Work­ing 9-to-5 is be­com­ing less popular


If you want an in­come, or you’re an em­ployer look­ing for help, it may be time to scrap the idea of the tra­di­tional 9- to- 5 ar­range­ment.

For work­ers, it’s be­come eas­ier and less risky to go solo. Af­ford­able health in­sur­ance plans, which kept many work­ers shack­led to tra­di­tional jobs, are more ac­ces­si­ble be­cause of the Af­ford­able Care Act. And com­pa­nies are in­creas­ingly open to hir­ing free­lancers and in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors. Many say in­de­pen­dent work­ers bring fresh ideas with­out the long-term com­mit­ment.

An in­dus­try ded­i­cated to serv­ing the com­pa­nies that of­fer free­lance and con­tract work and the peo­ple who fill those open­ings is grow­ing. Gigs can be found at a num­ber of web­sites, such as Up­work. com and Free­lancer. com, or through hir­ing ser­vices that connect pro­fes­sional free­lancers and com­pa­nies. And com­pa­nies that pro­vide shared rented of­fice space, such as WeWork, lets free­lancers min­gle with fel­low con­trac­tors.

In 2013, 23 mil­lion peo­ple were self- em­ployed, ac­cord­ing the U.S. Cen­sus Bureau. That’s up 1.2 per­cent from the year be­fore and up about 24 per­cent from 2003. That num­ber doesn’t count self-em­ployed peo­ple who may also hire em­ploy­ees.

“This isn’t go­ing away,” says Brooke Bor­gen, co- owner of Canopy Ad­vi­sory Group, a hir­ing com­pany for free­lancers in Den­ver. She started the busi­ness five years ago with co-owner Grif­fen O’Shaugh­nessy. They ob­served that com­pa­nies needed a way to ac­cess in­de­pen­dent work­ers while friends and col­leagues were telling them they wanted to find ways to bal­ance their work and per­sonal lives. “More and more peo­ple want to have own­er­ship over their ca­reer,” Bor­gen says.

Henry W. Brown ditched his fledg­ing ad­ver­tis­ing ca­reer 11 years ago, sick of spend­ing 15 hours a day at work and hav­ing “no life.” Now he works 30 hours a week, jug­gling about four projects a year and earns a salary in the six fig­ures designing web­sites and apps. Brown has time for two-hour yoga ses­sions, mid­day bike rides around his New York City neigh­bor­hood and lunch dates with friends. He also has more time for pas­sion projects: He spent a month at an ele­phant sanc­tu­ary in Thai­land this year, and he started a Face­book page called TheDog­matic, post­ing pho­tos of dogs in shel­ters to help get them adopted. He never plans to work for just one em­ployer again.

Time for Pas­sion Projects

“Ev­ery­thing about an of­fice was such a waste of time to me,” he says.

When Brown first went free­lance, he emailed com­pa­nies ask­ing for work. Now, most comes from re­fer­rals. Some­times he checks in with a hir­ing agency. “I’m not clam­or­ing for work,” says Brown. “I can be picky and choosy with what I do.”

Depend­ing on the in­dus­try, the work can be lu­cra­tive. Busi­ness Tal­ent Group con­nects in­de­pen­dent work­ers with com­pa­nies. Its con­trac­tors can make be­tween US$1,500 and US$2,500 a day, says CEO Jody Miller. Most have a mas­ter’s de­gree and at least 10 years work­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, she says. They can be hired by com­pa­nies to help launch new prod­ucts, re­search in­vest­ments or other tasks.

Com­pa­nies weren’t al­ways so thrilled about hir­ing free­lancers, says Al­li­son Hem­ming, CEO of New York staffing com­pany The Hired Guns.

When she started the com­pany 15 years ago, com­pa­nies would say, “if they were that good they would have a job,” says Hem­ming. That’s changed. “The con­cept of free­lancers as slack­ers is com­pletely over,” Hem­ming says.

Spex, a com­pany that makes soft­ware and apps used for home in­spec­tions, turned to Canopy Ad­vi­sory Group to find a part- time pub­li­cist. CEO Brett Goldberg says he didn’t have to post a job de­scrip­tion, sift through re­sumes or con­duct in­ter­views, sav­ing him time and money.

At food com­pany Cargill, Michael Balay hires in­de­pen­dent con­trac­tors with spe­cial­ized skills to man­age projects, such as com­bin­ing groups of work­ers in­side the com­pany. Balay, who is a vice pres­i­dent of strat­egy and busi­ness devel­op­ment, has in­creas­ingly turned to hir­ing agen­cies.

“It cuts the search and qual­i­fi­ca­tion time down,” says Balay. “It’s way eas­ier now.”

Stephen Wunker left a con­sult­ing firm in 2009 to spend more time with his kids. Wunker and his part­ners started New Mar­kets Ad­vi­sors and are hired by com­pa­nies to come up with busi­ness plans or cre­ate a growth strat­egy. He still works 40 to 80 hours a week, but his sched­ule is more flex­i­ble. He can take days off when­ever he wants, and also spends about a month a year work­ing from Ecuador.

“I have a dramatically bet­ter life­style,” he says.


In this May 26 photo, free­lance web designer Henry Brown pauses from his work at his New York apart­ment to give his dog Yogi a snack.

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