When digital marketer Allyssa Kaiser, 29, looked to part ways with her employer a few months ago, jobs were few and far between. Blame the timing — the pandemic had caused business at her employer Bowlero Corporation, the largest owner and operator of bowling centers in the world, to come to a near halt.
“Many co-workers were furloughed, others were asked to take pay cuts,” said Kaiser, a West Village resident. And while digital marketing pros rarely have trouble finding work, Kaiser found that all the jobs she saw advertised as full-time positions turned out to be freelance gigs.
That doesn’t surprise Joe Mullings, chairman and CEO of the Mullings Group, who has coined the phrase “interim economy” to describe the phenomenon. He said that freelancing is quickly becoming something that professionals are turning to by necessity.
According to Mullings, work was already trending in this direction before the pandemic, with “33 percent of workers engaged in contracts with predetermined endings last year,” he said. He predicts that this number will increase at an accelerated rate.
After doing her research, Kaiser decided that freelancing might be perfect for her. “If the work is interesting, you can get good exposure and negotiate a strong rate,” she said.
Kaiser decided to take on an engagement with the shoe company Aerosoles in late August. “It’s exciting,” she said, even though she had to do administrative work, including researching what it means to be on an independent contractor 1099 tax return versus a W-2.
While W-2 contractors are generally paid per hour and the employer pays part of their payroll and other taxes which is deducted from their paycheck, many freelancers — including those who work for companies like Uber — all work with independent contractors (1099). This means workers are responsible for running their own businesses, including filing IRS forms, paying both employer and employee taxes and carrying their own insurance.
None of that has to be difficult or time-consuming, according to Jon Fasoli, vice president and segment leader for small business at Intuit, which makes a version of QuickBooks designed specifically for sole proprietorships and small businesses. That product, and others like it, takes care of things like quarterly taxes, digitizing receipts, mileage and more.
Freelancers are responsible for marketing their skills, too. Carrie French, a business content writer in Portland, Ore., earns well over six figures via Fiverr, a site that helps businesses find freelance services. It’s a perfect match for someone who doesn’t want to spend time and money marketing their services, creating and collecting on invoices and such, according to French.
A survey done by Upwork, the world’s largest remote talent platform, found that 59 million Americans engaged in freelance work in the past year, contributing $1.2 trillion to the US economy. Nancy Van Brunt, Upwork’s senior director of talent success, said that the pandemic has brought an influx of younger, highly skilled professionals into the freelancing industry.
“They’re seeking flexible alternatives to traditional employment,” she said.
Through Upwork, professionals can market their services and find gigs. Upwork takes a fee from the revenue, and pays you the rest.
Joseph Federico, 37, of Morristown, NJ, decided to become a free agent after his employer laid him off in July and his job search failed to deliver any acceptable offers.
“No one was really looking to hire,” he said. But there were companies who needed his services, so he began to apply for freelance work via Indeed.com. When Federico won a gig, he was ecstatic. “I was going to eventually move in this direction. The pandemic made it happen sooner,” he said.
But some talented professionals can’t find any work at all in their field, such as those working in the hospitality industry where even seasoned workers are coming up short. Many are now gig workers for services like Uber Eats while looking for career opportunities.
According to recruiters, there’s no shame in that. “You need to earn a living,” said Rich Deosingh, district president for Robert Half International staffing agency in New York.
Where experts differ is whether you should list the low-level work as the most recent job on your resume. “Yes,” said Deosingh, noting that it’s better than having a big gap in your resume. Laura Mazzullo, CEO of East Side Staffing, agreed.
“Most hiring managers are showing compassion and empathy,” she said, noting that being willing can be seen as a strength.
However, Kathy Caprino, an executive coach and author of “The Most Powerful You” (HarperCollins Leadership) isn’t so sure.
“You have to remember that your resume and LinkedIn profile are marketing tools,” she said. Caprino suggested that workers who take unskilled work out of necessity find a way to volunteer or do pro bono work in their profession, so that they can list that as their current gig and list the low-level job near the end of the resume in a category called “other experience.”
PROS AND CONS OF FREELANCING
- You can get things done on your schedule
- You pick the jobs that you want, and the amount of time you want to spend working
- You can often work from anywhere
- You can set your fees
- It can lead to a permanent job
- You’re on your own for health benefits, pension savings, accounting, supplies and training
- There’s no vacation or sick pay (although W-2 workers in New Jersey are entitled to 40 hours of paid sick leave a year; New York has a similar program coming next year.)
- Work may not be constant, so you will need to manage money and cash flow