With the job market in a volatile state, many people look to freelance opportunities to make ends meet. Unfortunately, in most cases, freelancing can be quite a difficult journey that may involve dealing with shady contracts, gig scarcity, and employers who give you the runaround when payment is due.
While a few have the mindset that freelancing is only viable until the next full-time job opportunity comes around, most see it as an opportunity to gain independence from more traditional job structures.
Taking the step to freelance full time is not easy, but better comprehending the ins and outs of the new workforce makes that transition considerably more manageable.
Get on board with a better freelance career by understanding the current state of affairs for “The Slash Workers,” a future of work-study commissioned by AND CO.
Who Are Slash Workers?
Slash workers are independent workers who offer different services or skills depending on the client or project. Most have cultivated at least 2 or 3 related skill-sets to help attract more clients.
This is becoming increasingly common and is an example of how modern career is evolving.
While our grandparent’s generation may have stayed at one job for the entirety of their working lives, and our parents might have moved around a handful of times, the new generation is looking to work on multiple projects and generate different income streams.
Only 5% of freelancers interviewed said they accept work around one skill, and only 13% work for just one client.
Only 7% said that they wanted to freelance primarily for financial gain. 40% of freelancers in the study claimed that “personal growth” was the primary factor; “flexibility” came in second.
Key Things to Know About Slash Workers
1. Freedom v. Wealth
Some say that wealth is a form of freedom, but most say happiness is achieved regardless of money.
As much as 43% of freelancers say they are worse off since moving away from more traditional employment, but 34% argue that things have largely stayed the same for them since the switch.
The major difference, regardless of success, is that 68% feel happier about what they’re doing.
There’s certainly a trade-off when it comes to picking between happiness or wealth. But at least according to the results of this study, when one has a higher quality of life, they are better off overall.
For some, working a permanent position intrudes on their work-life balance.
According to a study from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), 97% of contractors reported they were much happier than their permanent counterparts.
Contracting proved to be a better situation for this group because they were able to increase their personal development, express themselves more creatively, devote more time to family, and receive more recognition for their work.
Many people have identified the desire to travel the world while doing work they’re passionate about to combine the optimal lifestyle of career and play.
The digital nomad trend has become quite popular in the past few years, and 60% of freelancers interviewed said they would be interested in a nomadic lifestyle. TechRepublic estimates that this is indeed a growing trend amongst Millennials.
Unfortunately, the current state of affairs shows that this hard-fought freedom comes with a price, especially in regards to the wage gaps between men and women.
2. Wage Gaps
Studies show that in the regular workforce, the average woman makes 82 cents for every dollar a man earns, and it could take another 70 years before it becomes equal. This same-gendered payment gap remains consistent in many ways when it comes to freelancing.
Right off the bat, studies have shown that 50% of women who freelance make less than $25,000 a year. In the survey, 48% of women were in the lowest income bracket.
Although 34% of men were in that income range, 4.5x of them were more likely to earn over $150,000/year when compared to women.
Interestingly, 49% of the men were found to be stiffed compared to 38% of women. Regardless of the situation, when it comes to being paid enough to make ends meet, both genders have had a hard time in this economy.
3. Getting Stiffed from Unfair Practices
In any form of business, it’s important to protect yourself from harm. Unfortunately, the average freelancer will have a hard time getting a proper respect for the work they do or being protected correctly.
Reasons Why Freelancers Get Stiffed
1. Bad Contracts
A bad contract will give you limited rights or say-so over the content you create, potentially coming back to bite you later down the line. Also, a bad contract may force an exclusivity clause, which deters you from working with others.
There are times where a client may not need your content for a while, which may result in weeks or months of lost income if they pay on publication. As a result of situations such as these, 35% of freelancers claimed that vague or shady contracts resulted in them not getting paid.
2. Not Taken Seriously
There’s often a bad stigma associated with working with freelancers, especially when employers are faced with shady Craigslist ads or content mills offering ridiculously cheap prices for deliverables.
For many, working as a freelancer has an unfair connotation of unseriousness; those that work independently know how unearned and unjust such an assumption is. Nevertheless, situations like these can bias employers from giving freelancers fair treatment from the start.
We are very much at the beginning of the freelance wave with considerable growth and complexity expected over the next few years.
Indeed, many estimates suggest that by 2020, 40% of the US workforce will be freelance, engaging a range of different careers and redefining what it means to be an independent worker.
That doesn’t mean that it’s too soon to begin your career as a “Slash Worker.”
Though there will be continued dynamism in this space, and the economy more broadly, there is nevertheless a strong opportunity to get ahead of the curve and generate multiple income streams, build a range of diverse, marketable skills, and begin to embrace a life of flexibility and freedom.