Why Most Designers Will Be Freelancers Within 20 Years

Designers to FreelancersThere’s been a big trend in the design industry lately, with people from all levels of design turning to freelancing. But the trend is even bigger than a lot of people imagine, and very quickly the industry balance is tipping towards freelancers.

Given the major elements at play, there’s no reason for this swing to stop, or even slow, in the next few decades — and pretty soon the majority of designers are going to be freelancers.

What leads to this conclusion, you ask? Here are three major reasons that most designers are going to be freelancers within the next 20 years:

The Costs of Freelancing are Plummeting

The trend of working at home, or working freelance, has been greatly bolstered by the lower costs of technology and communication.

It’s possible nowadays to build an office at home, for only a few thousand dollars, and still have the technology to work and communicate around the globe. Technology costs are so much lower than they were years ago, and the result is that it’s easier now to set up an effective freelance business for much less money — which means more people are going freelance.

Think about Skype, for example. It alone has created the opportunity for thousands of freelancers and clients to do business across the globe. Because of Skype there many people who started a freelance business that would have been unable to otherwise.

The cost of setting up this global communication? Maybe $25 for a decent headset.

These new tech improvements, and constantly lowering costs, are creating what amounts to the perfect storm for starting a freelance business. All of the things we freelancers need to get started are not only improving, but are also becoming less expensive. In the coming decades this will draw many people into freelancing.

Corporations Are Hiring Freelancers Instead of Employees

As the global recession continues, more and more corporations are cutting costs — and laying off employees. These companies need to cut expenses, and maintaining an office with full-time employees has a lot of overhead.

Hiring freelancers, on the other hand, has no overhead at all. Freelancers can be hired extensively for a big project, and then not paid a thing when a company has no work. It’s the most scalable and on-demand solution for many situations, and a lot of companies are coming to the conclusion that freelancers are the least expensive option.

And when the world economy starts to recover, as is typical with post-recession economics, there is going to be a severe shortage in man-power due to the extensive lay-offs. Guess who fills in the gaps? Freelancers.

Typically these “stop-gap” freelancers convert back into normal employees after awhile, but given the lower costs of freelancing, the differences in the newer generations, and the increasing risk associated with large overhead, it could be a very long time before that swing happens.

Based on these trends, the number of freelancers will be exploding over the next several years.

Younger Generations Love Freelancing and Independence

The final trend at work here is the average age of the design community, which is somewhere in the 25-34 year range, and rapidly getting younger.

This age group no longer sees a job as secure. After watching (or experiencing first-hand) the number of lay-offs and firings that have happened in recent years, most younger people are more apt to rely on themselves than the promises of a big company. Add into the mix the promises of independence and potential prosperity, and it’s clear why this generation so distinctly favors freelancing over getting a job.

With the nearly non-existent technological barriers to entry, the perfect catalyst in the global recession, and an age group that prefers freelancing to a job, it’s clear to see that the design industry is in for a significant change over the next years and decades.

In 20 years, it looks like the vast majority of designers will probably be freelancers.

Are You Prepared?

Are you prepared to deal with a significant number of new freelancers in the coming years? Have you created a business that can handle the incoming competition, and the new business when the economy improves?

Are you ready for more and more of your business to come from other freelancers?

Or, do you disagree with this prediction entirely? Do you think I made a mistake or missed something significant in the post?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

top image by Trekkyandy