With today’s Labor Department announcement that unemployment claims rose by 8,000 last week, the writing on the wall for workers becomes even clearer. Layoffs are continuing, and jobs are still hard to come by.
As a freelancer, I have a unique perspective on the recession and unemployment. From where I sit, there is still plenty of work out there, but it’s going to us freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. Companies are choosing, in increasing numbers, to hire people like me to work on projects over hiring full-time personnel who require benefits, offices, equipment, and steady salaries.
I’m almost embarrassed to say that I’m busier now than before the recession started. I receive inquiries from potential new clients every week who need website content, public relations assistance, or brand development. However, this bounty of work isn’t just for marketing or public relations folks like me. I peruse the freelancing site Elance everyday to search for new business opportunities and what do I see? There are more open projects out there than ever before. Work is widely available for administrative assistants, web developers, accountants, and writers. I often wonder if all of these out of work individuals have considered this option as opposed to simply sending out resumes and hoping for the best.
I can tell you from first-hand experience that the quality of freelance projects that I take has jumped up dramatically in the last two years. I have connected with some fairly large clients via Elance, including a top university needing some branding assistance and one of the world’s largest telecom companies that needed an email drip campaign. My guess is that these clients would have produced this work in-house before the recession. Now with smaller staffs and budgets, they see the value in hiring a cost-efficient contractor like me to get the job done quickly, efficiently, and with the same or higher level of quality that they would receive from an employee. Why wouldn’t an organization choose this over hiring a full-time person?
No doubt, the economy has led to much of this shift in employer thinking. What company wants to pay for extra manpower if they are losing money? However, there’s much more to this story. Telecommuting is easier than ever allowing workers to get jobs done without ever stepping foot in an office. The cost of benefits is skyrocketing deterring many businesses from hiring employees. And, sites such as Elance, Guru, Craigslist, and a growing number of others are making it real easy to outsource work.
While I can’t predict the future, I have a sneaking suspicion that the trend towards using us independent workers isn’t going to disappear anytime soon. Rather, I think I might be just an early adopter of a way of life that will be the reality for many, many more of the currently unemployed workers.
With this trend continuing, my only hope is that these out-of-work individuals figure out this new reality for themselves and start grabbing the work that’s out there. Maybe it’s time that we all start looking at ourselves as small businesses that have valuable services and products that we can offer instead of just people with resumes searching for full-time opportunities that no longer exist.