Why Remote Workers Are Launching Their Own Freelance Companies 

The pandemic brought about a slurry of changes to the way we work. The most notable is the switch from in-office to remote work. 

Employees grew accustomed to Zoom meetings from their home offices and a daily commute of only a few steps. What many businesses thought of as temporary soon became a new way of working. It was only as the return to office plans materialized that organizations discovered their employees weren’t entirely on-board. That’s when a hybrid work model became the compromise and remote-first companies acquired top talent amid labor shortages in the traditional workforce.

The trend of remote work is here to stay. Do you know where your organization stands? As more full-time employees entertain opportunities outside of a 9-5 job, it’s important for leadership to understand how they can benefit from the meteoric rise of freelancing.

The state of freelancing in 2022

Beginning in early 2021, a record number of employees voluntarily resigned from their jobs. This is called The Great Resignation

In the United States alone, there were 11.3 million open jobs at the end of May – up substantially from 9.3 million open jobs in April 2021. Coupled with a voluntary quit rate 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels, the labor market isn’t expected to return to normal levels anytime soon.

Despite millions of available jobs ripe for the taking, workers aren’t filling them. That’s because freelancing has become a mainstream way to work remotely and create job security amid layoffs and a looming recession.

According to a report from Upwork, “59 million Americans — about 36% of the entire labor force — did some kind of freelance work in the past 12 months.” And while there has been a drop in temporary workers, an increase in skilled freelancing emerged. Per Bloomberg calculations, there were roughly 16.8 million self-employed Americans as of June of this year.

The rise in full-time employees starting a side hustle or leaving their jobs altogether, as well as the uptick in freelancers and self-employed individuals, is no coincidence. But why is this happening?

Factors driving more full-time employees to start businesses 

There are quite a few factors driving the trend of full-time employees giving the freelance route a try:

  • Quiet quitting
  • Fewer company perks
  • Fears of being laid off
  • Wasted time and energy
  • Less employer loyalty
  • Reconsideration of the role of work

Let’s discuss each of these further to fully grasp the role they play in this trend.

Quiet quitting

Employee engagement and satisfaction dropped significantly in the second half of 2021, leading to a movement experts have now labeled “quiet quitting.” This discontentment was spurred by dwindling opportunities for advancement, low pay, and feeling disconnected from the organization’s mission. 

A push to understand what workers need to feel satisfied and stay engaged at work may help alleviate the pain this trend has had on companies around the world. Because as more employees set stricter work-life boundaries, the diminishing need to be employed full-time could have a damaging effect on companies that haven’t graduated from the traditional way of working.

Fewer company perks

Free snacks, ping-pong, and bean bag chairs don’t cut it anymore. The economy has changed and made trendy perks a thing of the past. The benefits full-time employees really want are better healthcare options, higher 401K matches, and unlimited PTO to name a few. 

The quiet quitting phenomenon has shown us that employees prioritizing a healthy work-life balance isn’t going away. Relevant perks that entice employees to stick around can only be created if leadership pays attention to the needs of the individuals who work for them. 

Fear of being laid off

The fear of being let go by an employer isn’t new, but it is more prevalent in our post-pandemic world. As budgets get cut and teams tighten, many employees are taking their future into their own hands. By doing temporary gig work alongside their conventional 9-5, full-time employees are building a safety net for themselves to prepare for the worst.

Wasted time and energy

Lengthy commutes, all-hands-on-deck meetings, office gossip in the breakroom, and frequent coffee runs eat into employees’ workdays. Time is precious and distractions are rampant. But now remote workers are learning that going into the office isn’t the only way to get the job done.

Freelancing provides freedom. Freedom from unnecessary interruptions and timely commutes. Freedom from helicopter bosses and twiddling your thumbs while you wait for the clock to strike 5. Office workers got a taste of this life while working remotely and they’re not sure they want to go back to “normal.”

Less employer loyalty

The pandemic proved to employees that “the norm” doesn’t benefit workers. In fact, it showed that profits took priority over people. When revenue dipped, layoffs began

Anecdotal evidence gathered by millions of employees over the past two years is enough to justify the prevalence of quiet quitting, but that’s not all. Loyalty to employers won’t increase as long as organizations engage in at-will employment. At-will employment means an employer can fire an employee for any reason (if it’s not illegal), or no reason, with no warning, and without having to establish just cause. About 74% of U.S. workers are considered at-will employees.

Reconsideration of the role of work

Many factors are at work when it comes to driving office workers to give freelancing a try. The most transformational one? Employees are reconsidering the role of work in their lives. The decades-long assurance that working 40 hours, five days a week until you retire and collect a pension is over, and the workers of today sense it.

Child or parent care obligations as well as worries over personal health and safety as a global pandemic flipped our world upside down. Going into an office just isn’t possible for everyone anymore, which makes freelancing an enticing alternative.

Additionally, research shows higher levels of burnout as job demands increase because of layoffs. We also see employees leaving toxic work environments that don’t bring them a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Launching a freelance business is becoming seen as a way to make work fit into life – not the other way around.

While working in an office to bring home a steady paycheck used to be the pinnacle of the American Dream, it now feels like a luxury many can’t afford. So what does this mean for employers? 

What this trend means for employers trying to build marketing teams

It’s making hiring harder. But while there are talks of a labor shortage, it’s truly a labor mismatch. There is a slew of jobs available, but not enough traditional employees to fill them.

That’s because businesses are looking in the wrong places for the talent they need. If you want to build a strong marketing team full of talented professionals, this is your sign to tap into the remote workforce. It’s a great way to ride the wave as the number of traditional employees dwindles and more independent contractors pop up. 

Need ideas for accessing top talent in the job market of tomorrow? We have a few ideas.

1. Build hybrid teams that leverage both full-time employees and freelancers

The number of traditional employees in the workforce is far less than even two years ago. This is because the pandemic, shifting priorities, and the demand for greater job security has motivated many full-time employees to launch their own freelance business.

If you’re an employer, there’s no need to be discouraged. You can take advantage of this shift by leveraging your in-house team and hiring freelancers on a project or retainer basis. This keeps costs low and allows you to build out a network of remote professionals you can tap into when the need arises.

2. Reach out to people you’d love to work with if they were available

Even if workers aren’t available now, they may be tempted if an opportunity presents itself. Don’t shy away from connecting with professionals you want to work with just because they’re already employed or too busy at the time. Those connections may come in handy later.

3. Keep your in-house marketers engaged and challenged

The growing popularity of full-time employees quiet quitting means keeping your in-house marketers engaged and happy at work is essential for business. But what exactly does that involve? 

The most important is the alignment of your employees’ personal values with company values. Businesses must provide the right conditions for their team – which change depending on the individual – to stay engaged in their role and feel challenged day-to-day. This is why developing real relationships with your team is essential to coming out on the other side of this trend stronger than before.

What to expect in 2023

It’s not all doom and gloom for businesses though. There are a few key things that this trend of full-time employees turning to freelance has shown us about what to expect in 2023.

The most important is this: you have to work harder to keep individuals happy and engaged. Less employer loyalty across the board means alternative ways of working will continue to gain traction. If you want to retain employees, businesses need to learn to roll with the punches.

Another expectation for the coming year is that more workers will continue to opt for the freelance route. And not just young professionals – those in mid-level and senior-level positions are freelancing now too! Tap into this market if you want to expand your talent pool beyond those who are willing to make the office commute.
The final trend you can expect in 2023 is the rise of the hybrid marketing team, which includes in-house employees working alongside remote freelancers. Leadership needs to be prepared to manage and empower this type of team if they expect to remain competitive in the future of work.


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