My mission with One Step Outside is to help people create more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment in their lives – and one of the best ways to start to create this in your life is to freelance. With IPSE’s National Freelancers Day coming up on 28 June 2018, I thought it was a great opportunity to dig into this a bit more and so we’ll be focusing on freelancing all of June. There’s no officially agreed definition of what it means to be ‘freelance’ but it’s considered to be a part of a larger ‘self-employed’ workforce and is usually used to describe “short-term, temporary or project-based work relationships.”
Let’s first take a look at the freelancing landscape, taking the UK as an example.
The number of freelancers in the UK increased by 43% between 2008 and 2016, there are now more than two million freelancers in the UK (90% of whom are freelancing as their main job), and they are contributing £119 million to the UK economy.
These freelancers are working across a diverse range of industries – including professional, scientific and technical; education; arts, entertainment and recreation; information and communication; and health and social work – and an equally diverse range of occupations – including artistic, literary and media occupations; managers and proprietors in other services; teaching and education professions; and IT and telecommunications professionals.
In terms of demographics, the gender split is 59% male and 41% female, although of course this varies by sector. As many as 1 in 7 freelancers, so more than 300,000, are working mums and this number has increased by 79% between 2008 and 2016. The average age is 47, although the number of freelancers aged between 16 and 29 has increased by 66% in those eight years.
I see freelancing as an incredibly attractive alternative to the corporate 9 to 5, one that offers you the chance to use your existing skills, knowledge and network. You’ll still largely be trading your time for money, but you’ll have that increased sense of freedom and flexibility that you’re craving. Personally, I do a lot of freelance writing and corporate training, and this plays an important part in my ‘portfolio’ of different revenue streams.
As a freelancer, you’ll usually be working for several clients on various projects at the same time. You can choose the clients you work with or the projects you take on, and you’ll be exposed to all sorts of different companies and organisations, as opposed to working with just one employer in a full-time job. You’ll also be learning new skills and expanding your capabilities.
You can work from home instead of commuting to an office every day. You may still need to travel to specific events or meetings but since you’re choosing the projects you work on you can make sure that the travel involved will work for your personal situation and goals. This gives you more flexibility in terms of how and when you work.
Although you do have clients who you’ll be reporting to on each of your projects, you don’t have a boss as such. There’s no manager who’s loading things onto your work plan or telling you to come to meetings – you get to make your own decisions!
Rather than your employer or manager assigning you a salary based on what they think you’re worth, as a freelancer you get to decide your own rates. Yes, there may be clients who have standard rates and most will try to negotiate down – but then you have the choice as to whether or not you let them!
You can adjust your workload and your hours depending on your preferences. If you’re an early riser, you can get lots of work done first thing in the morning – in your PJs, that’s the dream! – and then take the afternoon off to go to the gym, run errands or pick up the kids. You can also take on more work when you need more money or decline work when you need a break or you have other priorities.
Let’s hear from some freelancers!
To get insights from some real-life freelancers, I’ve asked people in my network to give you their perspective as to the benefits of freelancing.
“Freelancing is the first step to test your true professional worth in a competitive market and at the same time the risk you have to take if you crave to grow as a professional and gain control of your future.”
– Faidon Nikiforiadis, PhD academic and freelance architect
“I love freelancing because as a translator and editor my profession itself isn’t particularly creative, so having several clients, who have different needs and deal with different subjects, gives me a sense of variety and keeps me motivated. The shape of my work changes constantly: even after 15 years I still find myself in new and unfamiliar work situations, which keep me on my toes!”
– Sarah Whitehouse, freelance translator and editor
“Freelancing is empowering, giving me more freedom and autonomy over my career; flexibility that works better with my family life; and the stimulation of working on a variety of interesting and creative projects, and of making a difference.”
– Christina Lister, freelance marketing and audience development consultant
“Every day is a challenge and an opportunity when you are a freelancer. This life has pushed my limits at every level: I developed new professional skills in order to run my business (prospecting, accountancy…) and I discovered how strong, curious and driven I could be. ‘Freelancing is more than a job, it’s a different way of life!’”
Perrine Rouiller Boissard, Freelance Creative Director
“Provided there is enough demand for your services, being a freelancer gives you the freedom to choose when to work and when to pursue commitments to your family and community. You have a flexibility in scheduling and planning your work that no 9-to-5 job can give you. It does demand self-discipline – but the rewards are manifold.”
– Elisabeth Mossler, freelance interpreter
“Freelancers tell us time and again that they love working for themselves, while IPSE’s research shows that freelancers are happier in their work than employees. Being able to choose the projects they work on and having control over their work gives freelancers freedom over their careers. It also provides them with the flexibility to fit their work around their life rather than vice versa, giving them a far more appealing work-life balance. And for the money motivated, there is increased earning potential too!”
– Lydia Wakefield, Education and Training Manager at IPSE, membership body for freelancers and self-employed
We’ll be continuing our focus on freelancing throughout the month of June so keep an eye out as we explore different aspects of freelancing and how you can get started, or take your freelancing career to the next level!