Future of Work

Should you go freelance? Here’s what you need to know about the gig economy

Gig economy workers freelance financial safety nets full-time employees

Gig economy workers lack the financial safety nets enjoyed by full-time employees. Image:  Rodeo Project Management Software/Unsplash

Anna Bruce-Lockhart
Editorial Lead, World Economic Forum
Kate Whiting
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
Our Impact
What's the World Economic Forum doing to accelerate action on Future of Work?
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Economic Progress is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Future of Work

Listen to the article

  • Being your own boss might look like an increasingly attractive option. But what are the downsides to going freelance and becoming a part of the gig economy?
  • This animated video explainer by TEDEd and the World Economic Forum explores what it means to be a freelancer - and weighs up the pros and cons.

Beside a pool. In a log cabin. In your pyjamas. Working wherever and whenever you like can seem like a very attractive option.

And businesses are increasingly relying on these ‘on-demand’ workers to bring in key skills while being flexible with contracts in an uncertain economy.

But how do you work out whether dipping your toe into the gig economy is the way to go? If the life of a freelancer is the one for you?


Start by watching this video explainer, part of the Economics Explained series created by TEDEd in collaboration with the World Economic Forum. It will not only surprise you as to where the word ‘freelance’ originates from - it also outlines three of the main things you’ll need to succeed.

Digging deeper into the gig economy

For more information on going freelance and what it means to be part of the gig economy, dive into the articles, videos and podcasts available on workforce and employment on the World Economic Forum's platform. You can also find a long list of animated videos on the world of work and jobs on TED-Ed's Economics Explained minisite.

This explainer article outlines exactly what the gig economy is and what you can expect if you sign up to be a gig worker. It also runs through McKinsey’s four types of independent worker, from the free agents to the financially strapped.

For those of you with more time, this panel debate at Davos earlier this year delved into what happened to gig workers during COVID-19 - and what the future may hold.


Your gender and where in the world you live may impact your decision to go freelance - as this video on the gender gap in gig-worker wages in Australia explains. Meanwhile, in Africa, the rise of digital commerce promises to benefit 80 million young people.

The promise (and peril) of platform work

With the so-called platform economy growing, what does it promise and what are the challenges? For in-depth answers, read the Forum’s Promise of Platform Work: Understanding the Ecosystem report here.

By the end of 2023, the flexible economy is expected to represent $455 billion in global activity, according to Mastercard. But gig economy workers lack the financial safety nets enjoyed by full-time employees.

The good news, the company’s Europe President Mark Barnett says, is that “a growing number of the companies that depend on flexible workforces realize that providing a safety net gives them a competitive advantage - particularly as demand for flex workers heats up”.

Looking after yourself when you work for you

The pandemic has seen many people quit their jobs to go freelance. But when you’re setting your own schedule, you might be a harder task master than your previous boss, so make sure you give yourself a break.

In this article, three experts share their tips on how to protect your well-being when you’re self-employed. They include learning to manage the stress of running your own business, how to establish routines and give up unhealthy pressure.


How is the World Economic Forum improving working conditions in the gig economy?

Economics has had a huge impact on the world we live in - and understanding the key factors at play in these massive, interconnected systems can give us insight into how to make them better, stabler, and more equitable.

To find out more, dig into a new series of quick and compelling explainers from TED-Ed and World Economic Forum at ed.ted.com/worldecon. A great many articles, videos and podcasts to answer all your economic questions are waiting for you at https://www.weforum.org/focus/economics-explained.

Have you read?
Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Future of WorkEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

From 'Quit-Tok' to proximity bias, here are 11 buzzwords from the world of hybrid work

Kate Whiting

April 17, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum