As the idea of work shifts from "a place you go" to "something you can do from anywhere," more and more professionals are choosing to freelance as their full- or part-time careers. In fact, Intuit estimates that 40 percent of U.S. workers will fall into the freelance category by 2020.
What's driving this shift? According to the 2016 Freelancer Lifestyle survey by Toptal, a freelance network for software engineers and designers, 95 percent of freelancers say they enjoy working remotely because they feel more productive than in a traditional office setting.
Freelancing also offers greater control over work-life balance. Freelancers who are parents (33 percent) love that they are able to spend more time with their children, since they do not have to travel to work or follow strict schedules. Instead, they are able to create a schedule that suits their lifestyle: 42 percent work long hours with frequent breaks, while 41 percent adhere to regular office hours. Two-thirds of freelance parents agree that their kids are better off because they work from home.
Although freelancing isn't always steady work, many college graduates and laid-off employees often freelance to earn some income and fill in resume gaps, according to another Business News Daily article. Creative industries like writing, design and web development offer a wide variety of positions that allow freelancers to work remotely for companies across the country, which can be easier than landing a full-time job. [See Related Story: 10 Things Every Freelancer Should Know]
When asked if they'd ever return to an office, about half the respondents (46 percent) said they would only go back for their dream job, and 13 percent wouldn't go back no matter what. Just 7 percent of freelancers actually miss working in an office. Most of them enjoy the simple pleasures of a controlled home environment, such as being able to listen to music, or eliminate distractions when necessary.
Tips for freelance success
Despite the freedom and personal satisfaction that comes with the freelance lifestyle, there are also a few challenges you'll need to overcome to succeed. Kenan Salihbegovic, head of community at Toptal, said the biggest ones are ensuring a steady job flow and managing the operational overhead.
"Being a freelancer [means] running your own company," Salihbegovic told Business News Daily. "You're at the helm and have to steer the ship through good and [bad] times."
For instance, Salihbegovic noted that there are many individual responsibilities — managing clients, tracking cash flow, tax reporting, etc. — that are not always rewarding, but are undeniably necessary to keep your freelance operation afloat.
Salihbegovic also said that as the "gig economy" grows, the freelance job market is getting intensely competitive. He advised budding freelancers to build up their personal brand to make themselves more marketable.
"One of the best ways is probably to share knowledge and become active in local and online communities," Salihbegovic said. "This way you will be able to build up a network around you quickly and form some deep connections over time."
Ultimately, the best thing you can do as a freelancer is build up your expertise with relevant projects, Salihbegovic said: "You should be focusing on what you're really good at — not wasting time on something which isn't in your domain."
For more information on how to become a professional freelancer, visit BND's guide.