The phenomenon of a Self-Employed Depression was written about recently in The New York Times Magazine. Emily Bazelon coined the term as she described the effects of the recession on solo practitioners in NYC. In the current economy, she asks the question, “What happened to all those liberated, self-reliant, self-branded free agents?”
Bazelon’s story focused on one yoga instructor who sent her an email message that said, “I don’t know how I will make it through the summer.” The bottom of the note read, “Sent from my iPhone.”
The call of semidesperation via a high-tech status symbol is an emblem of the gap between the past and the present for many of urban America’s self-employed. Freelancers still have the trappings of middle-class entrepreneurship. But the downturn is eating away at their livelihoods and the identity they thought they chose when they decided to work for themselves.
Livelihood and identity often go hand-in-hand. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the estimated amount of self-employed workers in the US was 9 million in 2005. And now with corporate layoffs and out of work professionals adopting the freelance mindset, it’s likely that the self-employed pool of workers is deeper than it was even a few years ago. That’s a lot of self-employed competition.
Although Outright, the online bookkeeping service for self employed people goes on to ask if the article made too many sweeping generalizations:
After all, it mainly focused on service workers like yoga teachers and SAT instructors. Yoga and SAT tutoring are luxuries, not necessities, and it stands to reason that the desire for these services will wane along with the economy. What about self-employed accountants, web designers, copywriters and all the other self-employed who provide vital, timeless services? All are just as important now as they were in the past, and the case has been made that, with many companies downsizing their in-house staff, freelancers are finding more work than ever.
So what do you think? Is the country experiencing a self-employed depression? Or are there still plenty of gigs out there for people willing to dig deep and work hard as their own free agent?
Check out the two links below for some ideas about building your portfolio of work: