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Build Your Career Work-Life Balance

Why Baby Boomers Are Becoming Freelancers

Why Baby Boomers Are Becoming Freelancers
Credit: NakoPhotography/Shutterstock

The gig economy has drawn in workers of all ages with the promise of flexibility and remote opportunities. While many believe millennials and younger generations make up most of the industry, statistics prove otherwise.

According to FreshBooks 2018 Self-Employment Report, 49 percent of freelancers are more than 50 years old, and 32 percent of baby boomers who work full-time now plan to freelance in the next five years.

"Fundamentally, boomers are choosing to go freelance for the same reasons as everyone else – a desire for more engagement in their work and a desire for more flexible work options," said Robert McGuire, founder of Nation1099. "Boomers, though, will feel those issues in different ways."

There are many perks of choosing to freelance over a more "traditional" career. Here are three reasons why baby boomers are doing just that.

Freelancing allows for more flexible schedules and more control on the worker's end. This is especially appealing for baby boomers, who might feel burnt out or eager to spend more time with family and less time in meetings or commuting.

Lisa Johnson Mandell, author of "Career Comeback: Repackage Yourself to Get the Job You Want" (Hachette Book Group, 2010) and freelancing baby boomer, said that while she'd likely make more money working a full-time position in an office, at this point in her life, she wouldn't trade the convenience for anything.

"I … enjoy the freedom to walk my dog when I feel like it, and have a long lunch with the girls without having to explain my absence to anyone," she said.

When you freelance for a company, you're hired based solely on talent and experience. The Freshbooks report noted that most freelancers never meet their employers face-to-face, and are examined for their qualifications rather than age.

According to Zachary Paruch, project lead and small business expert at Invoice Genius, employers tend to prefer younger applicants because they are often moldable and willing to work for a lower salary. However, "as freelancers, age discrimination becomes less of an issue, as clients simply want someone who can perform their task well – regardless of issues such as age and experience," he said.

Mandell agreed, noting that her freelance clients might not know her age, but they do know that she turns in high-quality work by deadline.

"I like being judged by my work alone, and not by my age," said Mandell. "There is no interviewing process where I had to compete with younger and 'hotter' candidates."

McGuire said while most people appreciate retirement for what it is, many prefer a transition period before calling it quits.

"They look behind them and see 40 years building up highly valuable skills and look ahead at 30 years not using those skills, and they feel a disconnect," he said. "They want to stay engaged, and freelancing provides that opportunity."

Because baby boomers tend to have more experience than younger generations, they can use their insight and connections to their advantage, and continue to earn a profit while working remotely with a flexible schedule and perks.

"If and when baby boomers find themselves without a job late in their careers, they have a wealth of contacts – who often have senior titles – that can form a would-be client list for their new freelancing role," said Paruch. "While this isn't a reason more baby boomers are freelancing in itself, it is a reason why they are sticking with it and forging careers of their own in the gig economy."

Sammi Caramela

Sammi Caramela has always loved words. When she isn't working as a Purch B2B staff writer, she's writing (and furiously editing) her first novel, reading a YA book with a third cup of coffee, or attending local pop-punk concerts. The only time Sammi doesn't play it safe is when she's writing. Reach her by email, or check out her blog at sammisays.org.