Is the “freelance economy” creating opportunity for rural cities and small towns?
This post was inspired by a conversation with Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Canby Development, Ltd and his business partner Matt Brown, VP of Business and Rural Development, who are leading revitalization and redevelopment in one West-Central Ohio area.
As an independent business consultant, I am considered a “freelancer.” I work with multiple companies and individuals on a contract basis, also referred to as “1099’d “ in reference to the tax status of a freelancer.
Predictions in Freelancing
One prediction for 2017 is that President-elect Donald Trump will create an atmosphere that is ripe for freelance work. Another is that the U.S. workforce will be made up of 35% to 50% freelancers by the year 2020, depending on what you consider a truly freelance worker.
That is a huge number of workers not directly employed by the people and businesses that pay them, and not geographically bound to a physical workplace outside of their home. This may create a massive opportunity for struggling rural cities and small towns.
For Example – My Week in Freelance Work
A case in point – this week, my schedule consisted of meetings held in 5 locations over a 50-mile radius, not one of which is a traditional place of work, unless you count the convention and training center at which I spoke to a group of up and coming leaders in the Agriculture industry.
Otherwise, 2 were restaurants and 2 were coffee shops. 3 of these locations were privately owned while 1 was a chain.
The convention and training center is located in a small city adjacent to a larger city. The chain restaurant is as well, albeit a different small city. The other 3 locations were in small, rural cities.
The remainder of the week, I worked from home and held multiple (hands-free) teleconferences while driving – with people all over the country, one of whom was also a freelancer in a very rural northern Missouri town, 2 of whom were also traveling from one location through vast rural areas to the next.
I also conducted a webinar this week, from home, and am certain that some participants were either at home or in a local coffee shop while attending the webinar.
Small Town vs Large City Living
There are several appealing things about living in smaller cities and towns, such as generally lower costs of living, greater peace and quiet, and less concern about crime. But there is often a lack of conveniences that large city dwelling provides, such as eclectic, interesting or new living space near a downtown/developed area in which everything is within walking distance (no vehicle required), interesting choices in restaurants, coffee shops, nightlife, entertainment and boutique shopping.
A New Opportunity
With so many freelance workers projected over the next few years, rural cities and small towns are poised well for development efforts that create a living environment that combines the best of both worlds.
Those cities and towns that recognize the trend toward freelancing and invest in the types of things that will attract a freelance workforce in addition to more traditional workforces will likely fare better than those that do not.
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