News, Technology

Freelancers and digital nomads – new expression for old habits

Alexandru-Eduard Nica

Alexandru-Eduard Nica, Journalist

In a fast-paced digital era, freelancers represent an increasing segment of the workforce, almost everywhere around the world. Since travelling is more accessible than ever, many of them turn into digital nomads. But are they really trendsetters or just new examples for previous practices?

As the statistics show, freelancing is an increasing trend, one eloquent example being the U.S., where publications like Forbes estimate that freelancers represent over 35% of the workforce, as we speak. Expectedly, the rest of the world follows the pattern closely: UK had 2 million freelancers by 2018, and the prospects are appealing. Moreover, a recent CNBC article depicts a large increase in freelancing revenues across several Asian countries, so the phenomenon can be defined as universal. But what makes people embrace this professional pathway? Let’s get a little into specifics.

Professional requirements are being systematically reshaped, thus as a logical outcome of this reality, freelancers are to be found in many fields. They can be journalists, web designers, programmers, and so on and so forth. The general idea, integrated in common parlance, is that they are “free”, which means they are self-employed, hence they can decide to whom they will offer their services or expertise. Now, this is only partially true, because some of them have, indeed, a large freedom in their activity, whereas others are not so independent, as they have deadlines and demanding clients, even if just temporarily.

Nevertheless, successful freelancers, generally speaking, have the capabilities, the skillset and the mindset to adapt to different contexts. In other words, they constantly improve themselves and develop their skills by taking all these different situations like a challenge. This is also one important aspect that makes them different from the “regular-job” type of people, who maybe choose convenience and the certainty of a fixed profession over the uncertainty of freelancing.

The first European freelancing survey, conducted by Malt and the European Forum of Independent Professionals (EFIP), revealed that almost half of the respondents have chosen to become freelancers for a more flexible schedule. Well, this leads us to the second outcome of these socio-economical processes. 

While many people feel comfortable with routine, stability or a steady environment, others may express their age in visited countries, not in years. There will always be a category of people that will constantly travel for a living. That’s why “digital nomading” is a trend, today, that steadily emerges from under the umbrella of “freelancing”. It is indeed possible to be a productive digital nomad, because we live in an era of information, speed and technology, hence you can have a travel blog, for instance, and constantly move from one country to another. To put it simply, it means to earn your living using technology and digital means, while you’re constantly travelling.

However, the principle itself it’s not new. Many relevant examples can be listed since ancient times. Merchants, mercenaries, explorers – all of them practiced a sort of nomadic or semi-nomadic freelancing, offering their services, at given times, to different bidders. 

Maybe from the  long-lasting Silk Road to the Age of Discovery, or from private armies serving rich combatants to trade connections spread across three continents, the phenomena that describe today’s “freelancing” and “digital nomading” have left their mark on history, in one way or another, as the substance was always there. After all, this is how the word “freelance” came into English, two centuries ago.

There have always been people who didn’t enjoy a monotonous lifestyle, didn’t want to settle down so early or who just had a desire to explore, to enrich their experience and knowledge in an empirical way.

The only differences? Nowadays travelling is much faster, cheaper and extended. And, of course, the “digital” side of the matter.

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