By Mia Casey
The nine to five slog isn’t what it used to be. Across the world, more people are calling out for flexible work hours as new technologies are introduced, and working remotely becomes a more achievable reality. This means that we’re now seeing the expansive rise of the ‘freelance economy’. So what does this mean for those of us still studying and preparing to enter the workforce?
The push for more flexible work
In a recent article, Business Insider shared the results of a 2015 survey conducted by Pureprofile. Over a thousand Australians were surveyed, and it was found that 85% of Australians believed traditional office hours to be inflexible, with close to 70% potentially interested in earning money through on-demand freelance services.
This doesn’t mean, however, that people are quitting their day jobs. Many Australians still work during the daytime, but complete freelance work at night. This is reflected in a study by BigCommerce (an Australian provider of e-commerce platforms) that discovered that:
The flexibility such work provides is a big draw for many people, who can supplement their income with freelance jobs. As Tim Fung (CEO and co-founder of Airtasker) has said:
“Workers are crying out for increased flexibility from their employers and online platforms are booming because they allow people to choose what they work on and earn a solid return for their efforts.”
This is particularly important for Australians as, in 2014, we were ranked 30 out of 36 by the OECD for our workers having a good work-life balance, ‘below the UK, Russia and Norway’.
The rise of the freelance economy
At the end of 2015, news.com.au reported ‘an estimated 4.1 million people, or around 32 per cent of the workforce, have done freelance work in the past year’. Of those who have taken up freelance work after quitting their previous employment, ‘69 per cent said they topped their previous income within a year. Fifty-eight per cent said they would not quit and go back to a traditional job, no matter how much it paid’. Indeed, in the US it’s estimated that by 2020 ‘freelancer numbers [are] projected to outpace full-time workers’.
This trend may be the product of new technologies outpacing the drawbacks freelancers have come across in previous years. As McCauley states, quoting a CSIRO report:
‘“Freelancing has its challenges, such as lack of stable income and difficulty finding work,” said the report. “But advances in technology and more globally connected environments are drastically changing these dynamics.”’
And this increasing trend in freelancing is set to continue, ‘with 32 per cent of freelancers reporting an increase in demands for their services’.
Check out this great video from the University of Kent, where Dr Heejung Chung discusses the pro’s and con’s of flexible work, and how it may very well be how we all work in the future:
What does this mean for students job seekers?
For those of us still studying or yet to enter the workforce in a full-time capacity, these statistics may provide a new career avenue. If you are able to leverage your skills online, work on a variety of projects, and manage your own work-life balance with little employer interference , it would be very easy to build a rather extensive portfolio. You could also develop skills outside of a single role, which you may not have the opportunity to do in other fields.
Of course like any other industry, freelancing does have its downsides, and unpredictability is a key feature. Unlike traditional work, freelancing doesn’t provide you with a steady income, and it could potentially be harder to qualify for some traditional positions if you decided to move away from freelance work.
This may not necessarily be such a drawback for students, as undertaking freelance work could be an interesting way to make money while still studying. At the very least, it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re interested in expanding your resume and building up your experience before you graduate. Just be sure not to oversell your qualifications (you’re not usually a ‘fully qualified’ anything until you graduate!).
With 2017 fast approaching, it’s a great time to start thinking about bulking up your resume and gaining some new experience - why not do some research and see if the freelance world is for you?
Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.