Why Freelancers Hold The Key To Happiness At Work

Did you know that there are now 1.4m freelance workers in the UK, and 42.6m in the US?

That’s around 8% of our full-time working populations taking responsibility for their own livelihoods.


Even more interesting, freelancer workers are among the happiest.

Reasons for being happy?

They have more control over what work they will and won’t do.

They orient their work in the direction of the things they most enjoy.

They work outside the constraints of the normal “9 to 5″.

And they also believe that they have more control over what they earn, and when they earn it.

They are role model New Work Pioneers: brave, courageous folks, intent on giving themselves a more livable business experience.

And I wonder what their example says to you?

What lessons can you learn from them? What do you notice about their approach to things that differs from yours? What changes could you adopt, even in your full-time job, that might allow you to be a little happier?

I’d love to get your take on it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: a4gpa

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  1. Sara Thurston says:

    I think another reason freelancers are happy is because our work is varied. We never get bored.

    As a freelance copywriter, for instance, I can write an ad campaign for a healthcare system one day, and a local restaurant the next. Every job is new and exciting, even repeat projects – because we’re not doing the same thing every day.

    Ironically freelancing offers better job security. We’re not dependent upon a single employer who can lay us off at a moment’s notice. If we lose one client, we can continue to earn money until we find a replacement.

    To me, it’s the best career there is — but it does require a certain temperament and work ethic to make it work.

    • I think your point about freelancing offering better job security is a great one, Sara. Employers can indeed sack folks at a moment’s notice, and now that, in the UK at least, redundancy payments have been trimmed to the bare minimum, the “permanent job” is becoming a bit of an oxymoron.

  2. I am so much happier being freelance. I feel more in control of my work, can tweak my jobs to what I enjoy and generally feel more empowered. I do see benefits to employment that i maybe didn’t appreciate before (sick pay, annual leave etc) but the positives of freelancing outweight the negatives by a mile!

    • Your point about feeling more empowered is interesting, Jen. I think a lot of folks who work for themselves – myself included – just feel that even though it can sometimes be tough, we do hold the reigns ourselves.

  3. Julie Walraven | Resume Services says:

    Christine, you know the ebb and flow of freelancing but also the joy that comes with it. I’ve been an independent for a long, long time… but only in the last twelve months have I cut ties to any regular, reliable form of income. It has been a learning experience but a fun one!
    .-= Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog ..Jobseeker- are you invoking “The Law of Subtraction” =-.

    • I’ve had a big sense of the last 12 months being fun for you, Julie! I wonder what it is about having more freedom that makes for more of a fun experience?

  4. Alex Brock says:

    Hi Christine – I think freelancers and interim’s worry less about the politics which I think permanent employees can too often worry about. This can be counter productive and adversely impacts on their contribution to an organisation, often to the detriment of both.
    Freelancers/interims worry less about politics as they have chosen a slight different career path and therefore perhaps this gives them greater freedom of expression (or that’s their perception anyway!) Also, sometimes freelancers/interims have to perhaps say the unpopular/politically sensitive things as its part of their reason for being in such a role.

    All the best

    • I think your point about politics is well made, Alex. In my coaching work with folks in permanent jobs, it’s one of the things that comes up often, irrespective of level or position. There’s a real fear of saying something that falls on the wrong side of some imagined acceptable line. And, so you’re right, often people don’t speak up. Still, it doesn’t stop them worrying about whatever it is that’s not being confronted or talked about.

      It’s curious that freelancers perceive that they have greater freedom of expression, isn’t it? I wonder what it is that makes that difference? I know from my own consulting work that challenge and speaking out is an implicit part of the contract. Although that doesn’t automatically mean there’s an easy ride involved if you do.

      Thanks for adding to this conversation!

  5. Karen Wise says:

    I was talking with a recruiter recently who commented on the fact that I seemed really happy. My response was “I have no reason other than to be happy: I choose the hours I work, who I want to work for and I choose what work I want to do: it’s always something that’s interesting and I’m learning lots”.

    I never thought I would ever go freelance, but there came a point 3 years ago when I was at a cross-roads in terms of my career. It took a long time to make the decision to go freelance as I was worried about the risks (ie no income security.) But it was one of the best life / career decisions I’ve ever made and I can’t imagine taking up a permanent post in the near to medium future.

    • What a great advertisement for working freelance, Karen.

      From a look at your site, it’s also giving you the space to do your Masters training, and, I imagine, really deepening your skills? No wonder you’re a happy camper!

  6. Maybe it’s as simple as being free to bring your whole self to your work. You can re-invent yourself and create whatever you wish. I wouldn’t do anything else!

    .-= Kate Bacon´s last blog ..Concentration and what happens to our business when we don’t have it =-.

    • That’s an interesting point, Kate, about being free to reinvent. I hadn’t thought of that, but of course it’s true. Freelancers have so much more flexibility to shape shift as and when they need and want to!

  7. Archan Mehta says:


    This is a great post, as usual.

    I really needed to read this post It’s timely.

    I think there are some people out there who feel they have no choice but to freelance.

    It can be mentally draining and physically exhausting to be fired from jobs.

    And many employees out there have been fired more than once during their career.

    It’s not a good feeling. On the other hand, getting hired again and getting fired again only adds to the sense of frustration. A vicious circle, to be sure.

    That’s why so many people want to go into business for themselves rather than work for “the man.”

    And you are correct: the era of the 30 year contract with a company where you can retire with a party,clapping of hands, backslapping and a gold watch, well, those days are over.

    The loss of employment can be so frustating that some people are just looking for an exit strategy. Have a nice day. Cheers to your life.

    • Julie Walraven | Resume Services says:

      Good points, Archan, I saw your reply come in my in-box. Christine and I bonded because we both work (in very different ways) with people who have been wounded by employment. Freelancing can be a great solution, but make sure you get sound support on marketing and coaching to help you get on the right foot.

      My business is very old (27+ years) but I had it inter-weaved with nonprofit contracts until last December. I needed to rethink my strategies to focus and actually reach the market I was targeting.

      .-= Julie Walraven | Resume Services´s last blog ..Will you get DYSFUNCTIONAL results using a functional resume =-.

    • Christine says:

      Thanks, Archan, my friend. I’m glad the post was timely for you. I’m just back from hols, but I was chatting to someone the other day who said that, for him, even the permanent contract is a bit of a myth these days as, in the UK at least, you can get fired with as little as 1 month’s notice pay. Even if you choose to do a “permanent” job, you should never lull yourself into any false sense of security.


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