The Freedom And Flexibility Of Freelancing

A recent survey by Elance.com shows freelancers are happier and busier than ever. So what makes the grass greener?
July 01, 2011

You might think a lack of jobs is pushing more professionals into freelancing, but it’s the flexible lifestyle and freedom that is most appealing these days, according to a recent survey by Elance.com.

Out of the 1,500 independent professionals surveyed, 61 percent said they are happier freelancing than having a full-time job, citing a flexible work schedule as the number one reason to remain independent.

"More people are working remotely and end up really liking the flexible lifestyle,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance.com. The privately-held company, based in Mountain View, Calif., offers skills tests and an online project management system to track completed work. Rosati said the company currently has about 600,000 jobs or projects posted online, 441,000 active independent contractors, and 150,000 businesses seeking to hire freelancers for a variety of projects.

Although big and small businesses are reluctant to add full-time workers, companies still need work done and are turning to freelancers. Ninety-two percent of freelancers polled use job sites including Monster.com, Craigslist, and Elance.com to find work. In recent months, about 600,000 projects have been posted on the Elance.com site—a 50 percent growth rate over a year ago.

Web design, IT, marketing and social networking are the hottest areas for freelancers. Freelancers able to do data entry, computer aided design (CAD), translation, or serve as virtual assistants are also in demand. According to the survey, about 83 percent of freelancers using Elance.com work with U.S. clients—31 percent have clients outside the U.S.

“I love being a freelance writer and consultant because there is constant variety,” said Ben Gran, a writer and marketing consultant who recently left a full-time job at a Fortune 500 company to freelance. “I'm always learning something new,” he said. “I love being self-employed because I can set my own hours, follow my own schedule, and work on the projects that I find the most interesting.”

Debbie Feldstein, who quit her job after 30 years, produces a full menu of "top shelf" copywriting from strictly business to purely inventive for clients. “I found Elance and my writing business took off from there,” said Feldstein. “With traditional employment you are narrowly defined. As an online freelancer, I am able do the jobs I love and work with clients from all over the world.”

Other survey highlights:

  • Freelancers are well-educated (80 percent have a college degree). Eighty percent are optimistic about their future and 56 percent prefer the freelance lifestyle, compared with 19 percent preferring full-time work with one employer.
  • Sixty-five percent said posting digital portfolios and online resumes are more effective than traditional resumes when it comes to landing a job.
  • Thirty-five percent began freelancing to earn extra income. Seventeen percent started freelancing after being laid off and 26 percent said they began freelancing to be their own boss and work on the type of projects they love.
  • Forty-seven percent said their freelance income has increased over the last 12 months, while 25 percent said their income had decreased.
  • Thirty-two percent earn between $25,000 and $49,000 a year, 21 percent earn $50,000 to $74,999 and 6 percent earn between $100,000 and $149,000.

Image credit: Fabio Rosati