The History of Freelancing

Freelancing refers to a self-employed person selling whatever services and skills they can provide to whoever hires them. But they do often this without being under a contract, which makes them different to contractors. But the history of freelancing has its roots in something very different to the modern associations with the word.

The evolution of the internet has had a major impact on the increase of freelancers and remote workers from all over the world. But freelancing existed long before the internet. In this article, we’ll explore the history of freelancing, taking a look at the meaning of the word, its origins, and how it evolved into the career path that it is today.

Origins of the Word ‘Freelancing’

You can divide “Freelancing” into two words. “Free” has a Germanic origin and means “to love”, and “Lance” comes from French and means “to throw or hurl with force”. Putting these two words together leaves you with a literal definition of “throwing love”!

For many, freelancing means being able to create a business out of something that they love. Something that they “throw” at potential clients. So, looking at it from this perspective, it makes total sense! Freelancing is throwing the skills you love at your clients! Okay, that’s a bit too literal, but you get the idea!

History of Freelancing in Literature

The first recorded appearance of the word “freelance” in literature is attributed to the book The Life and Times of Hugh Miller by Thomas N. Brown in the early 1800s. He uses the term in reference to medieval mercenary soldiers who offered their services to whoever paid the most.

This was a very common “job” during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance period. As long as the interested person had the money (you could call them the client) the freelancer would offer their services in securing land or protecting properties. But what about modern freelancers?

Freelancing Today

There is no need for mercenaries now, so freelancing work has evolved according to the needs of society. It became a way in which people would help local businesses with odd jobs that increased sales, mostly on a local basis. Getting new clients depended solely on recommendations and required a lot of networking.

Freelancing and the Internet

The appearance and development of the internet changed the world of freelancing for good. By removing barriers like distance, for example, people can now offer whatever services or skills they have to anyone who is interested, no matter who or where they are.

The internet is everywhere, and almost everyone has access to it at the tip of their fingers. This accessibility has increased the number of freelancers and opportunities for freelancing over the years. Pretty much anyone can become a freelancer should they choose to do so! Now that you understand the history of freelancing, let’s take a look at some statistics about freelancing in the modern world.

Freelancing Statistics

Freelancing has become a very popular career choice over the years. Let’s take a look at some facts, stats, and trends about the freelancing industry:

  • There are currently 57 million freelancers in the USA alone. Experts predict this number will surpass 90 million by 2028.
  • Covid-19 caused a major increase in the number of freelance workers. An estimate of 2 million workers started freelancing since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020.
  • About 51% of freelancers say they wouldn’t switch to a traditional job no matter how much money they were paid (I’m sure there are limits to this!).
  • 64% of freelancers noticed an improvement in their overall health since they started freelancing.
  • Freelance writers earn an average of $15-$80 per hour (roughly £11 to £58 per hour) on freelance platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.

The Future of Freelancing

Freelancing is a thriving industry today. Freelancing is much more attractive than many 9-5 jobs because it gives you the freedom to choose what you do and when you do it. It also allows you to earn money doing something you love.

Freelance work has evolved with time, from mercenary work to selling any kind of skill on the internet. But the meaning of the word remains the same. You help other people by doing something that you love.