This is a term that’s gaining popularity as our nation shifts from the traditional 40-hour, one employer, office-driven workforce to a more entrepreneurial and independent workforce. Rather than jumping into the car for a long commute to an office, America’s workforce is increasingly opting for a more mobile and, arguably more creative and efficient, way to work.
As Sara Horowitz, the founder and executive director of Freelancers Union, a national labor group representing the new workforce, points out in an op-ed in the LA Times today, the “Era of Big Work” is ending:
“Freelancers, independent contractors and temp workers are on their way to making up the majority of the U.S. labor force. They number 42 million, or one-third of all workers in the nation. That figure is expected to rise to 40% — some 60 million people — by the end of the decade.”
She notes a number of forces that led to this shift, including more mobile technologies that make it possible for us to work from almost anywhere and the Great Recession, which sent former office workers off in pursuit of new ways to work. She also cites the millennials’ greater desire to balance work and life than their Baby Boomer parents or grandparents, as the case may be.
Sara’s article focuses on the benefits to workers. We also see big benefits for the businesses that rely on these independent workers. In our case, our clients get more personalized service from more seasoned professionals at a more affordable price because we avoid the overhead of the “Big Workplace.”
We are a network of experienced communications professionals who would command much higher prices in a large firm with all its overhead of high-end offices, marketing, administration, etc. In public relations, these firms generally profit by using their senior staff to sell their services and using junior staff to deliver the services.
By working independently, we avoid the overhead. We provide personalized services from senior staff, rather than junior staff members, because we don’t have any. Our marketing costs are minimal because we rely on word-of-mouth from satisfied clients and colleagues who recommend us to others. This, of course, means we have to provide excellent services.
In her op-ed, Sara declares: “The Era of Big Work is indeed over, and good riddance. Welcome to the Era of Meaningful Independence.” We would also say: “Welcome to the Era of More Experienced, Efficient and Effective Services.”