This year, amid a global pandemic that forced us to classify work in terms of how essential it is to society, labor took on a whole new meaning. The pandemic has massively crippled the global economy, causing thousands of lost jobs, wages, and productivity. The US alone went from near record lows for unemployment to 14.7% within a couple of months. It stands at 8.4% as of August.
So when Labor Day rolled around, I couldn’t help but consider its meaning. Who exactly are we talking about when it comes to labor? I think for too many years in our country’s history, labor meant the ‘blue-collar’ worker, but I would argue that independent contractors can also be included as well. By independent contractors, I’m talking about anyone who is considered a ‘gig worker’ like the Uber and Lyft drivers, those who deliver your food via DoorDash and Postmates.
So as we’re seeing our world turned upside down because of Covid-19, millions of Americans remain jobless and need to find new sources of income.
For years, we’ve seen a steady increase in the whole notion of ‘being your own boss’ where an individual really doesn’t have to work for a company and can instead ‘do their own thing.’ This trend is only heightened because of the pandemic. For example, Upwork saw a two-fold increase in new freelancer registrations. And experts agree these workers are a force to be recognized in the new economy. A Toptal survey showed that 90% of companies depend on freelancers to augment their professional workforce. It’s no wonder, given 57 million Americans, or 35% of the country’s workforce, making their living self-employed.
In light of this year’s Labor Day, I believe that ‘labor’ should encompass both ‘blue-collar’ and ‘white-collar’ workers, and that hiring more freelancers will become the norm in our daily business, benefiting both the employer and the contractor.
The Case for Hiring More Freelancers
About a year ago, I noticed a trend. As the CEO of a digital marketing agency, I saw that many companies like hiring in-house marketing expertise over agencies. But hiring a contractor versus a full-time staff employee versus can present dramatic cost savings to the employer, mainly when the work requires significant expertise, but fewer than 40 hours per week.
The second trend I saw was that many talented marketers were choosing to go independent. They realize that working for themselves often pays better than working for someone else and provides a much better work-life balance. This flexibility also benefits the employer. They can have a finite project, knowing that there is a beginning and an end date, or they can have an ongoing, part-time project knowing their funds will not idle time.
When you’re in a freelancer-client relationship, the onus is on the freelancer to turn up the results. By producing high-quality work, the freelancer can position themselves for more freelance assignments. And for the employer, they are empowered to end the engagement at any time with the freelancers without bringing in HR to do the dirty work.
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The Case For More Workers to Embrace the Freelance Way of Life
Free doesn’t mean free when it comes to the freelance way of life. On the contrary, being a freelancer does give you the freedom to work on the projects you want to work on; choosing the hours and terms that work for you for the project, presents a fantastic feeling for the contractor. The freelancer is the master of their domain, and ultimately to be their own boss.
From a monetary standpoint, at the beginning of your freelance way of life, sure, you’ll most likely be on a mission to take as much work as possible. Still, over time, if you’re hustling and getting to a point where you can start to charge more for your time and work, then you’ll begin to see your compensation increase, and then demand higher rates for your work.
Ultimately, when you work as a freelancer, you’ll never have to fear that you’ll be fired and then have to face feelings of finding a new job. In the long run, it’s more empowering to embrace the freelance lifestyle, more so during this pandemic.