Freelancing is the New American Dream

Americans, more than ever, want the freedom to work whenever and wherever they want. A recent survey says that 60% of the population believes freelancing is the modern version of the American dream.

The survey was conducted last year by The Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade.

The New Way to Work
The workplace landscape is shifting. Employees have lost trust in employers, leading many to become more like the “CEO of one” – responsible for their own income, and retirement.

  • Compared to 10 years ago, respondents say employers are less loyal to employees (56 percent) and less trustworthy (38 percent), and think they see employees as more expendable (50 percent).
    • This has made employees more responsible for their own savings/retirement (51 percent), less loyal to their employers (48 percent), as well as more responsible for their own income, beyond salary (33 percent).

Full-time freelancers report being happier than traditional workers
Those who do decide to take the plunge and join the on-demand workforce full-time report a higher quality of life, experiencing higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress.

  • Eighty-four percent of full-time freelancers report being happy with work, while 77 percent of traditional workers report the same.
  • Fifty-nine percent of traditional workers report being stressed with work, while only 41 percent of full-time freelancers report feeling stressed.

Side hustlers are bridging the gap
Unlike full-time freelancers, whose primary reason for joining the on-demand workforce was to pursue their dreams (47 percent), side hustlers (those with a traditional job and a freelance gig on the side) are primarily driven by financial needs (52 percent). Most begin side hustling for financial reasons, including paying off debt (44 percent), saving for major purchases (42 percent), meeting current spending needs (38 percent), increasing their nest egg (36 percent), and saving for retirement (32 percent).

Millennials value flexibility
Millennials are especially likely to choose freelancing flexibility over traditional corporate employment: 52 percent of millennials would rather work 80 hours a week freelancing for 20 years than work a nine-to-five corporate job for 40 years, and 76 percent expect to have a side hustle at some point in their life. Forty-eight percent of millennials would ideally have both freelance and traditional work, while just 24 percent want to freelance full-time.

The Dark Side
While many people are excited by the opportunity to be their own boss and chart a unique career path, others see a dark side with a lifestyle that is unsustainable and leaves them (and/or others) at risk financially.

  • Fifty-six percent of respondents say the on-demand workforce is the future of the American economy, but 57 percent of respondents agree that an economy driven by on-demand work is not sustainable long-term.
  • The biggest barriers to joining the on-demand workforce are financial uncertainty (41 percent of traditional workers, 28 percent of side hustlers, and 27 percent of full-time freelancers) and lack of traditional benefits (22 percent of traditional workers, 25 percent of side hustlers, 22 percent of full-time freelancers).
  • Sixty-six percent of on-demand workers say it’s harder to plan for retirement as part of the on-demand workforce.

“While being your own boss can give you the freedom to be more flexible with your hours, that freedom also extends into how you build your financial future,” explained Russell. “Unlike their traditional counterparts, on-demand workers probably don’t receive friendly emails from their HR department reminding them to take advantage of the company retirement benefits – which is why it’s important to be proactive and learn about various tools available for the on-demand workforce.”