Is Gen Z the freelance generation? The workforce appears to turn to self-employment


A new lifestyle of workcation that combines travel and work.

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There are always stark generational differences in how workers define their career goals and prepare for challenging times. For the younger generation of workers in 2023, this looks like self-employment and freelance work: 64% of Americans under 35 reportedly already freelance or plan to.

According to an Unconventional Jobs Survey by Collective, Gen Z and young Millennials in the US are twice as likely to do freelance work or expect to compared to adults over 35. Only 31% of adults over 35 are going to freelance or planning to do so at some point in their careers. 

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Considering how much the creator economy has strengthened in the past two decades as Gen Z and many young Millennials grew up, this isn’t too surprising. In my experience, discussing career paths with the younger generation of workers and students yields dreams of self-employment and career fulfillment. Admittedly, this isn’t the career path our parents followed. 

Gen Z and young Millenials define “making it” in their careers when they never have to work over 40 hours a week but can still make enough money to support their lifestyle. In contrast, 44% of Americans over 35 consider they’ve “made it” when they have enough money to retire. 

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Aside from different career aspirations, Gen Z and young Millennials are also better prepared for the biggest challenges of their careers. 59% of US adults under 35 already have a backup plan in case of layoffs, compared to only 30% of older Americans. 

“Younger workers have a backup plan because they can: AI and online platforms are driving an entrepreneurship boom and empowering a self-employed person to accomplish more than ever before while improving work-life balance and mental health,” said Hooman Radfar, CEO and co-founder of Collective. “They no longer have to rely on companies to give them security if they don’t want to — the next generation can bet on itself.”

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Younger adults are also more likely to save in case of layoffs and have some side hustle or hobby that could turn into a career than those over 35. 

It appears that the younger Americans are up to something in their search for career independence. According to Collective, out of 105 current freelancers, 88% reported to have experienced improvements in their mental health since leaving full-time employment.


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