People who wind up becoming their own bosses because they have to–after a layoff, say, or to escape a toxic work culture–may be outnumbered by those who start freelancing by choice.
According to the latest study by the Freelancers Union and Upwork, 63% of the freelance workforce (which numbers as many as 55 million strong) reported doing so voluntarily rather than out of necessity, and 79% agreed that it’s better than working a normal job. In fact, Adobe’s analysts discovered that having the second (or third) job improved the mental outlook among 78% of those moonlighting–largely because they used their gigs to advance their careers through honing skills or by expanding their network.
But it’s not necessarily high satisfaction ratings across the board. Recent research by Intuit and LinkedIn ProFinder, the platform’s freelance marketplace, suggests that personality plays a big role in how happy independent workers actually are with solo-gigging. Here’s what it takes to figure out whether freelancing is right for you–based on your values, passions, and top motivations.
1. They’re Purpose-Driven
Thogori Karago, LinkedIn ProFinder’s senior product manager, points out that freelancers’ motivations are usually pretty personal–which means they vary as widely as the people who choose to freelance. So while earning more money was the main reason an overwhelming majority (88%) chose to hold down a side gig, money alone isn’t enough to keep most freelancers happy. A whopping 97% of those who made the leap to full-time freelance work said they wanted to take on more purpose-driven projects.
“Our research finds that professionals who are mission-driven and feel that they’re making a meaningful difference with their work are the most satisfied with freelancing,” says Karago. She points out that this is true for both “career freelancers,” who pursue freelance work to gain industry experience and new skills, and for the category LinkedIn identified as “business builders,” who use freelance gigs to expand their portfolios and get their own businesses off the ground.
So if a sense of impact and meaning are important to you, you may be more likely to enjoy freelancing long-term.
2. They Like To Have Their Hands On The Controls
What keeps most full-time workers from taking the plunge–or even dipping a toe–into the freelance pool? The Freelancers Union/Upwork survey found “worries about income predictability” topping the list. So while you might expect business builders to be motivated by revenue, says Karago, only 5% of this group names money as their key motivation.
Finances are a bigger driver for career freelancers, who ironically depend on contract work to fill their coffers. “If you like being in control and are comfortable with risk and uncertainty, it’s also likely you’ll adapt well to freelance life,” Karago contends.
Managing cash-flow when clients don’t pay promptly is a reality for many full-time freelancers, and dealing with that variability can be tough. Even so, majorities of both career freelancers and builders said that they preferred to control when, where, and how they work. In fact, half of workers in both groups found freelancing less risky than traditional employment–if only, perhaps, because they like being in the driver’s seat.
3. They Know To Keep Side-Passions To The Side
Ironically, says Karago, workers who are primarily motivated by doing what they love–especially in creative fields like music, writing, and graphic design–are less likely to be satisfied with gig work.
“A mere 38% of this group say they’re satisfied, which makes them nearly the least satisfied category of freelancers overall,” she points out. That’s true even when even when they’re raking in the dough; surprisingly enough, these passion-driven solo workers actually earn the most money per hour of any industry category ProFinder researchers looked at.
So just because you’re devoted to a creative passion doesn’t mean you’ll be happy quitting your full-time job to make a living from it on your own.
4. They’re In It For The Long Haul
Less surprisingly, workers who take on multiple gigs after losing their jobs are the least satisfied with freelance work. These so-called “substituters” also report the least desire to have more control over their work, Karago points out; just over half (53%) say they’ve always wanted to be their own boss.
Many people can put up with headaches they know to be temporary as long as they’re working toward something longer-term, but it can be a hard slog in the meantime. Picking up freelance work here and there might give you a flexible schedule and more control over where you work, but the inevitable difficulties of supporting yourself can burn you out eventually.
The most satisfied freelancers seem to have personalities that value long-term stability, even if they’re comfortable taking risks. Those that aren’t might want to think twice about leaving traditional jobs, Karago suggests, since risk-aversion was the common trait among the two least satisfied groups of freelancers.
“If you’re considering making the move into freelancing,” Karago adds, “it’s important to weigh the pros and cons and to do a bit of self-reflecting.” That’s wise counsel for anybody–in the freelance economy or outside it.