Five Surprising Trends in the Freelance Economy

The freelance economy is ever-changing and evolving. The growth of the freelance workforce inspires new trends. These five trends highlight opportunities and risks to workers within the freelance economy.

1. More People Will Freelance

One common prediction is that 40 percent of the American workforce will regularly do some freelance by 2020. Various Global freelance platforms and organizations consider this a conservative estimate. This figure is comprised of full-time independent contractors, business owners and moonlighters (i.e., someone renting their vacation home through Airbnb or freelance writing in their spare time). Current figures estimate 34 percent of the workforce is already freelancing.

2. Freelancers and Other Gig Workers Unite

Some workers claim they would love to freelance or run their own business full-time. Their main hesitation is they don’t want to give up employer-sponsored benefits like vacation, sick leave, medical insurance and pensions. One growing trend is for freelancers to join forces to purchase benefits like group medical insurance plans and retirement plans at lower company rates. The Freelancer’s Union is one such group that offers access to a range of insurance options and a retirement plan.

3. More and More Individuals Participate in the Global Economy

Large corporations outsourced manufacturing operations globally for decades. This international outsourcing trend trickled down to individuals as freelancers and gig workers use global platforms to find work and to outsource pieces of their own business projects. This exchange is fluid as many freelancers are both the outsourcer and the outsourced. International platforms like Upwork and payment processing services like Paypal make it easier than ever for anyone to buy and sell their services or products internationally. Author and podcaster, Tim Ferriss, popularized this trend through his bestselling book “The Four Hour Workweek.”

Some freelancers self-identify as “digital nomads” and choose online freelancing since it enables them to travel and pursue a location independent career.

4. Freelancing Expands Among Non-Traditional Demographics

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people of traditional retirement age are moving into the gig and freelance economy. People often associate the sharing and gig economy to Millennials with a side gig. It is true that many Millennials enjoy added income and skill development from part-time self-employment. However, many find it surprising to learn that more adults over 55 are self-employed than any other age group. Like their Millennial grandchildren, they may freelance part time or full time. This group also benefits from adding income to their retirement, paying down debt, “feeling useful,” and learning new skills from their self-employment.

5. Return of Direct Selling and Multi-level Marketing

Direct sales companies are a pioneer in the moonlighting or side gig economy. After all, Amway was founded in 1959 and people sold Amway products ever since. Natural-born salespeople enjoy the flexibility and creativity of selling their favorite products. When choosing a multi-level-marketing (MLM) or direct sales partnership, be sure to do your research. LinkedIn is a surprisingly overlooked resource to use when researching brands, for example, you can learn a little more about Amway’s culture through their LinkedIn page.

Large and small businesses enjoy the increased capacity that freelancers provide for both long and short-term projects. Workers gravitate to freelance opportunities for a variety of reasons including to position for a career change, increase income and get paid for a hobby.