancers and 3,901 non-freelancers.

When it comes to taking the freelance plunge, more people are choosing to work as an independent contractor rather than doing so out of necessity after, say, a layoff. In fact, 61% of freelancers said freelancing was a choice in 2018, up from 53% in 2014.

Freelance income can surpass that of working for employer, and quickly

Survey respondents also debunked some of the myths surrounding freelancing, such as the belief that it leads to a life of low pay and sporadic job opportunities. Among respondents, two-thirds, or 66%, said they made more money as a freelancer than they did working for a traditional employer, and it didn’t take them long to reach that financial goal. Most — 81% — said it took them less than a year to start making more freelancing than they made in their 9-to-5 jobs. Also when it comes to money, 82% of respondents said they believe they have earned more in the past year than others who do similar work.

The survey also painted a picture of freelancers having a wealth of opportunities and high expectations for the future. For example, 72% said they have as much work as they need or more than they want. An overwhelming 92% said they expect freelance work opportunities to increase in the future and 90% said they believe the best days for freelancing are ahead of them.

Many of those opportunities are for high-skilled and high-paid workers, according to Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork. “What many don’t understand is that the skilled work performed by independent knowledge workers is in important ways more similar to full-time professional jobs rather than the one-off, relatively low-skilled gigs many associate with the freelance economy,” Ozimek said in a press release.

Finally, the survey suggested that most freelancers are happy with their decision to leave a traditional job behind. More than half — 54% — said no amount of money alone would entice them to take a traditional job. Also, 78% said freelancing gives them the freedom to live their ideal lifestyle.

If you’re thinking about freelancing, take some time to research how to get started so you can improve your odds of success. Also, consider the benefits you’ll lose when you leave a traditional job and determine how you will replace them. For example, if your company currently offers health insurance benefits, you’ll want to explore health insurance options for self-employed freelancers. The more you know about what you can expect, the better prepared you will be to weather any storms.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.

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