Think back to 10-15 years ago, and the majority of computers were confined to the office space or classroom. Most people had one desktop computer that the family shared, and the Internet was painfully slow.
Fast-forward to today and–according to a Gallup poll taken in 2013–around 64% of Americans own a laptop, 73% have wireless or Wi-Fi internet access, and 62% own a smartphone.
But that’s not all that is on the rise. In recent years, there has been a spike in freelance work and workers, thanks to the ever-increasing availability of technology. Working remotely on your own terms is now easier than ever, and the numbers are there to prove it.
According to a survey taken last year by the Freelancers Union, nearly 53 million Americans are freelancing as a full- or part-time gig. To put that into perspective, that is over a third (34%) of the entire workforce.
Without this rise in technology, freelance work probably wouldn’t be as readily available as it is today. Take for example Uber or Lyft, which use our mobile devices to keep us in contact with nearby drivers who can pick us up at a moment’s notice.
Now, unlike before, you don’t need a company monitoring a huge network of full-time taxis to make sure someone is in reach. You simply get on your phone, find a Lyft or Uber driver nearby, and you are ready to go.
Freelancing extends beyond that. We also now have companies like Upwork (formerly known as Elance) and TaskRabbit, which work as online networking groups that can connect anyone to a job in no time, whether it be coding (another very lucrative technology based form of work) or something else.
The Benefits… And the Drawbacks
The overall consensus among freelance workers and independent contractors is that they find their work very rewarding. According to a survey taken by Field Nation, a work platform for independent contractors, 90% of those surveyed “view themselves as deeply committed to the work they do for their clients.” They’re also three times more engaged in their work than the 30% of traditional workers who feel the same.
That’s likely because they get to choose when and for whom they work. In turn, freelance workers feel much more aligned with the work they choose to do.
But, as with anything, there is always a catch. While technology and freelance work have skyrocketed, companies and jobs that once employed a traditional workforce are struggling to find ways to adapt and work with their new temporary workforce.
Essentially, it comes down the lack of rights. Many freelance workers do not have as much protection, frankly because there are no concrete systems put in place to really protect them. In simple terms, companies are finding it difficult to provide full benefits for these employees, because they aren’t full-time.
They are also having a hard time figuring out how to create wage incentives, which are typically structured based on merit and the amount of time spent within the company. How can companies appropriately manage wages when they don’t have these bases to go off of?
On top of that, job security is another issue that arises. As a freelance worker, you are on your own, and there isn’t always a guarantee that once you finish your project or job, there will always be another one lined up for you.
For now, we think that freelance work is having a great start—and hopefully everything else will begin to catch up sooner rather than later.