Do Job Cuts Mean Freelance Opportunities?

Warning: I'm climbing up on my soapbox today. This is purely opinion, please prove me wrong!

I received essentially the same question twice in one day -- "I'm thinking of leaving my job and hear there are a lot of freelance opportunities, is that true?" That's a summary, each person has a different situation and reasons, but they are essentially wondering the same thing. Do job cuts mean more work for freelancers?

I've heard that a lot recently too, and there is a certain sense to the theory. Maybe people know something I don't, but I'm not seeing it play out that way. The nature of creative work is such that there is always a need for supplemental staff or specific skills, but right now there are also a lot of people competing for that work. First there's a whole contingent of people who freelance or work independently; they've made that choice and many have been doing it for years. Now add in all of the people who are no longer working in fulltime jobs and are either considering freelance as a stop-gap measure, or are taking this opportunity to start the independent business they've thought about for years. Suddenly there are a lot of people competing for freelance projects and onsite temporary work.

In addition, the reason many agencies and in-house departments have had to make the difficult choice of reducing staff recently is that there is less work or less money, or both. If agency clients are scaling back or putting projects on hold, then the agency has less work and income. If a corporation is seeing a reduction in sales, that affects the budget they have to spend even though the quantity of work may not have changed.

So I think the "job cuts mean more freelance work for everyone" theory is an urban myth. Maybe it should work that way, and it probably is for some people, but across the board I'm seeing a lot more people looking for work than companies looking for help. I know there are people out there who are seeing an increase in their workload, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment, let us know how things are working for you and any tips you may offer to your fellow freelancers or freelancers-to-be.

Don't get me wrong, there are opportunities out there. And things will turn around. It's just a matter of making the right choices for yourself in the meantime. Even in a good economy it can take a while to establish a consistent amount of freelance work, so I a big fan of knowing what you need to make and having a Plan B. Maybe a Plan C too just in case.