Are we moving to a broader freelance economy?
It’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot in the last few years, and I don’t think I’m any closer to knowing a definitive answer.
It’s been pretty obvious to me that the way we sell our labor has changed much since my parents’ time – the days of 30 years at company X, company funded pension plans, gold watch at retirement and company loyalty are mostly gone for all but a handful of workers in most walks of life. But what is replacing this?
Legions of temp workers and part time giggers have ostensibly served the changing needs of companies who want to be able to scale up interchangeable workers on demand, but it hasn’t served the needs of the workers all that well. I think it’s given ‘freelancing’ a bad name as well, so much so that I’d named my freelancer conference “indieconf”, to avoid the term freelance altogether (although in hindsight, perhaps I should have embraced it all the more?) Freelancing has often been seen as the stop-gap for people in-between full-time jobs – indeed, many people treat it as such, as opposed to embracing the ability to control your own life and destiny with gusto.
So, we have less job stability and security in the corporate world, but this doesn’t seem to have been replaced with true “freelancing” so much as “part timers” and “temp workers”; I don’t think this is just a semantic distinction though. The part timers and temps have, at their definition, people who likely would prefer a full-time position somewhere, and are taking the scraps because it’s all they can get.
Will freelancing become to be accepted as the ‘new normal’? Does it need a name change? Do we need more regulatory laws recognizing this type of work relationship as just as valid as others? Union organizer struggles back 100 years ago did a lot for that movement, but freelancing, almost by definition, doesn’t have that sense of collective organization.