How many Americans freelanced in 2022? According to Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward research report, the answer is 60 million, representing almost 40% of the workforce. That’s an insane percentage of total workers in the United States.
But the benefits of freelancing are what makes it such an attractive lifestyle. Yes, many professionals choose to freelance because of inflation or because they were laid off by a tech company. Aside from those motivators, though, what is the benefit of freelance? I thought of five things that I’ve loved about my freelance journey, which started back in 2014.
1A. Work When You Want
Nothing is more soul-crushing than waking up to go to a job you hate. The worst part of working a job that’s no fun: The constricting schedule. You’re expected to be at the office (or online) by a certain time in the morning. And you’re expected to be at your desk (or online) until a certain time in the evening.
This is no way to work. This is no way to live.
When you freelance, you can work when you want. Are you a morning person? You could put in a full day and be done by noon. Are you a night owl? You can spend your days however you like and work late into the evening.
The bottom line is freelancing allows you to embrace Parkinson’s Law and use it to your advantage. Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time allotted. If you have a traditional 9-hour workday to complete three tasks, you will likely stretch those three tasks to fill 9 hours.
But what if you challenged yourself to finish those three tasks in 3 hours? Parkinson’s Law suggests that the reduced time window and increased urgency would help you achieve that goal.
Freelancing is best when you have a financial goal each day. Your job is not to fill 9 hours in exchange for your paycheck. Your job is to finish as many tasks and earn as much money as possible in the shortest amount of time.
It’s more fun to work that way. Trust me.
1B. Set a Schedule That Works for You
This is a little bit different than “working when you want,” which is why I’ve added this 1B to the 1A above.
There are two different types of schedules prevalent in the workplace: makers’ schedules and managers’ schedules.
As this LinkedIn post outlines, a maker’s schedule requires long blocks of interrupted time that allow for deep work. This type of schedule is essential for coders, designers, writers, etc.
Conversely, a manager’s schedule means a variety of meanings and tasks throughout the day with constant changes in direction.
The problem at most modern workplaces is that managers expect their makers to adhere to a manager’s schedule, which undermines the productivity and output of the makers.
When you freelance, you don’t have to put up with that.
You can choose to wake up and start work when you want to. You can reserve meetings and emails for hours later in the day when you’re likely less creative and less productive. No longer will your manager drop team meetings on your schedule first thing in the morning, and no longer will you be drawn into interminable meetings that don’t require your presence.
You enjoy the power and flexibility to work a true maker’s schedule — and to reap the benefits of that schedule. Burnout is always a possibility, but at least you have the agency to make changes when you want to make them as a freelancer.
2. Work Where You Want
When I was a kid, my dad moved to Washington DC, because that’s where the work was. After college, I moved to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, because that’s where the work was. I later moved to Idaho, California and back to Dallas-Fort Worth, always chasing jobs.
All I really wanted, though, was to live in my hometown of Austin.
When you freelance, you excuse yourself from the job chase, and you give yourself the permission to live and work wherever you’d like in the world.
Want to move to your hometown? Go for it.
Want to move to a smaller city with a lower cost of living? There’s nothing stopping you.
Want to freelance your way around the country and world, spending a few days or weeks in a city before moving on? Have fun.
So much of traditional work dictates who and where we live our lives. Freelancing gives you back control.
3. Work on What Interests You
The more successful you become at freelancing, the more you can work on projects that actually interest you.
There’s nothing worse than working a job that’s boring. That first job I took out of college, the one in Dallas-Fort Worth, including making home equity loans. It was super boring. But I needed the paycheck. So I did it.
When you build a thriving freelance career, you can say “yes” to the jobs that interest you and “no” to everything else.
4. Work With People You Like
I had a boss once who liked to yell at me and my colleagues. I sat there and took it because, once again, I needed the job and the paycheck.
But there would have been nothing more satisfying than standing up for myself and threatening to walk out if that behavior continued. It was unprofessional, unhelpful and inappropriate. I didn’t have any power in the situation, though.
Freelancing gives you power — the power to work for people you truly like and enjoy and to pass on working for anyone else.
5. Uncapped Earnings
The first book I ever read about freelance writing was “The Well-Fed Writer” by Peter Bowerman. In one portion of the book, Bowerman writes about meeting someone who said: “I don’t know how you work without knowing how much you will make in a month.”
Bowerman’s reply, and I paraphrase, was something like: “I don’t know how you work knowing exactly how much you will make in a month.”
That line has stuck with me, and I’ve realized the power behind uncapped earning potential many times during my freelance career.
Want to take a nice vacation? Pick up a few more freelance jobs in any given month.
Want to buy a new car? Increase your earnings for a few months to save for a down payment.
Want to take a month off? Double your efforts for a couple of months, and you can take a month off without worry.
I still remember what it was like to work for a set amount. It’s stressful. It’s anxiety-inducing. There’s no freedom, and there’s no room for creativity. You’re trapped, held hostage by a figure. And that’s no way to go through life.
What Do You Love About Freelancing?
The list of freelance benefits could go on and on (which may be why so many people are choosing to side hustle right now). These are just the five that came to mind first. And remember that there are cons that come along with the pros of freelancing, so go into a freelance career with eyes wide open.
Is there something that you love even more about freelancing? If so, let us know in the comments section below.