After three layoffs in three consecutive years, Dean Reese, 44, decided to take his career in software development into his own hands. He began freelancing from his home in Atlanta three years ago -- and hasn't looked back.
"I got extremely tired of fighting both the politics and the limitations that management imposed," says Reese. "Sure, it's a leap of faith that your talents can put food on the table and pay the mortgage ... but some of that fear drives me every day to work harder," he says.
Whether you're a software designer, lawyer, journalist, graphic artist or architect, there are increasing opportunities in the freelance market, as both employers and workers embrace a new way of working that involves less overhead and more freedom. The freelance market comprises 30% of the workforce, according to the Freelancers' Union.
"There is a confluence of trends that are driving this new, independent way of work," says Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance.com, a platform for online employment. The company recently conducted a nationwide survey showing that freelance work is fulfilling in many ways -- more so than you'd think, given the risks. "Professionals are turning to independent work in record numbers for greater flexibility and work/life balance," says Rosati.
Technology is yet another driving force, he says, as "people can work from any location, opening up work opportunities that span geographic boundaries," says Rosati. And of course, another major driving force is corporate downsizing: With the unemployment rate resting above 9%, many are turning to freelance work out of necessity.
Rosati doesn't need to convince me -- I'm already a freelancer and, personally, can't imagine a better way for me to work. But here's a closer look at the Elance survey and 3 reasons freelancing is where it's at!
1. More Happiness
Life as a freelancer can be stressful and unpredictable, yet 61% say they're happier as an freelancer than as an employee. Reese gets to work from home, take his children to school and spend more time with his wife, especially when she has a day off. "Those are things the 9-to-5 jobs cannot offer," he says. The survey reported 80% say they're optimistic about their career path as freelancers.
2. Rising Pay
You won't necessarily earn more pay than when working a full-time job, but nearly half of freelancers -- 47% -- say their pay has risen in the last year. While you have to assume some of your own benefits, like health insurance and unpaid sick leave, many are saving money in other ways. For example, Reese figures he's saving 80% in fuel costs due to driving less.
3. More Control
What survey respondents like most about freelancing is that it provides them more control of their schedules, which in turn provides the opportunity for better work/life balance. A full 72% said that freedom is "very important" to them. Freelancers can structure their days as they wish, and take advantage of mobile phones and Skype, cloud-based document storage and other tools to live and work pretty much anywhere they want.
Farnoosh Torabi is a personal finance journalist and commentator. She is the author of the new bookPsych Yourself Rich, Get the Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life. Follow her at www.farnoosh.tv and on Twitter/farnoosh
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