3 Profound Ways Self Employment Is Changing Our Lives Freelancers are changing the infrastructure, processes and skills needed for the future workplace.

By Alex Chriss

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


On-demand. Freelance. Independent contracting. Whatever term you choose, the world of work is changing fast as people abandon, or supplement, traditional jobs and embrace self-employment, a more flexible working situation.

People are choosing this type of work for a variety of reasons. According to Intuit research, 72 percent use it for moonlighting, to make extra cash, while 60 percent choose on-demand because of the schedule flexibility it offers. Others choose it simply out of necessity, because regular work isn't available. On the whole, the on-demand community is happy with their work situation (80 percent say they will definitely or probably continue self-employment), to the point where an estimated 7.6 million Americans will be working as providers in the on-demand workforce come 2020.

Related: How to Succeed in the On-Demand Economy

This new era of work isn't just reshaping the 40-hour workweek, it is also impacting the infrastructure, processes and skills needed to build a successful future. With this in mind, let's examine a few traditional notions of "work" that need updating:

Managing reputation.

Traditional paper resumes are losing relevance and stature in the business world. And that's not just because all data is shifting to electronic avenues, like robust LinkedIn profiles. It's because resumes digest what workers have done in the past, and employers, clients, and customers are finding themselves increasingly concerned with what prospects can do for them today.

What's becoming important today is not merely a list of skills but rather a more objective measurement of ability and expertise. For example, a stock photographer can point to the number of downloads of his material and the ratings users have given him as a measure of his aptitude behind the lens. Drivers for hire can point to an independent measure of their driving skill and customer service. Apps like those from Uber, Lyft, Fiverr and TaskRabbit have rating systems baked right in, making these types of measurements second-nature for customers.

What is emerging to replace the resume is a reputation system, or at the moment, lots of them, ranging from the blunt (a Twitter retweet) to the more personal (a written LinkedIn recommendation). Will reputation systems begin to consolidate, so the self-employed can showcase their reviews and ratings in a single place? Will a clearinghouse for a "personal brand" emerge, so potential business partners can make better and more complete sense of who we are?

Education and training.

Ask your favorite copywriter about his educational background. Chances are he didn't major in copywriting in college. It was likely a skill he picked up later -- on the job, through self-education or through informal training.

Related: Do You Need On-Demand Talent? Here's How to Know

Demand for specialist talents in the workforce is growing -- but new workers emerge from college armed primarily with generalist skills. On-demand job matching systems and freelance marketplaces are increasingly designed to pair up specialized workers with those who need those particular skills. How does a worker who received a more generalist education learn and master these skills? What happens when a worker who leaves and re-enters the workforce, such as when time is taken off to care for a new child, needs to get up to speed on new technology?

Education is already adapting and evolving to account for this, albeit slowly. It is beginning with primary education -- which is now beginning to stress tools that encourage self-sufficiency and entrepreneurship as early as elementary school -- and extending to college, which is tiptoeing into the world of preparing students for the eventualities of self-employment. Online tools like Udemy and Kahn Academy are also developing in the world of training and continuing education which are geared toward specialization and they're doing so at a significantly lower cost than traditional classes. As well, the rise of simple services that can help with formerly complex tasks like accounting, financing and customer relations is further easing the burden of having to master everything at once.

The value of time.

Perhaps the most profound impact of self-employment on the workforce is how we will consider, budget and value our most precious resource: time.

In the on-demand world, time truly is money. As a freelancer, consultant or other self-employed worker, you are often forced to value this time directly and explicitly, by setting an hourly rate. The upshot of this is that members of the on-demand workforce are increasingly being required to consider more carefully how their time, both on and off the job, is spent. Efficiency is becoming a personal necessity.

Related: 4 Essentials for Growing an On-Demand Company

One of the largest time-commitments a self-employed person is forced to invest in is finding new customers. Business development can be quite time-consuming without immediate revenue impact. However, new platforms are emerging to alleviate the investment of time in finding new clients, so the self-employed can spend less time chasing leads and more time actually making money. For example, marketplaces like HourlyNerd and Thumbtack let specialists bid on projects and locate new work more efficiently. Streamlining the search for new customers can be a massive time saver for the self-employed.

The challenge.

We plan to keep exploring trends in reputation systems, training, and the value of time, and look to grapple with how the road ahead might change. As we do, we would like to hear your feedback. If the resume is losing relevance, what will replace it? How will our education system evolve to accommodate the rise of self-employment? As we think about time as a lever to increase earnings, how will the role of marketplaces or other efficiency systems impact supply and demand? How is your own working environment evolving -- and where do you expect it to go from here?

Alex Chriss

Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer, Small Business at Intuit

Alex Chriss is Senior Vice President and Chief Product Officer of Small Business at Intuit. He focuses on serving the global population of small businesses and self-employed businesses of one.

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