The Reality of Freelancing: How It’s Growing, and Why it Rocks

Are you nervous about going it alone as a solopreneur and freelance writer? Well, today I’ve got a big shot of hope for you.

With the second annual International Freelancers Day coming on Friday, the event organizers have released an interesting study on the state of freelancing. You might be expecting gloom and doom as the economy continues to snooze along, but this report shatters some myths.

Is it a race to the bottom on prices out there? Hardly. Reports of freelancer poverty turn out to be exaggerated.

The report gives great, concrete info on what’s working in marketing for freelancers today. By the way, the biggest chunk of the respondents in this study were freelance writers, too.

A quick summary of the big news:

  • Freelancers prefer the independent lifestyle. Forty-eight percent of freelancers have more free time now than they did as an employee. And, 54 percent said that they wouldn’t even consider working as an employee again, regardless of what the job paid or what it entailed.
  • Finding clients was the biggest challenge facing freelancers today (cited by 22 percent of participants). Interestingly, obstacles such as getting paid on time (4%) and competing against lower-cost freelancers (3%), which are commonly cited as having reached alarming levels, were not among the top-ranking concerns for freelancers in 2011.
  • Freelancers earn healthy rates for their work. Although the range varies widely, 45 percent of freelancers earn between $20 – $59 per hour. Furthermore, 26 percent earn $80 or more per hour and 17 percent earn $100 or more per hour.
  • The economy’s impact has been exaggerated. The majority of freelancers (52%) either have not been impacted by the economy or have faced only a very minor impact. Only 19 percent said that they have been significantly affected.
  • Optimism is high. An overwhelming 78 percent said that they are optimistic about their business prospects over the next year.
  • Old-school marketing methods work best. Word of mouth (23%), referrals, and tapping their own personal and professional networks (17%) are freelancers’ most effective methods for finding and landing clients. Online job boards (9%) such as Elance and oDesk ranked above networking (7%), social media (3%) and cold-calling (2%).
  • Social media grows in importance. Social media (46%) and tapping their own personal/professional networks (46%) ranked as the top tactics freelancers are planning to do more of in the coming year.
  • “Accidental” freelancers fare well. Professionals who are freelancing as the result of a layoff or being downsized are more likely to earn less as a freelancer than peers who planned their way to self-employment. However, 80% of these “accidental” freelancers are much happier now than they were as employees. Seventy-four percent of them are also optimistic about their business prospects. And fully 30% of them are earning $80 or more per hour.

There’s more good news outside this study on the trend toward freelancing. If you’re getting into freelancing now, I think you’re smart.

Why? Companies have tried outsourcing in this downturn, and they love it. Many aren’t going back to paying the big marketing staffs they once had. Forecasts are that in the future, more freelance writing will be done by contractors, along with graphic design, software development and other tasks.

Those of us who learn how to run a freelance business now are positioned to benefit in the years to come. Others will catch on later — but by then, you’ll have a leg up.

Are you optimistic about your freelance earning potential for the coming year? Leave a comment and let us know.

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