In recent years, freelancing has become an increasingly popular career choice. But, one generation, in particular, is embracing it: millennials.
Even more than Netflix and avocado toast, millennials love working for themselves.
From writers and designers to Uber drivers and paid shoppers, freelancing has grown in nearly every industry. To date, 57 million Americans do some type of freelance work. As of 2019, freelancers make up 35% of U.S. workers.
As the majority of the workforce, millennials have led the freelancing charge and are helping shape a new understanding of what constitutes a career.
But why are millennials embracing freelancing? What does this generation find so enticing about the gig economy? How are they uniquely positioned to succeed in it?
Freelancing Offers Flexibility
Where baby boomers reveled in the 9-to-5 grind, millennials value flexibility and seek work-life balance. This generation wants to make their own schedules, select their own projects and work with their own dream clients.
Thanks to the sharing economy, there is an abundance of opportunities for millennials to freelance and establish their own hours. Similarly, there are fewer barriers to getting started in the gig economy. For example, it’s much easier to start driving and earning money with a ride-sharing service like Lyft than it is to get hired by a traditional taxi company.
Whether getting started or establishing a regular work schedule, flexibility is a top priority for millennials. In fact, a FlexJobs survey revealed that 82% of millennial-aged respondents believe work flexibility is the most important factor when evaluating a job prospect. That edged out the 80% of respondents who said salary is most important.
Millennials Want More Than Money
Flexibility isn’t the only thing millennials value more than money. This generation’s idea of fair compensation equates to more than just a paycheck.
Millennials want to do work that matters.
In addition to striking a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives, millennials seek meaningful work opportunities. That’s one of the reasons many millennials have a love-hate relationship with traditional careers. While some can appreciate the job security and salary, many refuse to settle to work for companies or bosses who don’t encourage their dreams or embolden their creativity.
Even as students, this generation abandoned tradition in favor of purpose-driven work. Rather than waiting tables or bartending after class, many millennials started freelancing in college so they could build their portfolios and jumpstart their careers prior to graduation.
Instead of the usual student jobs, many millennials took advantage of technology to begin creating a freelance brand. They created dedicated websites, blogged their hearts out and connected with clients online.
Technology Opens Doors
More so than any generation before them, millennials understand the power of technology and have used it to teach themselves skills ranging from video editing to graphic design. Having grown up using the internet to investigate their interests, they now use it to bolster their work portfolio.
With the internet, you can learn anything. With technology, you can learn it anywhere.
Unlike their parents’ generation, which was content to work in an office 40-plus hours a week, millennials don’t want to be tethered to a desk. They recognize that one of the advantages of technology is that they can work from anywhere.
While working from anywhere, millennials use technology to combat some of the challenges of working remotely. For freelancers, it can be difficult to maintain good communication when working in different locations and, sometimes, time zones. Fortunately, cloud-based collaborative technology like Slack, Zoom and Google Drive has helped facilitate better communication among freelancers working remotely.
From the technology to work remotely and the resources to independently build their skills to flexibility and better work-life balance, it’s no wonder millennials are embracing freelancing. This generation has demonstrated both the ability and the desire to make work work for them.
About Beau Peters