Five Services For Freelancers That May Emerge In The Next Five Years
The gig economy is growing faster than ever, with Statista estimating the number of freelancers in the United States around 62 million. Within the next decade, that number is projected to jump to over 85 million — more than half of the total American workforce.
In the past, freelancing was typically seen as a side hustle or something you did in between “real” jobs. However, the flexibility, freedom and high-income potential of the full-time freelance lifestyle has made it an incredibly appealing choice for skilled workers who prefer to be in control of their own projects and earnings. Dann Petty, one of the most influential freelance designers — and now filmmaker — is a good example of this. He recently created a moving short film series, “Greater Than Avatars,” which highlights the lifestyles and motivations of independent workers across the country.
As more professionals choose freelance work over traditional W-2 employment, a new niche market is emerging to serve the unique needs of these independent contractors. Some of these services are in their early stages right now; others don’t exist yet and are simply waiting for the first mover.
Looking ahead, here are some freelancer-specific services that will launch or evolve over the next five years. If your tech business relies on freelances for any role, it will be important to stay up-to-date with these developments.
1. Banking For Freelancers
Becoming a “six-figure freelancer” is no longer a lofty, unattainable goal — as of 2018, one in five full-time independent workers (that’s 3.3 million people) earn $100,000 or more per year. Despite these impressive incomes, self-employed individuals still face an uphill battle when applying for financial products like personal loans, lines of credit and mortgages. Even a business credit card can be hard to obtain for independent workers.
A bank that caters specifically to independent contractors would understand and accommodate for fluctuating freelance incomes. These institutions or platforms could offer financial products, including debit and credit cards, with terms that are well-suited to an independent worker’s cash flow situation.
2. Insurance For Freelancers
Obtaining insurance of any kind is a huge burden for freelancers who don’t have the benefit of employer-sponsored plans.
Organizations like Freelancers Union have taken the first step toward connecting independent workers with affordable insurance carriers, including health, dental, term life, disability and liability insurance. However, plan providers may begin crafting insurance coverage that is uniquely tailored to the needs of the self-employed. For example, if a freelancer gets sick and can’t work for a month, or is at a point where they are ready to start a family, they may need specific coverage related to those circumstances.
The freelancer insurance market may grow even more as employers who hire contractors increasingly require their freelancers to carry liability insurance.
3. Retirement Plans For Freelancers
There are plenty of ways that individuals without an employer-sponsored retirement plan can save for their golden years, the most common being an individual retirement account (IRA). However, the world of retirement planning can be confusing for people who are unfamiliar with their options — and an IRA may or may not be the preferred vehicle for maximizing returns.
It’s not too common for companies to offer traditional 401(k) plans and other retirement options for freelance workers, but I believe more will join in. With a formal retirement savings plan, freelancers may be able to take advantage of tax savings that wouldn’t be available through a regular savings account.
4. Freelance-Focused Communities And Workspaces
I know what you’re thinking: Aren’t there already chains of co-working spaces like WeWork available to freelancers? Yes, there are — but many of these popular co-working communities cater to small teams and startups looking to establish a foothold in a particular area.
A solo freelancer might not need or want to set up shop in the same location every day. Sometimes they just need a space away from their home, where they can get some work done and interact with other people.
Coffee shops and by-the-day co-working space are fine solutions, but for freelancers to truly thrive, they need to connect with other independent workers who share their struggles and experiences. That’s why I think we will start seeing workspaces and communitiesaimed specifically at freelancers — not so much to have a dedicated office space but to be part of a community. It’s a social space to help them get out of the house and get rid of that lonely feeling that often accompanies freelance life.
5. Business Incorporation, Legal And Tax Services For Freelancers
There are tons of business administration services out there to help multi-person founding teams incorporate their business, get legal advice and handle their business taxes. But what about the independent workers who avoid incorporating — simply because they think it’s easier to remain a sole proprietor?
There is a growing need for services that exist solely to help freelancers legitimize their business and get the basic assistance they need with taxes and legal matters (consider that most attorney fees are far out of reach for the average freelancer). These providers will fill in the gaps by providing affordable, on-demand services for independent workers who just need a contract reviewed or have a quick question about their taxes.
Whether all of these services will be fully developed and functional by 2020 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The future is freelance, and our society — and indeed, the concept of work itself — is shifting to embrace it. If your company conducts business in one of these industries, you might consider offering freelancer-specific options and benefits. As the world shifts more toward this growing sector of workers, it’s worth taking a look at what your business can do to follow suit.
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Originally published on Forbes.