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Life hacks of the freelance economy

By Aimee Groth

The stakes are high for freelancers in America—no job security or benefits. Yet many 1099 workers have chosen the risk (pdf) for its freedom and flexibility.

It’s estimated that 53 million Americans are part of the independent workforce, and this number is growing.

“Entrepreneurship is a constant trust fall,” social entrepreneur Andrew Horn tells Quartz. “The price that you pay [for] all the freedom in the world is all the responsibility of making stuff happen for yourself.”

Those who successfully navigate the 1099 economy understand that working in isolation is the surest way to fail. They’ve learned that engagement with multiple networks is the key to stability.

“It’s all about leading with the hustle,” says Horn, who co-founded video montage app Tribute. He’s part of a growing subset of entrepreneurs and creative 1099-workers that share similar lifestyle hacks.

It’s essential to leverage the sharing economy. They balance the financial risks of leading an entrepreneurial life by leveraging the sharing economy, like renting out their rooms on Airbnb, joining co-working and co-living spaces like Common, or even living in a tiny home or Airstream community. The sharing economy not only provides additional revenue streams but also access to potential collaborators. This group understands that the lines between their business and personal lives are razor thin and often intersect.

Invest in experiences. They live lightly in order to be nomadic. This subset understands that the best opportunities often present themselves at events like Burning Man, SXSW, Singularity Summit, the Sundance Film Festival (which can also be very costly). They also don’t go in with a transactional mindset. “If you go to Burning Man you’ll find a spiritual adventurer,” says Horn. “People really connect on a much deeper level than business. People connect with people there. It’s much more about understanding people’s deeper motivations.” Collaboration comes later, and more organically.

Manage multiple streams of income. No given income source is guaranteed, so this subset is constantly managing different opportunities. Alex Abelin, co-founder of on-demand job marketplace Liquid Talent, says that Pareto’s 80/20 rule also applies to the 40-hour workweek: “You’re probably more effective investing 10 hours across four projects, rather than 40 hours on one project.” It’s the same philosophy that Warren Buffet and other investors use: make a lot of small bets. To manage multiple income streams, many use accounting software like FreshBooks and apps like Even.

Security comes through networks. This community invests in lifetime relationships through a diverse set of networks. Without infrastructure in place to support the 1099 economy, these networks serve as a form of security. “If your friends are all 9-5, they aren’t fully capable of empathizing with you,” says Horn. “Establishing relationships with people doing similar things means they have the ability to show up for you in a unique way. Build a tribe of people you respect.”

Get really good at one thing. “Have a calling card, a piece of content, a TEDx talk,” says Horn. “It’s a real easy way to validate yourself in the minds of the public.” He also suggests, “Googling the job you want” to figure out how others price their services, market their talent, and what it’ll take to get there.