Are Freelancers Happier Than Full-Time Employees?

September 25, 2012 · 9 comments

Self-employment — or freelancing or solopreneurship or consulting or whatever you want to call it — isn’t for everyone. But a new survey from Elance makes it look pretty darn appealing.

Quit your job and freelance

Because I totally keep $100 bills in my back pocket. Oh, and that’s my butt, too.

The average freelancer expects to earn 43 percent MORE next year than they did this year, the survey shows. That’s huge compared to traditional workers, who typically expect a 3 percent raise. (Not sure where Elance got that traditional-worker statistic from, but it sounds about right. Even if it’s not, few traditional workers expect a raise of 43 percent.)

Even better, nearly 70 percent of the freelancers surveyed said they are happier now than they were as a full-time employee — pretty impressive considering how many Americans are unsatisfied with their jobs. And nearly 80 percent said they are more productive as a freelancer than they were when working full time for one employer. That makes sense, since there’s no such thing as “busy work” when you work for yourself.

“In just a few short years, freelancing has gone from a last resort option to a lucrative and fulfilling career,” Fabio Rosati, president and CEO of Elance, said in the release.

Keep in mind that Elance has a dog in this fight, as do most organizations that come out with statistics: the company connects contractors with businesses that want to hire, so they’re at the center of this work revolution. Elance surveyed 3,000 contractors for this report.

Also worth noting: the five types of freelance jobs that are expected to grow the most next year are web programming (of course), mobile apps (another obvious one), graphic and web design, online marketing (hello social media consultants!) and — this is what will probably be of most interest to readers of this blog — CONTENT WRITING.

Because if more companies and organizations are spiffing up their websites, they’re going to need content for that site, right?

I don’t bill myself as a content writer because it sounds hella boring, but that is basically what I do: create interesting, relevant and valuable content for small businesses and help them share it on their blog or social media channels in ways that gain the most traction. If I can take advantage of this growing freelance opportunity, all you writers can, too.

Oh, and one more point about these income stats. You could certainly argue that freelancers expect a significant bump next year because they’re not making as much as they need to make now, and that just because they expect to earn more next year doesn’t mean they will — we could poke all sorts of holes in this data.

But the takeaway is that when you work for yourself, you have tons of potential. If you want to earn more, you work more. (As opposed to most traditional jobs, where working more rarely shows in your paycheck.) You have more potential for earning, for learning and for growing.

And I tend to think that potential — in addition to the autonomy and flexibility freelancers enjoy — is what truly makes us happy.

If you’re a freelancer or consultant, are you happier now than when you worked full time for one employer? If you’re in a traditional job, do you think you’d be happier as a freelancer?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Elliott September 25, 2012 at 12:35 pm

I definitely think I would be happier as a freelancer, and I’m just beginning to work towards making that happen. I know it would have its own stresses and difficulties, but I think the rewards of freedom and creativity would be totally worth it.

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Budget & the Beach September 26, 2012 at 10:56 am

I’ve been a freelancer for four years, and I couldn’t be more ready to get back to full time. Maybe I didn’t have what it takes…because it takes A LOT. You have to like not knowing if you will make money at all. I’m not going to say it’s all bad, but it’s incredibly challenging…at least it is for me.
Budget & the Beach recently posted…Life, an updateMy Profile

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Alexis Grant September 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

I’m so glad you weighed in on this — this topic deserves a post of its own. Building your own business isn’t for everyone!

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Charley September 29, 2012 at 9:22 am

Contrary to your statement, I have to argue that building a business is for everyone, at least for those who desire such freedom that comes with owning a business. It’s just the realm within which one can build a successful business that differs. Find what you excel at and create a solid presence there that will hopefully transform into a profitable venture.

Regarding the stats, they’re are interesting, especially the sorts of jobs that will increase in demand. Content writing is the only freelance job in the list that I have competence within. Other jobs are probably more lucrative, but there’s a learning curve with greater difficulty.

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Tom September 30, 2012 at 9:05 am

Thanks Alexis, I agree with Fabio Rosati, hat’s off to him for that quote. I love the freedom that working as a freelancer affords. I took an impromptu day off last week to visit the smallest city in the UK “St Davids”. Working a 9-5 would have made that more difficult.

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Kasia September 30, 2012 at 3:44 pm

I couldn’t agree more! I’m 100% happier- freedom is happiness. My entire outlook on work has changed 180% from my corporate hell-hole. As for income, I’m coming up on my 1 year mark and yes, it wasn’t until the last month or so that I finally feel like I’m making good money, but I expected that. It takes time to acquire those first few clients & make them really happy, but now that they have begun to recommend me, game on. I actually expected it to be worse/take longer, but I’m already in the position where it’s time to hire serious part-time employees.

I also think that its very important to think about your business model. I personally believe that it’s difficult to sustain the lifestyle if you don’t have reoccurring monthly income & that’s not always easy. Personally, I have found the best way for me is to offer multiple services. Sure, that means knowing how to do multiple things well, but the continuous learning is one of the things I love most about the lifestyle!

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Dana Leavy-Detrick October 1, 2012 at 10:23 am

I don’t see it as black or white in terms of ‘is being independent better than working for someone else?’ because there are advantages and disadvantages working on both sides. Budget & the Beach mentioned above, you do have to be okay with not knowing how the money is going to come in sometimes. You can plan and forecast, but it’s never fool proof. But I don’t want to work for anyone else again, simply because I didn’t like putting my earning potential (and the power to take it away) in someone else’s hands. On the same level, despite the challenges, I thrive on the freedom to choose and develop my creative projects, and what I work on. That’s a definite perk for most independents. Cheers!

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Larry June 23, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Freelancers should be optimistic, but let’s not ignore the reality that writing fees have been dropping for years. It’s harder and harder to make a decent living as a freelancer (as I have for the last 16 years and still barely manage to do). Many companies love us, however, once they realize that we freelancers are cheaper, often more efficient, and protected by fewer laws than employees.

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