This article was produced by AND CO, the app that automates freelancers’ administrative tasks.
The woman sitting next to you is a freelancer, hired to fix up your company’s website, and she’ll be there for the next few weeks, as per the contract that your boss, who usually works remotely, set up with her. You also work remotely three days of the week, so any of the meetings you have with her on those other days will have to be over the phone or via Skype, or maybe if something really requires you to work together, you will have to come in for a few extra days that week. That’s okay, you’re used to it—and so are a growing number of American workers, whether full time, freelance, or temp.
The nature of working has changed so much that physical location is no indication of the role one plays with a company. Sometimes freelancers work completely remotely. Sometimes they are contracted to come into an office for a certain number of meetings or days. Similarly, full-time workers often negotiate how often they will be in the office or working from home.
What is a Career Anyway?
Careers, or our perception of them, are also changing. In a piece on 42 Hire, Leif Abraham, the co-founder of AND CO, broke it down with some telling imagery:
You can see “Dad’s career” was a simple straight line, where he stayed at one or two companies for decades at a time until retirement. Then, a “Traditional career” was a series of long-term jobs, each one lasting approximately five or six years. Then we take a look at the “Modern career,” which is layered and includes several engagements that may be short term or long term. This is the freelancer in our gig economy, but that doesn’t mean it’s only the full-time freelancer—it is also the person who holds down a day job, then makes some extra money by performing at night and editing on the weekends and early mornings.
There is a certain amount of security, however, that modern workers can enjoy when working multiple gigs—their entire career isn’t invested in one company. “If you lose your full-time job, you’re ‘out of a job.’ But if you lose a client, well, you lost a client,” wrote Abraham.
Examples: Freelance Job Postings
If you look at any of the popular freelance job sites, you’ll find everything from tiny one-off projects to long-term assignments that don’t look terribly different from regular employment—except, of course, that you’ll be agreeing to work as a contractor.
On Freelanced, there are plenty of one-time projects we can look at as examples. One person is looking for someone to draw a picture of herself in an anime style, and that’s it. Another needs a cartoon album cover, and that’s it. Someone else needs help with their capstone project. Once that’s done, presumably, they’ve probably graduated and won’t be needing any more help in school.
But then there are some listings that could presumably go on indefinitely. One client needs lots of infographics on a wide variety of topics, and claims they will be needing them on an ongoing basis. Another needs articles about tech every single week. Someone else wants to work with someone on a graphic novel—a project that could not only take a really long time but if successful could turn into a long working relationship.
Just a glance at the vast variety of job postings illustrates Abraham’s point, as stated above, about the changing nature of work. This is especially true when a freelancer chooses to take on both short- and long-term projects. For example, she may create infographics for a client every Friday, illustrate a graphic novel on the weekends for another client, and blog for a third client every Tuesday and Thursday. Sometimes she may land gigs that are completely remote, other times she may be in the office of a startup every day working with their full-time staff and a team of freelancers to design a beautiful website with outstanding content.
Matt Olpinski, a freelance designer from upstate New York, has experienced firsthand the changing nature of work. “I’ve been working with one client for three years and during my time with them, we’ve arranged for me to fly into the office each month for three days, or once every three months for a full week,” he said. “Meeting in person helps keep everyone motivated and committed to the work while ensuring communication never gets lost.”
However, Olpinski has also worked for the same client on a full-time basis for a three-month period during which he traveled to the office only once. He has been required to adapt to part- or full-time hours, on- or off-site work arrangements, and different amounts of interpersonal interaction depending on the needs of his client. And Olpinski’s situation is becoming the rule rather than the exception, especially for freelancers.
As the way we work continues to change, freelancers will have to remain flexible as they juggle many varied assignments to keep up with the demands of the gig economy.