Freelancing: Freedom, Flexibility, Fulfilment, the Future and other ‘F’ words

AN INSIGHTFUL LOOK INTO THE RISE OF FREELANCING

According to IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the self-employed, there are 2m freelancers in the UK, a 43% rise from 2008. Unsurprisingly, the number of women with children working as freelancers nearly doubled. In terms of age, the most significant growth has been among 16-29 year olds, signalling that freelancing is the future of work. Indeed, PwC expects that freelancers will account for 1 in 5 positions filled in 2020 in the UK and 35% of the workforce in the US.

Often the rise of freelancing is explained by the advancements in tech and economic challenges, something that is imposed on people, something they need to adapt to. But I’d like to think that the real driving force is people finding what works for them and changing the rules and environment to suit it.

The Hoxby Collective defines itself as “a global community of freelancers, which believes that flexible working is the future of the global workforce. Our #workstyle movement makes us more creative, more productive, and—most importantly—happier and more fulfilled.” This statement scores a whopping 93% Joy in IBM’s Tone Analyzer, and it’s not accidental.

Since joining the world of freelancing a few months ago, and subsequently, the Hoxby Collective, I’ve discovered that for me, it’s mostly about a feeling of joy and a whole load of other F-words.

Freedom and Fulfilment

I am free to do what I love. I choose the jobs that I know I will enjoy and turn down those that don’t align with my values. I have time for pro-bono work. I feel like a citizen, rather than a cog in a grand mechanism of corporate work. With this choice, control and autonomy comes a great sense of fulfilment. I feel like I matter and that’s a happy place to be.

Flexibility

Working as a freelancer gives me true flexibility. The ability to work where I want, when I want, how I want and for how long I want. I can prioritise and organise my work in a way that meets my client’s needs and deadlines, but that also suits me. As a freelancer, I’m able to choose which projects are personally fulfilling to me and set my own rates, depending on the challenge involved and the time needed to deliver the project. True flexibility is also about the opportunity to develop and apply a variety of skills. For example, in addition to data, research and strategy (services that I provide), I’m engaged in business development, marketing, design, accountancy – all necessary for the day to day running of my consultancy.

Fast

Working fast. Research by Workfront shows that organisations in the UK lose 2 hours of each employee’s working time per day due to meetings, unplanned co-worker drop-ins, emails, interruptions and office politics. And according to research by Salary.com, 89% of office employees waste time at work. The biggest waste of time is having to attend too many meetings (47% of employees). That’s followed by dealing with office politics (43%), fixing other people’s mistakes (37%), coping with annoying co-workers (36%), work emails (20%) and dealing with bosses (14%).

With no needless meetings, emails or office politics, and with Radio 4 for company, I am able to work fast: half the hours, double the output.

Fairness

There is no income ceiling, no set salary. If like me, you are a fast worker and get paid per project, both you and the client benefit greatly from a speedy delivery. Working freelance means I’ve also been able to charge lower rates to not-for-profit clients and this makes access to skills much fairer for them.

Fairness for the society

Research by Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows the impact flexible jobs could have on achieving economic security for families across the UK, ensuring work is a more reliable route out of poverty. Over 200,000 people living in poverty have the skills to do better-paid work but are prevented from improving their families’ living standards because of the lack of flexible jobs. Well-qualified people working in lower-skilled jobs also make it harder for those with fewer qualifications to get work at all. Demand for flexible jobs (47% across all salary levels) is far in excess of supply (6.2% of all quality vacancies). According to the Foundation, 1.9 million people could benefit from a skilled flexible job and that’s why a freelance movement is so important.

Fit

I eat and sleep better, exercise more, see more sunlight, breathe more air, avoid a stressful rush-hour commute and don’t have to endure a noisy office environment. I feel fitter physically and mentally.

Fit for the fast-moving environment

I have time for up-skilling through formal training, webinars, meeting and talking to incredible people or simply reading, doing or thinking.

Free

There are so many free resources – which as a freelancer, you’ll have the time to find, master and use. Using free resources will save money for you and the client.

Friends

Freelancing not only leaves enough time and energy to catch-up with your existing friends, but also gives an opportunity to meet new ones. On any given day in London alone there are more than 1,000 networking events. Not a natural networker, I’ve come to love it. I quickly realised that I didn’t have to sell anything but simply enjoy meeting a diverse group of people, some of whom have become friends. Joining the Hoxby Collective exposed me to many incredibly talented people and fresh ideas. And that is priceless.

Footprint

If you are a freelancer working from home, one of the biggest advantages is the massive reduction in carbon footprint. Fewer vehicles on the road mean that journey times are improved, less fuel is used and less pollution created. It also saves public money which could then be invested into public transport or the development of renewable technologies.

Finance and the Future

Freelancers contribute £119bn to the economy. But for the model to be sustainable for public finances in the long-term, we need to talk about Tax. I’ve instructed my accountant to pay me a good salary, not dividends, so that I pay National Insurance. For the freelance economy to be the future of work, we have the responsibility to make it work for all.

 

Ozoda Muminova is the Founder and Director of The Good Insight, which provides data consultancy, analysis, research, insight and strategy to brands with a purpose, not-for-profits and their ad agencies – so that they can make the world a good place for all.

Before The Good Insight, Ozoda worked in media: BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Agency.com, M&C Saatchi.

Ozoda has over 16 years’ experience in brand and content strategy, research, data analysis and visualisation, audience insight, digital media, segmentation, trend-spotting, building and leading teams.

Ozoda also tries doing good directly: she set up the insight function at Breast Cancer Now charity and was a sustainability advocate at the Guardian. In her spare time, she plants trees, volunteers for a political party and good causes. Ozoda believes in people, tech for good, the environment, human rights, inclusivity and ethical leadership.

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