Freelancing full-time or having a side-hustle is a common way many women take control of their careers, or create the work flexibility and autonomy they look for.
Freelancing work is, by definition, what you make of it. Therefore, it’s difficult to generalize about freelance work since freelancing can also be a way to supplement your income or take on a side project or two to enhance your professional skills in preparation for a career change (including something that accelerates and advances your career).
Other people freelance until they can secure a full-time position they really want or freelance full-time by taking on enough projects to constitute a full-time income.
There are over 53 million Americans earning an income from work that’s not your traditional 9-to-5 job. That’s one out of every three workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re asking yourself how these freelancers survive and whether they earn enough to support themselves, some answers may be found in online HR service provider Paychex’ recent analysis of the freelance economy. They recently examined over 400,000 freelancers’ resumes posted to the job site, Indeed.
Freelancers often cite flexibility and autonomy as the main reasons for choosing this style of work. If you are interested in reducing or eliminating your commute, want flexibility when it comes to your work hours, or are simply looking to be your own boss, then freelancing may be for you.
On the other hand, freelancers, by definition, are entrepreneurial people who must locate their next gig, client, and paycheck themselves. Becoming a freelancer is in many ways simply building and starting a business from scratch. Beyond losing job security, freelancers generally give up access to corporate benefits like healthcare, 401-k, and paid vacation days that come with full-time employment.
The data suggest that earning a full-time living from freelancing may be difficult. The Paychex study of resumes reveals that approximately 1/3 of freelancers are those who actually combine full-time work with freelancing on the side. In other words, they are moonlighting. Another 18% of freelancers seem to have multiple sources of income, such as part-time work. In short, only 23 million Americans (45% of the 53 million freelancers) are truly freelancing full-time. Moreover, over 25% of all freelancers return to full-time employment after a year.
In other words, if you choose to freelance, you may need to supplement your income from other sources, and it may be the case that you only do it temporarily. However, if you are seeking short-term flexibility for any reason (e.g. burnout, a need for career exploration, or because you are a new mother looking for flexible, work-from-home options), freelancing options and freelance jobs are more abundant than ever.
Some freelance work may be easier to obtain than others and some types of professional skills lend themselves better to freelance work or are simply in greater demand. Technology, development, design, writing, and PR jobs are often some of the most commonly available types of work available on freelancer job marketplaces and platforms.
There are many online platforms for freelance work. Many of these platforms are great for connecting to short-term, project-based work. We’ve previously written about a variety of places you can find remote work. Many times, these remote positions are possible because they are freelance positions, though some of these remote-working marketplaces also offer full-time employment jobs and options.
If you have a full-time position and are only freelancing on the side, you can obviously take advantage of your employer’s offerings. The same may be true of part-time work you have on the side.
Self-insuring is always a possibility if you are truly a full-time freelancer. Health insurance premiums may not be cheap, but they are available through new marketplaces like Oscar. Similarly, short-term disability insurance policies are available from many insurance companies and you can take out these policies if you think you may become pregnant and want some wage coverage during your maternity leave, or simply just want some sort of insurance to cover your wages in case you ever are incapacitated from work for any reason.
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