Young self-employed workers are doing some pretty remarkable things. According to Upwork’s “Freelancing in America: 2017” study, 46 percent of Generation Z workers (roughly speaking, those born in 1996 or later) freelanced last year. And not only is this demographic of young freelancers expanding, they are transforming the way we think about and discuss topics like education, working remotely, and technology. To top it all off, young entrepreneurs are revealing another interesting phenomenon in how they spend their time.
When I mention young self-employed or freelance workers here, I’m referring to those just entering the job market — between the ages of 18 and 24 — who earn their main source of income by working for themselves. At this age, you might imagine workers are in school or recently graduated, climbing corporate ladders, or hopping from job to job to find a career they’re most passionate about. But instead, this group has decided to go it alone, and they’re giving up more than just a traditional office job to do what they love.
The youngest entrepreneurs, self-employed workers, and freelancers have a different mentality about time off than their older counterparts.
What’s in a weekend? A recent study by QuickBooks Self-Employed found that while most self-employed people said working every weekend (or at least every other weekend) was fairly commonplace (61.2 percent admitted to it), over 43 percent of young 18- to 24-year-olds said they worked every weekend. Working through the weekend might be normal for someone just starting out, but we’re only now beginning to see what that looks like for the youngest generation of workers.
“That’s 4 percent higher than the 45- to 54-year-olds, suggesting that younger self-employed workers are sacrificing weekends to kick-start their career,” reads the report.
In general, self-employed workers admit to the harsh realities of working for themselves, including sacrificing free time and time with their families. The QuickBooks Self-Employed study also found 1 in 3 self-employed people has missed a child or spouse’s birthday due to work, and the majority say they work while they’re on vacation and when sick. While 1 in 3 says they work through every single weekend, the younger self-employed take the cake when it comes to working through the weekend.
Missing a friend’s birthday due to work was the most common event missed for the general sample of self-employed workers, with 67 percent of 24- to 34-year-olds admitting to missing out on the celebration. The 18- to 24-year-olds, on the other hand, were split when it came to missing a friend’s birthday for work, with 50 percent admitting to it.
Whether they’re kick-starting a new venture or jump-starting something in the works, the younger self-employed seem to know when it’s time to give themselves a break from their work — or they’ve mastered the art of work and travel. This mentality may even contribute to their desire to have less traditional work schedules in the first place.
In any case, the 18- to 24-year-olds reportedly take vacations more than their older counterparts. In fact, 61.4 percent of young self-employed people say they take a vacation once or twice a year. Compare that to the group that takes vacations at the second-highest rate, the 45-54 age group, and you’ll observe about a 17 percent gap.
Why Gen Z is attracted to the self-employed universe
Generation Z has hit the ground running. In addition to their work ethic and the strong likelihood that they’ve grown up with smart devices in their hands, young entrepreneurs might be less inclined to want a boss, having been introduced early to the tools needed to market their own businesses. Another assumption could be that Generation Z gravitates more naturally to self-employment because they were less likely to have a job during high school. According to teen labor force data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 43 percent of teens had summer jobs in 2016, compared to over 60 percent of teens who had summer jobs in 1995.
It’s suggested that this steep decline in Gen Z working whilst in high school might be due to their feeling less inclined to jump headfirst into a college education and the debt that comes with it, feeling an increased pressure to perform academically in their K-12 years, or simply feeling they have a natural aptitude for entrepreneurship. A 2011 Gallup poll revealed the opinions of 1,721 students in grades five through 12. Almost 80 percent said they want to be their own boss, and 45 percent said they’d like to start their own business someday.
Of course, not every Generation Z worker will become self-employed, but existing businesses have the opportunity to team up with this generation of young people and learn from their new ways of working. Whether or not you ever plan on working through the weekend, finding out how to manage a more flexible work schedule, wherein vacation is still valued, can benefit your own business strategy.