Since I was young, I’ve had a personality trait that doesn’t work well with authority. Thankfully, I’ve discovered positive outlets like entrepreneurship, but it can be tricky to wrangle for those who work 9-to-5 jobs.
In fact, this was a big reason I stepped off the engineering track in college. I discovered engineering wasn’t my passion, but that isn’t to say it didn’t teach me a lot. Actually, I learned something quite valuable about myself: I hate having a boss.
That realization isn’t a bad thing — it’s actually opened a lot of doors for me. I started my first company with my father when I was 19, and for all the growing pains that business brings, I’ve never regretted being the captain of my own ship. Here’s why many other women are catching on to the lure of being their own bosses.
The Rise of the Freelancer
Perhaps my role is making stories like mine more visible, but the numbers indicate others are also desiring autonomy. Freelancers and temps make up a lot of today’s workforce, and freelancers are expected to represent more than 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
My friend Lara O’Connor Hodgson, president and CEO of NOW Corporation, loves the autonomy that freelancing offers. “My first business was called Thought Capital, and I was an independent freelance consultant,” Lara told me. “I started it not to be my own boss but to have the flexibility to be a great mom, a great wife and a great businesswoman.”
I believe the rise of freelancing is due, in part, to the Great Recession, when more and more people like Lara looked to the Internet to find work. We’ve moved from the end of the Industrial Age — when individuals at companies worked together like a single machine — into the Information Age, when we can offer our knowledge and skills to others thousands of miles away.
Divya Krishnamoorthy, my colleague and a board-certified adolescent and adult psychiatrist, appreciates this aspect of being her own boss. Rather than operate a traditional walk-in clinic, Divya works from her home office in San Diego, serving patients worldwide through videoconferencing. Many of Divya’s patients enjoy the privacy and confidentiality provided by a conference call from their own homes, and she loves the flexibility her business model affords her. She sets her own schedule, enabling her to write children’s books as a creative outlet. She creates her own treatment plans and is free to scale as needed.
It’s no wonder that Millennial women aren’t satisfied with punching the clock at the same company for 30 years when technology has enabled them to create opportunities for themselves.
Embracing the Marketplace Shift
Freelancing offers unparalleled flexibility, helping working women manage the age-old work-life balance paradigm. As a freelancer, you can take extended maternity leave, work at night after the kids go to bed and choose for yourself how much, when and where you want to work.
Here’s why freelancing is a great option for today’s women:
- Every day brings new experiences. Like many women, I’ve never been satisfied doing just one thing. Once I reached a point of stability with my government contracting company, it seemed like the same challenges cropped up each day with just a different set of names. I started new ventures, believing humans weren’t made to do the same thing over and over again. As a freelancer, you can embrace the same philosophy — only your version of “ventures” may be projects.
- Flexibility enables self-direction. As a freelancer, you get to choose everything — from the industries you support to the hours you work to the pace with which you grow. Do you offer copywriting services in addition to your design work? Do you take on additional projects now to support time off six months from now? Perhaps the best thing about freelancing is that you’re your own boss.
- Workplace inequality no longer exists. We’ve all heard how women are paid less than men doing equivalent work in almost every industry, and the pay gap has barely budged in a decade. According to the AAUW, it’s also true that women are 20 percent more likely than men to freelance to earn extra income, highlighting women’s dissatisfaction with the pay disparity.
The reality is that the freelancer economy is here to stay and continuing to grow. Own the flexibility and challenges. If you haven’t considered freelancing yet, take a hard look at it. It might be time you started working for yourself.