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Self-employment in the USA – ‘Permalancers’ and ‘Workforce 2.0’

A 2018 federal self-employment study in the US found that between 2017-2020, up to 27 million Americans will swap full-time employed positions for a freelance status, bringing the number of self-employed up to 42,000,000 in the US alone. This could reflect the current (and likely, future) lack of available employment positions. Reducing costs and increasing efficiency is today’s competitive mantra, meaning a downsized permanent workforce and the use of freelancers to take up the slack when demand is high.

In the face of this trend, increasing numbers of individuals are adopting a mindset where self-employment becomes a practical means of earning a living, necessarily prioritizing personal flexibility and a wider skillset over longer-term job security.


1of365” (CC BY 2.0) by shimelle

The brave new world of self-employment

Nowadays, freelancing is optimistically dubbed ‘the future of work’ or ‘Workforce 2.0’. It places varying professions and trades in the same basket, such as writers, designers, consultants, drivers for taxi app platforms, coders, day laborers, temps and handymen (and handywomen). In terms of profile, it’s also important to separate those “who freelance as a side hustle or who are only dipping their toes in” from ‘full-time’ self-employed individuals.

The permalancers

This term was coined for professionals who aren’t selling their work piecemeal as the term ‘freelancer’ implies, but who aren’t employees either. They often work alongside companies in a conventional consultancy role, which has advantages for both parties. Even so, any disadvantages tend to fall squarely on one side:

Pros

  • A potentially exponential income stream, significantly more lucrative than a regular, fixed salary
  • The ability to organize a working schedule and the freedom to select where and when to work
  • Pay rates that can go up more quickly than a traditional raise would

Cons 

  • The contractual status with the company is based on services delivered. There is no absolute guarantee of ongoing work.
  • The company can simply state that there is no work available. As demand fluctuates, so does the need for staff.
  • The company doesn’t provide a benefits package, so the freelancer has the expense of taking out health insurance and losing potential income during vacations.

Source: Pixabay

Generational change

There is also a generational dimension to the trend. Whereas baby boomers prized stability and job security, millennials and younger entrants prioritize autonomy, freedom and a sense of personal fulfilment through work. Holding a full-time position no longer represents the profile of success and respectability it once did, and any risks associated with their status are “a price they’re willing to pay“.

Covering the risks

Given these risks, increasing numbers of self-employed and freelance workers are searching for contractor liability insurance online, particularly general contractors handymen, carpenters, plumbers, landscapers, electricians, HVAC engineers, and the like. It serves as protection from unforeseen legal and financial stress – for example, if an electrician is held responsible for damages that occur to a third party, they are obligated to cover the entire cost of any injuries and damages, including any legal case.

It’s not as if insurance coverage is an optional extra. For example, a certificate of insurance (COI) is always requested as proof of liability insurance coverage and in many states, it is standard practice before the contractor gets anywhere near a job.

Source: Pixabay

The appeal of self-employment continues to grow due to the freedom and autonomy it offers in the modern world, where the internet, and an increasingly connected world, ensures that distance and time zone differences are no longer major issues like they were in the past. However, as with most things in life, insurance is a must to stay protected from any potential headaches.