Trend: Freelance Economy

Self-employment, contracting, and consulting have changed the nature of work. As the book Free Agent Nation suggests, the U.S. is truly becoming a nation of people freelancing their skills and talents.

Consultant used to be code for "just killing time between jobs." That's still true for some. But consulting has become a real business for millions of former corporate warriors who wouldn't take a "real" job if Beelzebub's home turf turned into tundra.

Large corporations want to be leaner and meaner. Rather than staff up, they'll outsource functions. As large firms respond to tighter times by restructuring, they'll continue to replace employees with contract workers.

Often those workers will be the same people who used to be on the payroll. When the person doing the work is not on payroll it's easier to change your workforce to meet changing needs.

    Companies love it when the freelance market is a buyers market. That love can turn to fear when there is a shortage of good people. Anybody who had to hire IT professionals during the height of the dotcom boom is well aware of the corporate downside to a freelance market.

    Every change creates new market niches. As larger companies rely on contract workers and outside consultants, look for small businesses to develop and change to fill those needs.

    The old-line "temp" industry has already begun to morph into something new. Just what that something will become remains to be seen. But one thing is sure, it will have service and product needs of its own. And that's what we call a new market.

For more on this trend, see: