Sunday, January 2, 2022

The road less traveled is now on Google Maps – independently employed A.D.*


[Mountain road and path**]

At this start of 2022, it is becoming quite clear that life is quite different than before corona (B.C.). Besides the concrete changes, people have changed their view of routines and norms. As I see it, one of those transformations involves how the public views people that are independently employed. Today, being a freelancer is much more respected as a career choice, considered a better financial choice and, to a lesser degree, identified as full-time work.

[Black pawn among white pawns]
B.C., especially a generation ago, freelancing was for marginal individuals. "Normal" people joined a company, worked their way up the ranks and ended up earning a respectable salary. Those that were too young or old or of the wrong sex or color to be accepted by the corporation took off on their own, generally out of lack of choice. Many individuals lacked the proper credentials or cultural attitude to function in a corporate environment. In some cases, it was an act of necessity if the primary salary was insufficient to make ends meet. The title “self-employed” was clearly not a matter of pride. Today, it is impossible to typecast a freelancer in terms of age, sex, background or experience. A simple Google search of almost any profession will reveal the whole spectrum of society. Not only that, spurred by the Corona situation, countless corporate executives have chosen the route of running their own business even over the option of the financial stability offered by their institutions. Not only is it not a matter of shame for people to state that they are self-employed, it even can be a matter of envy, i.e., I wish I had the guts. Thus, the last few years have significantly improved the social status of freelancers.

[Online trade]
The cause and result of this development is the enhanced ability to make a living as an independent. Until some 10 years ago, the vast majority of purchasers physically traveled to the place of sale, which was more often than not a chain, not even a family business. They received their information from traditional media, such as TV, newspapers, magazines and radio. Most consumers were unaware or very wary of online businesses. After two years of periodical closures and public restrictions, the vast majority of people in the developed world have mastered the art of searching for, assessing and ordering online products of all types from the most generic to the most specialized. As a result, the potential customer base of freelancers of all types has increased exponentially, allowing them to make a good living. The overall balance of power between physical stores and online sales is clearly swinging toward the latter, with almost all stores joining the party and offering online sales. The general public is much more aware that it is quite possible, albeit a little risky, to make a living without a corporate framework. They probably even know someone that is a freelancer. Therefore, the statement “you can make a living doing that?” is much less common.

[Facebook and WhatsApp]
In terms of social relations, the change has been slower. In the past, a clear distinction existed between work and home, i.e., a person cannot be disturbed for work but is available for social matters at home. Freelancing blurs this distinction. Even when friends and family knew that the person was a freelancer working at home, many felt free to call in the middle of the day for a long chat or an invite to coffee since "freelancers can do what they want to do". I personally experienced this issue with my daughter. When I was only a teacher, she knew that if I was home, I was available at all time. However, when I became a freelancer, it took a few years for her to understand that I had time for her but I needed to some notice in advance it as I had work obligations. A.D., there is a growing awareness, albeit still insufficient, that working independently still involves labor, meaning work has priority over social activities.

Corona has affected almost all aspects of our perception of life. If freelancers are not quite the new norm, we have gained increased respectability and understanding in the eyes of society. We are no longer the road not taken by serious people.

*    After de’virus

** Captions allow the blind the access the Internet. Pictures via Pixabay.

1 comment:

  1. I liked the article. I have been freelancing for nearly 20 years and never felt looked down upon. Maybe it was the age when I started translating professionally - I had already retired so I benefitted from praise because I had started a new phase of my life at retirement age.
    I totally accept that purchasing (goods or services) has totally changed and opens up possibilities to many more people who have a vision.
    Thanks again for an interesting article.
    Happy 2022.