What’s Fueling the Freelance Economy?

Pumping fuel in to the tank

In 2012, the Harvard Business Review reported on a phenomenon it called “the Rise of the Supertemp.” More and more, the nation’s best and brightest have begun working independently, rather than tethering themselves to a company.

This trend has persisted, as national statistics reveal. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed as of May 2015, an increase of about one million from May 2014. A separate study estimates that by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce — 60 million people — will be freelancers, contractors, and/or temporary employees.

In a new article, Fast Company explains that the freelance economy is being fueled by two things: the emergence of new platforms, and an increase in co-working spaces.

One of the biggest challenges of freelancing has always been finding work. A survey by Contently, a platform that matches freelance writers with companies, found that 35% of its respondents said their biggest daily obstacle was securing enough work. However, new platforms that connect companies with the talent they need, such as Contently, have been emerging at a steady clip amidst the some 4.49 billion webpages that make up the Internet. Now, there are a swath of sites — Contently, HourlyNerd, Upwork (which was formerly Odesk), just to name a few — that freelancers can use to find work more easily.

Another challenge freelancers face is finding a physical place to work. A desk in the bedroom works fine if you’re writing, coding, or doing some such task, but what if you need to hold a meeting?

Now, there are also co-working spaces where freelancers, contractors, and independent workers from all walks of life can go to get things done. WeWork, one of the most popular work space providers, is expanding its services throughout the nation. It has more than 150 partners, allowing it to offer such services as human resources, web consulting, and accounting, so the weight of running an entire business doesn’t all fall on an independent worker’s shoulders.

With new online platforms that help independent workers find jobs, and new spaces that allow them to work in a professional environment, the freelance economy is booming, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

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