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Jeremy Clarkson, the creator of Top Gear and a global media celebrity, went freelance as a solo farmer on his farm — and the resulting documentary series Clarkson’s Farm is a wild ride, not only on his huge Lamborghini tractor! (IMDb 9.2/10)
Great reports on freelance work deserve to be recognized and remembered. One of those is the extensive 2016 study named Independent Work from the McKinsey Global Institute.
The report provides a sensitively handled taxonomy of freelancers and a comparison with other research. It makes the sober estimate that about 13% of the American job market is fully freelance (27% including side jobs), and reminds the reader that there were more independent workers in advanced economies in the past than today — up to 45% in the USA by the beginning of the 20th century. Full PDF report here.
A widely discussed article The death of behavioral economics predicts an impending decline of the whole field, including behavioral models often recommended to freelancers — e.g. by experts like Dan Ariely and his books on personal finance.
Our take: The title is obviously an overstatement, but behavioral economics is in deep replication crisis indeed. Stars like Scott Alexander defend it. However, with the onset of machine learning, who knows if behavioralists’ simplistic claims have any future?
There are industries where it is quite advantageous for freelance experts to be hired through a boutique agency as an intermediary. A great example in the industry of life sciences is the US-based LifeSciHub, led by Sheila Mahoney. It helps experts get the complex paperwork right and drug companies find talents and fulfill their due diligence obligations — a real win-win for everybody.
Bilingual copywriter Carlie Sitzman’s blog post for Freelancers Union outlines What to know before becoming an international freelancer, and concludes: Nothing is obvious, don’t take anything for granted.
“It’s time for a radical shift in how we present ourselves as designers,” argues Benek Lisefski in his article Person before portfolio. His point is that the design process and its rather predictable outcomes became de-facto industry standards, presented by empty buzzwords. What differs is the person behind the design.
Slow internet connection? The super-fast 126.96.36.199 DNS service provided by Cloudflare might be a key to the solution.
Freelancers are hard to define, but an estimate of self-employed European freelancers can be reached thanks to a great research report Exploring self-employment in the European Union by Eurofund (published 2017, updated 2021).
There were 32 million self-employed workers, full-time or part-time, within the EU workforce (14% out of 221.7 million). These were divided into five clusters:
Stable own-account workers (3.8% of the EU workforce) seem to be a good approximation for freelancers:
“Nearly all like being self-employed and do not find it hard to bear the responsibility. The bargaining power of the self-employed in this cluster is strong, as they are very likely to have more than one client (93%) and can easily find new ones. … Almost 90% are able to take time off at short notice for private matters.” (abridged)
However, most represented there are Shopkeepers (3.8%), Hairdressers (3.6%), Domestic cleaners and helpers (3.6%), and other professions who are not likely to identify as freelancers. Luckily, the report also states that 9% of the self-employed (1.2% of the EU workforce) identified as doing freelance work.
Conclusion: The number of self-employed freelancers (full-time and part-time) can be estimated roughly between 1.2% and 3.8% of EU workforce.
“When you think about freelancing, in general, only 3% — and this is mind-blowing — 3% of freelancing is happening online… Holy crap! 3%, that’s it.”
Fiverr’s company presentation from August 2021 reiterates: “Freelancing is still an old-school business.”
Our take: It is unclear how Fiverr reached their estimate (referring to SIA, McKinsey, US Census of Bureau), but it is roughly in line with the estimate given by Gig Economy Data Hub (quoting BLS, IRS, JPMorgan). The vast majority of freelance work really happens offline.
Most independent professionals are knowledge workers, so aiming for excellent mental health and performance makes great sense. Ōura ring wearable device is a great helper here for monitoring sleep, activity, and readiness.
Our take: At €314, Ōura is not cheap, but it is also highly praised by life-hackers who deep-test its technology and results. Check out Tom Baranek’s article Dreaming about Better Sleep for comparison.