As of late last year, 35% of the American workforce was freelance. This trend is worrying in a way because it is a clear exposition of just how many people are finding it difficult to find steady, reliable employment on which they can subsist. Millennials, in particular, have had a difficult time when it comes to the economy. The global economic climate has been in recovery for nearly a decade since the crash of 2008 so it has been difficult for them to find employment. If you couple this with the absurd student debt crisis, which is now at $1.3 trillion, you find that the conventional career narrative is simply not as possible as it once was.
The so-called gig economy has forced many people to work themselves to death, as the New Yorker puts it. It is no longer the case that a young person can graduate from a college and necessarily find a well-paying job, which will allow them to get a mortgage for a house (it is no surprise that home ownership amongst Millennials is at a thirty year low).
Morgan Stanley Global Wealth Management Vice Chairman Carla Harris suggests that Millennials will have the ‘opportunity’ to have four or five careers, not jobs, over the course of a lifetime. This rather bleak assessment will necessitate that many people starting out now will need to constantly struggle to develop skills and create a personal brand in order to survive. The opportunity that Carla Harris describes is more a fait accompli that Millennials have found themselves with rather than chosen. With the retirement age receding further and further back all the time, the prospects for the sort of career that Baby Boomers enjoyed are all but non-existent. Being with the same company and working your way to the stop is something of a fallacy now.
It is, therefore, no surprise that many people are turning to freelancing. They have no other choice. If you can make make money out of your skills, you have to utilize them because you will simply not be able to support yourself otherwise. The online freelance marketplace Fiverr recently launched an ad campaign entitled ‘In Doers We Trust’, which codified the sort of exhausting schedule that the modern marketplace demands of young people. They suggest that having a coffee for lunch and becoming dependent on the drug of sleep deprivation are somehow appropriate or admirable traits.
While working freelance is more difficult in many ways to a conventional job, it does not necessarily need to threaten your health in order for you to be considered successful. One of the most important things to think about when taking up freelance work is the environment in which you are going to do all of that work. If you have the means, you may want to hire yourself an office, but that is quite expensive. A cheaper, and sometimes more comfortable option, is to set up an office at home. Here is what you will need to make it work:
A lot of freelance work now relies on the internet. If you are going to communicate with your clients, the easiest way of doing it is online. Calling them on the phone is fine, but programs like Skype allow you to video conference free with anyone in the world that has a computer and an account. Besides, sharing your work, whether on sites like Dropbox, or over email, is much easier than relying on conventional mail services or the rather passé technology of fax.
Investing in a computer with sufficient RAM to allow you to work all day is crucial. If your computer fails you, you may not be able to meet your deadlines, and you will lose your clients. However, many personal computers are simply not designed for the demands of running your own business, whether you are a graphic designer or a freelance writer. That is why you may want to consider investing in a professional digital infrastructure that will work for you. Companies like ATB Technologies can help with that.
Since you are going to be working from home, and your main source of communication with clients and colleagues will be online, you need to make sure that you make the right impression. Dealing with computer failures is one thing, but not having the right programs or the appropriate understanding of them will signal that you are unprofessional. Just as when you meet a business contact or a client in person and you choose to look smart and behave politely, you need to make a similarly suave impression online.
While the actual work that you will do is important, a home office is no different to a corporate office as far as it needs to be designed with your needs in mind. Working from home can be great in lots of ways. You do not always need to worry about a particular dress code because you will not always be visible to other people, and depending on the work that you do, you can choose your own hours. However, if you do not build an office environment that will allow you to work as effectively as possible, you will suffer. One thing that it is a good idea to spend some money on is a good office chair. If you are going to be sitting down for several hours at a time, you should take regular breaks to ease the pressure on your body, but getting a chair that supports you and allows you to keep working could be the difference between being a successful freelancer and having to go back to working for someone else.
Finally, working freelance is about being self-disciplined and being able to manage your time in the best way possible. You may be at home, but if you have a deadline approaching, you should not work until you become ill. You are your own boss and if you decide to give yourself a break, you may start to feel guilty that you are not working. However, it is crucial that you split your day up. Do not allow yourself to become the sort of tyrannical boss that you may have hated in previous jobs. Managing yourself as a resource is the key to success.