Closing the Stability Gap: As Freelance Workforce Rises, So Do the Benefits

Despite a distinct lack of inclusion by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in their monthly figures, the numbers we do have available don’t lie: More workers, both in the U.S. and abroad, are fleeing cubicle life in favor of making a go at freelancing. No longer just a polite euphemism for being between real jobs, this newly-minted crop of freelancers are finding it easier than ever to capture work and make a living as their own boss. However, there are still some major hurdles facing these gig economists — chiefly, the comforts that have long been enjoyed by FTE employees, like benefits and the security of a regular paycheck.

According to the Wall St. Journal, quoting MBO Partners Inc., the steady growth in the number of freelancers is expected to continue, with projections pegging it at 24 million by 2018. And, to meet the needs of these independent workers, companies are springing up to offer the stability, safety net, and social desires that they’d usually receive from an office environment.

With organizations like the Freelancers Union, which provides both information and insurance to freelancers in New York City (and, as of June 2014, in other areas of the country), and New Media Rights, a non-profit which offers legal council to creatives, independent workers are finding more and more solidarity — and support. Companies who hire gig economists, like Task Rabbit, are also stepping up to the plate by teaming with third-parties like NerdWallet, which offers financial advice and guidance to independent workers, to provide their employees with health care options.

“Worker benefits are good for the companies that have sprung up to facilitate freelance work, since they remove the obstacles that make people reluctant to leave traditional employment and live as freelancers,” writes Lauren Weber for the WSJ.

In the U.S., there’s also the Affordable Care Act, which was launched with the express goal of offering at least basic coverage to anyone, regardless of their employment status. Abroad, independent workers can get health care and coverage through their government.

Still, the security afforded by other, less-easily-pieced-together benefits systems, like maternity/paternity leave and paid time off, remain elusive for those who opt to work independently. And though co-working spaces are becoming more and more prevalent, providing freelancers with necessary tangible resources like fax machines and client meeting areas, they still aren’t available in more remote locales.

That lack of stability doesn’t seem to be slowing individuals down from taking the plunge though — and they’re being rewarded for taking the risk. As the number of freelancers has crept up, so too has their potential earnings, and the amount of work available. For those who have the freedom to work where they want, when they want, all the potentially nail-biting side-effects seem to be worth it.

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Hanna Brooks Olsen is a writer and editor for CreativeLive, longtime reporter, and the co-founder of Seattlish. Follow her on Twitter at @mshannabrooks or go to her website for more stuff.