While the news about the growth of the independent workforce continues to hit the blogosphere and traditional media outlets, some job seekers still haven't embraced the opportunity to actively focus on sustainable, independent work. Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners, a business platform to help independent professionals succeed, says he believes that independent work is here to stay. Here are his six reasons to consider independent contracting as a viable, long-term alternative to traditional work:
1. The sheer number of independent projects. According to MBO Partners' Third Annual Independent Workforce Report, up to 50 percent of the private workforce in this country will be employer independent, that is, providing services as free agents to more than one client. With this level of projected growth, workers can assume a greater volume of work will be emancipated from full-time positions and into project roles, creating sustainable opportunities for those who go solo.
2. Independents can work from anywhere. Location is not a barrier. The proliferation of mobile and Internet-enabled work led to an environment where contractors can safely and securely work from any location, emancipating workers from the need to sit at a desk to perform knowledge services. Zaino notes: "This, in turn, led to a virtualization of work, a trend that when placed alongside the projected growth of the project economy, leads to an even greater sustainable stream of work services independent of full-time roles."
3. Independent workers are not specific to any generation or age group. Independent workers come from all demographic age groups, and are split 50-50 between men and women, suggesting this is not a niche trend, but a role that those in all age groups find appealing for different reasons. Some independent workers appreciate the flexibility they earn when taking on contract work, and others recognize that cultivating different sources of income can actually be more stable and secure than drawing a paycheck from one company.
4. Support for independents is growing and thriving. "There are a host of innovative solutions and systems supporting the rise of solo workers, including health care, insurance, marketplace tools and co-working facilities that are joining together to make it fun and easier to be an independent professional," Zaino explains. As more people earn their livings as freelance workers, both social and technical support communities grow to help enhance the independent worker community.
5. Social media tools make it easy to showcase expertise and grow your network and business. Years ago, to start a business likely required an actual storefront and a large marketing budget to get the word out about your services. Today, social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter and Facebook make it easy for any expert to highlight what he or she knows to an exponential number of people. Potential freelancers and independent contractors can use these networks to indicate they are well-versed in their fields. With a focused effort, motivated professionals can become go-to thought leaders in their fields simply by connecting with the right people online and sharing useful news and information.
6. Independents won't go back. Zaino says: "Regardless of the reasons they chose independent work in the first place, the majority of independents won't go back to traditional roles, even if they face challenges being out on their own." The MBO Partners' report reveals only 1 in 7 independent workers ever wishes to return to traditional employment, and most are overwhelmingly satisfied with their current work life.
"The average independent has already spent 10 years in this work style," Zaino explains. "Together, this successful and satisfied self-employed cohort is contributing $1.17 trillion to the economy, and hiring (via contract work) the equivalent of 2.5 million full-time workers. Further, 14 percent want to not just stay independent but go on to build a bigger business, suggesting the self-employed are the country's economic engine."
Consider pursing freelance opportunities; you may find they're satisfying ways to earn a living.
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.