Main image of article 2016: Year of the Freelancer?
A few months ago, research firm IDC and the Application Developers Alliance conducted a survey that suggested roughly a third of working developers are freelancers. That percentage “would have been unlikely even 5 years ago,” read the report accompanying the data. “We believe that mobile devices and the app economy are important factors contributing to this growth, though the rise of gaming, and the higher level of freelancing in the economy in general are also contributing factors.” Two-thirds of those freelancers performed work for a specific company, while the remainder focused on bringing their own ideas to life. While the IDC survey focused on developers, a significant percentage of the broader population has also embraced freelancing as a way of making things meet. Near the end of 2014, for example, the nonprofit Freelancers Union reported that 34 percent of Americans earned money through freelancing rather than a full-time position. Although freelancing offers workers a good deal of flexibility, it also comes with its own share of logistics issues. Not only do freelancers lack some of the protections afforded to full-time workers, but they often need to shell out for E & O insurance and other expenses. Recent, high-profile courtroom battles over the definition of “contractor” could also affect at least some freelancers’ legal status in coming years. Despite those complications, there’s a longstanding expectation that the percentage of freelancers will only increase over the next few years—perhaps as high as 50 percent by 2020, according to some sources. If the general economy remains strong into next year, that could certainly encourage tech pros tired of full-time work to consider freelancing as a new career option. 2016 might turn out to be yet another boom year for freelancing.