As the pandemic changes how we feel about life, work and what we want out of both, more and more people are taking that step back to rethink their lives. Companies that don’t provide the better working conditions they’re being asked for are quickly finding their workers leaving for greener pastures in record breaking numbers. As more people come to love the freedom that remote working provides, many are turning to freelancing to open up previously closed doors. 

An unfortunate side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic is that people have realised that their boss doesn't care if they die. Workers are expected to continue on bravely in the face of danger, all in the name of the company's bottom line despite the unsafe working conditions they’re under. While businesses announce their record breaking profits, their employees are stretched to breaking point as their colleagues are literally dying around them. Management is unable to guarantee the safety of their employees and their families, choosing instead to prioritise cost cutting measures. Many workers have chosen to prioritise their health and set up their own businesses during the pandemic. Working freelance means getting to be in control of your own working conditions. Whether that means insisting on masks or cancelling meetings altogether, being your own boss means you get to prioritise the things that are important to you. 

Another nasty symptom of the pandemic is the widespread increase in abuse against front line workers. There are countless stories of customer facing roles being screamed at, hit or even spat on. Let’s look at the numbers, over 89% of retail employees in the UK have been verbally abused in the last 12 months - that’s almost 9 in every 10! Airlines have reported more unruly passengers in the first 6 months of 2021 than in any other year since they began recording this information in 1995. Since modern work demands we cater to consumer demands with a smile, this abuse is viewed as an expected part of customer facing work. The great resignation. Is freelancing the answer?

Since society’s shift from a manufacturing focus into a service based economy, people today feel entitled to quick service and cheap goods; despite the supply chain issues and prevailing world conditions. When these levels are not sufficiently met, they take it out on the workers that are in front of them causing a mass exodus in a lot of professions such as nursing, food service and tourism. Freelancing provides the ability to pick and choose clients, as well as set your own rules and expectations for working relationships. This can be a lifeline for many facing these kinds of distressing circumstances. 

Employee to freelancerAs people were locked into their homes, online shopping became more prevalent than ever, with Amazon reporting a 220% rise in profits in the first 3 months of 2021 alone! As more industries began to adopt remote working, desk equipment and hand sanitizer dominated online purchases; and with next-day-delivery on almost anything, it became easy to forget the real-life human warehouse worker that was catering to those late night purchases or the truck driver scrambling to meet his delivery quotas for the day. These businesses rely on the labour intensive processes being invisible to consumers, as this allows them to cut costs in these areas without compromising the convenience that customers expect. Amazon is well known for its human rights abuses of employees, forcing them to work long hours without even toilet breaks, and yet 72% of Americans still view the company in a favourable light. Freelancing provides employees with a way out of these environments, allowing them the time and freedom to focus on their passions.

Freelancing as a career option

The pandemic has prompted a reconsideration of the role of work in our lives, especially among elite white collar workers. It seems, no matter the industry or tax bracket, work is taking up too much time from all our lives. Workers who are no longer happy to accept the conditions they’ve been given are increasingly turning to freelancing as the alternative option. Working for themselves allows people to embark on careers that they are passionate about and that provide meaning to their lives.

But should work be where we find meaning? The next article in this series will break down why the collapse of community institutions like religion have forced us to seek meaning in our jobs, and if freelancing could be the answer to finding this meaning.

Photographer credits:
Preview Photo: Andrea Piacquadio
Image 1: Monstera
Image 2: Andrea Piacquadio
Image 3: Anna Shvets