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Going it alone - Will 2022 be the year Freelancing finally goes mainstream?

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I started freelancing as a writer in 2009. It started as a few side-hustle gigs as a writer for music magazines and, over time, slowly evolved into an actual career. I didn’t really mean for it to happen and I didn’t even realise it could become a viable option but when the payslips started to stack up the casual flirtation became a full-blown intimate relationship. 

It just kind of became its own beast and swallowed up my traditional career over the course of a year. That career (the one that could have been) has now been digested, secreted and buried in the garden. 

Back then (the heady days of the early 2010’s) I was a common source of ridicule amongst my circle of friends. “I bet it’s nice to spend all day in your pyjamas” was a regular snide dig alongside references to that one Mitchell and Webb sketch about masturbation. 

Overall, I got the sense that, for many people (my parents included) it wasn’t a “real” job unless I was answering to some generic bloke in a suit who probably inherited the job from daddy. Fast forward 10 years and it appears the world has finally caught up. Who’s the figure of fun now?

The COVID catalysed freelance bubble

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The pandemic has seen millions more joining the ranks of the freelance community. Of course, there’s always going to be some debate over how many of these emerging freelancers are moving into self-employment through choice. But many might have spent the last two years reassessing their priorities and realising that being their own boss was the only way to take control.

The security of a “job for life” has also been revealed as an almost complete fallacy and losing the job you built your life around is a much tougher blow to take than losing a single client when you have 7 or 8 more in the bank. 

It feels odd to consider that something I’ve been doing professionally for over a decade might only just now be considered “legitimate” in the eyes of the salaried masses. But in that regard, COVID has done me a solid.

I mean, it also means I’m going to have a lot more competition for work in the coming years, but I welcome it. And hey, we’re all going to be replaced by algorithms in a few years anyway right? So let’s get in while the getting’s good. Also, it appears there’s going to be plenty of work to go around anyway.

More work for more workers

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You’d think the stratospheric rise in freelancers would lead to a saturated market where we’re all fighting over the same few crumbs. But figures appear to suggest the number of opportunities will rise to meet this new demand.

Upwork is a site I’ve mercifully been able to steer clear of in recent years but it’s one that remains a great gateway drug into the world of freelance work. Recently, the site’s 100 largest clients increased their freelance spend by over 44% between 2020 and 2021 and that number looks set to grow exponentially this year.

Anecdotally, I myself have noticed more offers being thrown my way at a pretty steady pace. Thankfully, I’ve reached the stage in my career now where I have enough regular clients that I’ll probably never need to beg for work again but don’t get me wrong, that stage did happen. It lasted a solid year, at least. 

For those just starting out on this notoriously unreliable path, the fact there’s so much more work out there can only be a good thing. Hopefully, they won’t need to suffer through the doldrum days like I did.

Hope for the future

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I am not a naturally optimistic person but things have honestly never looked better for freelancers. Yes, there’s the omnipresent threat of automation hanging over many of our heads and yes, the fact that there’s more of us now means marketing is going to play a bigger role in our lives. 

But for me, I’m just happy that telling people I’m a freelance writer is now not something I have to mumble quietly under my breath at parties. Fuck it. I’m proud…ish.

Do any other freelancers out there want to share their stories, thoughts, feelings, hopes and worries for the year ahead with me and the Creativepool magazine? Comment below and I’ll be in touch.

Header image by AdidA Fallen Angel

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