Freelancing in a cafe
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Freelancing is the new ‘job for life’

22 Dec 2016

Piecing your income together from different projects is becoming less of an anomaly. In fact, Upwork reported that freelancers make up more than a third of the American workforce.

We’ve come a long way from the years of jobs for life. A recent survey conducted by freelance site, Upwork, showed that 35pc of the American workforce does freelance work.

Based on the current rate of growth of the freelance market, this number is set to increase to 50pc by 2020, and we are seeing similar growth with freelancers in Europe and Ireland.

Research from Close Brothers Commercial Finance last year showed that more than half of businesses in Ireland use freelancers.

So, why are so many people starting to consider freelancing as a career? Upwork’s survey found that 63pc of those who freelance do it by choice rather than necessity. It also found that the majority of freelancers who left their full-time jobs made more money within a year.

“Being a freelancer is increasingly becoming a choice that people are making,” said Shoshana Deutschkron, vice-president of communications at Upwork. “People are really empowered to find other sources of income.”

Freelancing is happening across a number of professions, but in particular, it’s addressing the serious talent gap in tech. “I think [freelancing] started in tech, half of the work on Upwork is tech-related,” said Deutschkron.

Ron Zvagelsky has been working as a freelance developer since 2008. Based in Los Angeles, Zvagelsky has a degree in computer science and started freelancing to give him a steady stream of income while he worked on his own ideas.

“I have been working with WordPress since 2008 and have my hands on jQuery, PHP, and HTML/CSS daily. I love building custom sites for clients and pushing the envelope,” he said.

Zvagelsky said the freedom is the best part of freelancing, but it’s not without its problems. “There’s a ton of uncertainty and certain periods of the year are slow. With three kids and being the sole provider, it can be a little nerve-racking at times.”

He also said there’s a lot of competition in the freelancing world and it can be difficult to beat low prices. “In order to differentiate yourself, you need to really put forward a quality product and make yourself available.”

Freelancing for large companies will become the norm

Anton Anisimov is based in California and had more than 15 years of product design, UX and software/mobile development experience. He has been with Upwork for two years. “I currently help to identify user needs or problems and create a set of features that make an idea a real product.”

Aside from the freedom of freelancing, Anisimov said he loves the new experiences he gains from working on different projects. “After every project, you’re gaining new experience and improving your skills and knowledge that you can use in the next project.”

Deutschkron said companies are becoming more aware of freelancers, especially in tech. “The biggest trend we’re seeing in 2017 is larger companies are starting to hire freelancers.”

She said freelancers with a particular set of skills would be more beneficial and cost-effective for companies who require such skills for stand-alone projects, rather than hiring someone full-time.

The Upwork report also divided the freelancers up into five segments: independent contractors, diversified workers who mix part-time employment with freelancing, freelance business owners, temporary workers and moonlighters.

‘No one else will sell your skills or negotiate for you’

Moonlighters are full-time employees who freelance outside of their day job. This group made up a quarter of total freelancers. Of the 13.5m moonlighters, 37pc have considered quitting their traditional job to pursue freelancing full-time.

If you’re considering freelancing, you need to think about the whole package, from business acumen to sales. “No one else will sell your skills or negotiate for you,” said Anisimov. “In my opinion, the best way to sell is to be honest; everybody likes to work with honest people.”

He also advises freelancers to do every job to the highest quality, because your reputation will be your most valuable resource for securing more work. “You need good stamina to go from a beginner to an expert freelancer even if you already have good skills.”

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Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the editor of Silicon Republic in 2023, having worked as the deputy editor since February 2020. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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