Has the gig economy construed the perception of what it means to be a freelancer?
Lately, it's been taboo to say you work for a corporation, especially during the Great Resignation. People have preconceived notions about work hours, the effectiveness of an open-area workspace, discrimination, ageism, and the devious behaviors of the CEO. However, people are starting to see the value in the 9-to-5 job.
In 2022, more than 50 million Americans left positions with the confidence to find something more fitting with better pay. After peaking between November 2021 and April 2022, when almost 4.5 million people quit per month on average, the movement has steadily been losing steam throughout 2023. According to the latest JOLTS report, 3.47 million Americans left their job in November, the second lowest reading since February 2021.
Although there are more than 70 million freelancers in the U.S. and 80% of gig workers are satisfied with gig economy work, 96% want permanent jobs. Most gig workers earn between $10 and $15 an hour and work between 11 and 30 hours a week on one project.
Initially, the adrenaline rush of working for yourself boosts self-confidence and promotes flexibility to control your schedule. As reality sets in with the long hours of working in all areas of the business, from tech support to sales representative, second-guessing yourself as an entrepreneur is typical. Especially with the concern of a recession looming in the near future, securing a corporate position may be the best play in the book.
A freelancer does classify as an entrepreneur; however, working as a freelancer means you work on a project basis for different organizations, not building your own product line. At first glance, gig work may appear to embody the modern American dream, offering opportunities for flexibility and success. However, the initial allure often transforms into a disillusioning reality, exacerbating job inequality and fostering economic uncertainty.
Initially, the gig economy stemmed from people wanting to make extra money on the side. The gig economy grew exponentially as society shifted from a one-income household to a two-income household. Individuals with lower incomes often opt for gig work due to its flexibility. Unfortunately, this demographic is particularly susceptible to enduring prolonged challenges in economic uncertainty. Companies exploit their inexpensive labor without affording them essential benefits and protections.
It is possible to make more than six figures working in the gig economy if you're savvy, understand algorithms, and are efficient at self-branding and marketing. With inflation slowly steadying, many people are looking for stable paychecks and add-on bonuses, which make working a 9-to-5 job appealing. There's a heavy focus on cost: a matching 401k, signing bonuses and liveable wages.
It can take a person two to three jobs to make what they could be making at one job. Working in corporate America allows people to feel the safety of the status quo.
As we face an election year, healthcare is already a hot topic for candidates. Freelancers pay, on average, $600 a month for health coverage with high premiums. Some programs or plans account for an individual's income, which lowers the monthly cost. However, their eligibility for quality care suffers.
Investopedia reported that in 2022, annual premiums for health coverage for a family of four averaged $22,463, but employers picked up 73% of that cost. The average single employee paid $111 per month in 2022. Additionally, many corporate plans come with HSA/FSA accounts that help employees pay for their medical expenses.
Working at an organization as a regular employee offers more possibilities for career growth. Starting in the mailroom and working up to the executive level is not unheard of in corporate America. Yes, there will be other challenges and some glass ceilings to shatter, but it's more likely to be sustainable than working in the gig economy as a contractor for a company.
Besides advancing in a role, gig workers take on personal expenses such as insurance and legal aid. Also, many gig workers face isolation, which can negatively affect production and mental health.
As with all career changes, it's essential to research and find a role or industry that meets your lifestyle needs. If you've been working as a freelancer for a couple of years, you'll want to get the following in place before applying for a corporate position:
- Create both a written and visual portfolio. The written version is your cover letter, why you want to enter back into the corporate workforce and your resume. A nice addition to a pdf portfolio is a video highlighting who you are, what you've worked on and the value you bring to the table; videos are an excellent way for future employers to get to know your personality before they meet you in person.
- Reconnect with your network. Establish yourself with key players in the industry you are looking to enter. Asking for a ten-minute virtual coffee where you ask people about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are today enables you to grow your contact list at a rapid pace.
- Emphasize professionalism. This may seem simple, but professionalism stands out in a society of entitlement. Tailor your communication style, both written and verbal, to align with corporate norms. Ensure your online presence is polished with a LinkedIn profile that reflects your professional journey. Demonstrate your ability to collaborate with a team and thrive in a structured work environment during interviews.
Don't be ashamed to pivot from freelancing to working a 9-to-5 job. Both avenues have pros and cons; doing what's best for your career is essential.
Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.