Growing up we had a pretty definitive view of what the outline of our life path would look like. Starting school, then high school, followed by university, getting a stable job, followed by retirement. However, this set path comes from decades and decades of a certain lifestyle that is not the current one anymore, and has not been for a while.
The access to new technologies, mainly through the internet, has changed the pace with which we lead our everyday schedule, our forms of communication and consequently, our society and individual lives as a whole. Tech allows everything to be fast-paced, leading to a better use of our time when working, but at the same time, thanks to social media and content curation, it creates a perpetual fear we are missing out on life while in a cubicle or office. People seem to want to escape routine more than ever.
These contrasting effects, felt by all of us at some point or another, put an idea on many people’s heads that just 20 years ago seemed impossible for the majority of us:
Though freelancing has existed for far more decades than the internet, it has exponentially grown in the last few. Regular people are able to network with people all around the world, if they know how to. Marketing oneself is key to this, which has led to people blurring the lines between their personal and professional lives. People are expected to present themselves to the entire internet to then be given opportunities. After all, it is common sense others would want to trust a person before confiding in them regarding their projects. To add to all this, platforms such as Patreon and Brave, designed to monetize pretty much any activity, started showing up everywhere.
With all of this at our fingertips, anything can be a source of income. New professions were (and are still being) created, and older ones are being revamped. We are not just talking about the typical IG models and makeup artists, but smaller known creators of any kind and industry, like programmers, can make a living out of what they love doing. Professionals in less flexible industries resort to contracting instead of the aforementioned platforms. To make a long story short: People now have the power to create their own schedules while still making a living and balancing obligations.
This is all wonderful on paper, yet we need to be aware of the reality of this. Freelancing is still not the norm, not by a long shot. Without contacts and the right marketing tools, it’s practically impossible to make a living this way. Not only that, but this is still the real world: You can have all the odds on your end, and still by luck, or lack thereof, you can fail. This does not mean you cannot try again in the future.
Avoid listening to survivorship bias, sometimes for one reason or another it does not work, and 9 to 5s will always be a safe route to take. Worst-case scenario, you end up with more experience to put on your CV.
One counterpoint to freelancing that is thrown around is the fact that most people cannot just drop their current job and try their luck. In their eyes, if you are young, you have more of a shot at it.
There is very little truth to this. Freelancing does not necessarily have to be all or nothing: You can start building your image from the ground up and promote yourself, as well as network, during your free time. It can take as little as a minute to send a nice tweet to someone and start a conversation which can end up opening doors. Granted, the less time you invest a day, the longer it will take for you to be able to be successful, but it can be done.
As you start getting contacts, you will start getting customers, and as those numbers grow, you can always freelance only part-time.
As pointed out in the beginning, the number of successful freelancers is growing every year. The more success stories and the more tools there are, the more people will take a chance at it. It is highly unlikely 9-to-5s will die any time in the near future, as they have their place, but the stigma surrounding people who choose not to have one has been disappearing faster and faster.
Whatever you decide to start doing or keep doing, make sure you are informed and content with your choice. After all, that is what freelancing is here for: to give you opportunities.