It’s tough to believe that 2016 is already coming to a close. It’s been a whirlwind of a year, but a solid one for the freelance community. There are more resources, earning potential and job opportunities available than ever. Thank you, internet.

It’s an exciting time to be a freelancer. Now representing 35% of the workforce, freelancers are no longer the minority but are becoming the mainstream. As companies continue to focus on lean and sustainable growth, more and more are embracing remote work culture and creating freelance opportunities. 2017 is going to be an interesting year for the freelance community. See why in the top ten freelance trends you can expect to see below.

1) Freelancers are no longer a subculture

Our 2016 freelance trend report indicated that independent workers were on the path to represent 40% of the US workforce by 2020 – and they’re still on track. Up one percentage point from last year, freelancers now account for 35% of the workforce – that’s two million more freelancers than 2014, according to Freelancers Union’s “Freelancing in America: 2016” report. To help visualize that, Sara Horowitz pointed out that the population of freelancers in the US is greater than that of Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania combined!

This means that freelancers are continuing to become the mainstream, rather than a subculture as seen in the past. We’ll see more people turning to freelance for an independent, flexible lifestyle in 2017, and more companies look for short-term, specialized help.

2) More people are choosing a freelance career

Freelancers Union report also found that 63% of freelancers chose their path more by choice than necessity, an increase of 10 percentage points from 2014. Additionally, 79% of freelancers say freelancing is better than a typical 9-to-5 job. And 50% say there’s no amount of money that would get them to take a traditional job and stop freelancing.

Freelance work is no longer what you do when you’re just in-between jobs. People are pursuing independent, entrepreneurial work as their careers. They’re opting to control their professional lives and work on the projects they’re interested in or that allow them the flexibility they want.

3) Freelance earning potential continues to grow

The report also found that the majority of freelancers who left a full-time job made more freelancing than they did with an employer within one year. Compare that to 2015 when the biggest challenge facing freelancers was securing more work, according to Contently’s report. That’s a huge accomplishment for the freelance community.

We’ve seen a trend in revenue growth within the CloudPeeps community as well. As Peeps gain experience and see how valuable their skills are, they become more confident when setting their rates. Clients joining the platform also recognize that you don’t hire a freelancer for “cheap work.” You hire a freelancer for their experience and specialized skill set that will help you reach your goals, faster.

Additionally, freelancers are becoming increasingly savvy in how they package and market their skills to clients. Much of freelance success is based on understanding what your client needs, how you can help them, and how you structure each job. As more freelancers join the workforce, we’ll see them share their findings and learn from each other, and ultimately become more profitable business owners. Although stability and being a paid a fair rate are still among the largest challenges for freelancers, they’re experiencing big strides in earning potential.

4) Freelancers are hiring others to tackle bigger projects

It turns out that not all freelancers are in it for the solo work. Many enjoy and benefit from collaborating with fellow freelancers on projects. But they want to do it on their own terms rather than be placed into teams or have to commute to an office. We’ve seen this first-hand with several Peeps hiring fellow Peeps for projects – both personal and for client work.

When you collaborate with fellow freelancers, you can offer full-stack services for larger companies or more extensive projects than you’d be able to otherwise. You can break into an industry you’ve always wanted to work in or to pitch bigger projects you haven’t had the resources for previously. In 2017, we’ll see freelancers build not agencies, but co-ops in order to pursue meaningful work.

5) Freelancers will be advocates for independent work

Undoubtedly, as a freelancer, you get asked a lot of questions from friends and colleagues about your freelance work. This is especially true for those taking advantage of the flexibility with travel, side projects and/or growing a family. As freelance work becomes more profitable and increasingly sustainable in 2017, current freelancers will pave the road for those considering the field.

They don’t need to shout how great freelancing is from the rooftops. But by simply living their lives genuinely, others will see the benefits and want to pursue freelance themselves. Many thought leaders such as Paul Jarvis, Austin Kleon and Jocelyn Glei are already sharing their tips for making freelance a viable career. This will only continue to grow as more people join the freelance movement.

6) At $1 trillion in the US alone, the economic impact of freelancers will be recognized

According to Freelancers Union, the US freelance workforce earned an estimated $1 trillion from freelancing this past year – up from about $715 billion in 2014. That’s a significant share of the US economy. Globally, freelancers across 180 countries have been making significantly more than non-freelancers in those countries for years, according to data from Payoneer.

With this increasing impact, freelancers will begin to see more recognition from peers, politicians and society as a whole for the impact they’re making. Freelancers play an important role in the global economy. Many are working remotely or as digital nomads and earning income from several different countries. Several are creating jobs. We’ve seen media cover the freelance movement over the last couple of years, but pretty soon – it will no longer be just a movement, but a standard.

7) Freelancers will fight for more representation

As a US election year, 2016 has been a big year for discussion around business policies, taxes, insurance, rights and more. When Freelancers Union conducted their survey in July 2016, 85% of freelancers said they were likely to vote in the 2016 election. Over two-thirds of those freelancers said they were more likely to vote for a candidate that supports freelancers’ interests. That said, at 70%, the vast majority of freelancers said they want to see more discussion of how to empower the independent workforce (7 percentage points more than 2015).

No matter the results of the election, we’ll see freelancers working together in 2017 to create a louder voice in politics for the freelance population. With a US economic impact of $1 trillion and representing more than a third of the workforce, politicians will be forced to listen and acknowledge their needs moving forward. Hopefully, this will include better health insurance options – another top concern for freelancers. We highly recommend reading Sara Horowitz’ op-ed on the topic in the Huffington Post.

8) Freelancers are still taking advantage of flexibility

Freelancers Union found that the majority of full-time freelancers are working an average of 36 hours per week. As already mentioned, they’re also making more money. This gives them the opportunity to work on side projects, spend time with family, travel, etc. Freelancers will continue to find creative ways to spend their time, including building companies and tools for fellow freelancers. Not to mention, this is just one more benefit of freelancing to attract others to join the community!

9) Freelance jobs are more accessible than ever

Word of mouth and reputation will always be important when it comes to finding work as a freelancer. However, more and more, freelancers are finding plenty of work using online tools. In the Freelancers Union survey, 66% of freelancers said the amount of work they obtain online has increased in the past year. As more people join the freelance workforce, the more options companies have in terms of who to hire. Today, clients are far more likely to search for people who have the skills they need online than rely soley on their personal networks.

10) The digital toolbox continues to evolve

Robots may not be taking over the world (yet), but there is fascinating work happening in the areas of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc. For example, Google’s AI doesn’t need help from humans anymore – it can learn entirely from its own memory.

Innovations like these touch all areas of digital work. They impact the language in which engineers code, the environment designers need to create experiences for, the different vehicles marketers have to reach their audiences. It’s a freelancer’s job as a thought leader in the digital space to stay on top of these trends and to aways be adaptable.

That doesn’t mean you have to jump on every trend bandwagon, but rather be willing to explore new tools and tactics to do your job well. Never stop learning and building skills – because our environment will never stop evolving. Always aim to be ahead of the future of work. As a freelancer, you’re already positioned to do that. 🙂

Ready to join the movement?

It’s a great time to be a freelancer! Job and revenue possibilities are growing, and the global freelance community is stronger than ever. It’s an opportune time to be at the forefront of the movement – to establish yourself as a thought leader and help others learn the freelancing ropes. If you’re ready to join a global community of peers and be provided with the tools and job opportunities you need as a freelancer, join the CloudPeeps community. We’d love to have you!