Freelancing and freelance jobs – the future?

Lunchtime? Nah, I'm a freelancer...

Lunchtime? Nah, I'm a freelancer...

What happens in the United States normally happens in the UK too, just with a bit of a lag.

So, when we read in USA’s Career Builder survey that 26% of all workers laid off in the US are looking to start their own business what do we conclude?

Do we decide that those workers are looking to become freelancers or go freelance? Or, do we expect those laid off workers to use any redundancy money to buy a franchise, set up a shop or will they enter the business angel and Venture Capital markets and look to create a new enterprise?

And, if this is happening in the US, is the same taking place in the UK and how quickly?

Okay, a lot of questions. So let’s deal with the first…

Is the UK seeing a growth in freelancing?

The answer has to be a resounding yes.

Firstly, the UK’s national statistics report that there are now 3.93 million self-employed people in the UK (July 2010) an increase of nearly 60,000 compared to fall of 22,000 full-time jobs over the past quarter to reach 18.20 million.

At this steady rate, the number of self-employed/ freelancers will equal the number of full time employees in about 35 years time. So, this is a slow but steady change.

Okay, so what are these newly self-employed doing?

Well, if the UK is anything like the US, then according to the USA’s Career Builder survey, these will be the top goals for the newly self-employed

1. Bakery
2. Board Game Design
3. Cleaning Company
4. Computer Services
5. Craft and Antique Business
6. Ecommerce retail site/EBay
7. Event Planning
8. Freelance Journalist
9. Handyman
10. HR Consulting
11. Lawn Service
12. Recycled Yarn Retail Store
13. Scented Candle Business
14. Sports Camp for Kids
15. Umpiring/Refereeing

Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t quite believe this list! How can something as specific as ‘Recycled Yarn Retail Store’ appear in the top12?

Well, I guess two things here. Firstly, the appearance of ‘bakery’ at the top of the list probably signifies not just a desire to bake bread, but a desire to buy a franchise. Other shop/ service based entries, Cleaning Company, Lawn Service, Stores, Candle Business, Camp for Kids have the notion of ‘franchise’ written all over them.

Now, franchising is not freelancing and the motives for buying a franchise are varied and mixed with the risk that the self-employed person is just buying a job.

Freelancing on the other hand is probably much safer for many people, as it doesn’t require a cash outlay, allows people to focus on their unique skills and existing relationships and, if they don’t enjoy the freelance / self-employed lifestyle, an opportunity to return to full time employment.

Or will it?

Perhaps the chances of returning to full-time employment for many people being made redundant now are slim – jobs? They just aren’t making them any more!

This may explain why newly self-employed people feel a need to go out and buy themselves something that feels like a job – a franchise – because there is a set pattern to work with (a bit like learning to paint by beginning with painting by numbers) and this makes it easier to transfer from full-time employee to self-employed.

So what’s the challenge for a new freelancer?

So, the opportunity for us, who live or believe in the dynamism of the freelance sector is to find a way to standardise some of the activities that a new freelancer needs to undertake.

Nevertheless, it does seem that the world of full-time work doesn’t prepare us very well for life as a freelancer. And there lies both the challenge and the opportunity. And in this respect, both the USA and UK are in the same position.

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Written by Editor on August 3, 2010 and filed in Featured, News, Opinion , , , ,

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