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The simple life: Generation Z and millennial freelancers head to the country

1115836 autosave v1 39344590  laptop and coffee in outdoor office
ssilver / 123RF Stock Photo
Does your computer have a city mouse or a country mouse? Freelancing is increasing in the U.S., especially among Generation Z individuals and millennials, and they don’t all live in cities. A sizeable portion of freelancers have taken to rural life, enabled by technology, according to Fast Company.

Freelancing in America: 2016, an online study conducted for Upwork and the Freelancers Union found there are 55 million freelancers in the U.S., accounting for 35 percent of the workforce. The survey was conducted by Edelman Intelligence of 6,002 U.S. adults who worked for pay in the previous 12 months. While most freelancers live in the ‘burbs (47 percent) and urban areas (35 percent), 18 percent choose the rural lifestyle.

For many, self-employment out in the country was not an available option even a decade ago. Today, freelancers can set shop anywhere with an internet connection and cell phone coverage. Even when connections are spotty, some find the rural lifestyle better for themselves and their families than city or suburban life.

While some freelancers move their base to Thailand, Malaysia, Serbia, or other overseas digital nomad hotspots, those who chose to stay or move to rural areas in the U.S. will not be alone. And rural freelancers may be younger than you expect. According to the study, 47 percent of Gen Z (18-21) and 43 percent of millennials (22-34) freelance. Thirty-four percent of Generation Y (35-44) and 28 percent of both Generation X and baby boomers freelance.

Freelancers are not only using technology to do their work with computers, the internet, and cell phones, but 73 percent of those surveyed said “technology is making it easier to find independent work,” according to Fast Company.

Lower cost of living is reason enough for many to abandon city life, while for some the lure of rural-based freelancing is the quiet and a slower pace. Freelancers with a family state that bringing up children closer to nature and as part of a community is a powerful motivator.

Freelancing in the country is not all fresh-mown hay and roses. Fast Company reported that internet and cell phone connections can be troublesome or generally slower than in the suburbs or cities. Isolation can be a challenge as well — even with other rural freelancers in the area, they are often spread far apart. Online business and professional connections often have to suffice when seeking like-minded people who actually get and appreciate what freelancers do in the digital economy.

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