It’s been a long time coming, but it appears we now live in Freelance Nation, at least according to TIME Magazine, which in February announced we’d seen the end of the full-time job. Fast Company predicted this in 1997, and the New York Times chimed in on the topic in 2000, just in time for the dotcom bust. So it’s an old meme. Or is it? I’m a big fan of Freelance Nation for many reasons. This time, it’s now again, and I may just give the notion a Woot, Woot.
Here, in the United States, freelancers now number some 22 million workers says my friend Dan Schawbel and according to TIME. Can you believe this figure? Why is freelance work attractive and on the rise? Surveys and people I meet along the way will tell me they seek more freedom, flexibility and autonomy, but honestly, I think it’s also the economy. A slew of workers were let go and never found full-time work. Perhaps they opted for a new, freelance career. Talk about a reality check. It seems to be a mix of many colliding factors.
Interestingly, TIME‘s article shares pointers on living the freelance life, and the last one is to “turn your projects into a full-time position.” That’s not a ringing endorsement. Perhaps it’s an indicator of how much the world of work has changed. If people are willing to be freelancers, why would companies hire them and assume the expense of benefits, employment insurance and so on? On the other hand, don’t most of us aspire to have a real full-time job?
Freelancers are an attractive, quick fix for businesses with rapidly changing needs. These people bring expertise, they offer flexibility when headcount is capped, they may have more exposure to innovative ideas, and they don’t take up much space in the office. But freelancers may cause unease among full- and part-time workers, who can see freelancers as a threat. Management must factor this into the equation they use to decide whether or not to take on freelancers. And will freelancers ever buy into a unique workplace culture and want to live the values? Tough call.
Then there’s the remote technology that’s becoming a necessity for freelancers and the organizations turning to them. And technologies that employ social engagement and team play as core leadership metrics call for robust user adoption. It’s a heavy-weight solution to a light-weight problem, and the complexity here is significant.
I’m curious what you think about Freelance Nation. Are you part of the freelance throng, or are you a leader, a CEO managing freelance workers in a blended workplace? We’ll address the following and other questions at this week’s #TChat, the World of Work:
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