Yeah, I’m GenX and I’m Smashing Freelancing…

I hate labels and I hate stereotypes. As a GenXer, I’m apparently supposed to loath the Baby Boomer “Generation Greed” as much as I’m supposed to hate Millennial “Generation Snowflake”. In a recent amusing news piece on CNBC and featured on HuffPo UK, it was demonstrated that GenX really is the forgotten generation (as we’d always suspected). We were left out of a news article completely. How is that for irony? The question is: what am I going to do about it?

I guess I’ll just do what I usually do when my elders and my youngers start fighting amongst themselves, I hide myself away in my room and watch VHS tapes of 1970s Doctor Who or I play Space Invaders on my Atari. Maybe I’ll show my parents how to work the video recorder again before I get too annoyed that they recorded over the cassette tape with all the songs I taped from the radio last weekend.

Netflix, what’s that? Oh, that’s where I can watch Stranger Things and reminisce about the good old days. Yeah, I’m down with the kids if it will let me relive the 80s over and over again.

Of course, I jest. We should never revert to stereotypes. But sometimes it is too easy to assume that septuagenarians are not just confused by technology but hostile towards it, while millennials are too busy Tweeting about their day to actually experience it, because that’s the message we are fed every day. Generation X stereotypes? I’m not sure we have any, people just forget about us.

I’ve written for past clients about how to attract millennial workers, how to make them feel valued, the differences between the work ethic of each group. and why we should never overlook workers because of their age. I’ve written about why millennials make great project designers while GenXers are good organisers and planners, while Baby Boomers can be relied on to get the job done.

Sadly, we do adhere to these stereotypes about even our generations as well as that of others. Sometimes, generalisations do fit otherwise targeted marketing based on a person’s age, gender, location and a variety of other demographic factors would never be used because they wouldn’t actually work. They help marketing professionals understand needs of broad demographics. What we can’t and shouldn’t do is assume that a template of a personality applies to everyone in that group. So I’m not being entirely hypocritical when I repeat the blog title here and make a broad assumption.

Generation Xers are Great at Freelancing

At least, according to Fast Company. Somebody did conduct a study of professional network site LinkedIn and it showed marked differences between how baby boomers, Gen X and millennials all engaged with the gig economy and freelancing. The rise of the gig economy and start ups has been largely credited to millennials. But as with everything, this is not the whole story. Yes, they have an entrepreneurial spirit, but most start up businesses within this generation are second jobs or seen as a secondary income stream that they do not generally rely on. When we remove millennials from the equation, we have a very different picture.

When it comes to full-time self-employed freelancers and small business owners, it’s towards we GenXers and the Baby Boomers that the attention turns. 75% of those who took part in the survey were full-time freelancers and they were overwhelmingly represented by older workers. But this wasn’t the only study to confirm this. Around the same time, Price Waterhouse Coopers found the exact same thing. The desire to work independently and to work for oneself increases with age. When it comes to exact figures, 8.3% of baby boomers are self-employed while 7.6% of GenXers are self-employed. In contrast from the same article, just 2% of millennials had their own business. This goes against two stereotypes

  • That older workers seek security more than anything else and are willing to trade their happiness and do soul-destroying work to get it
  • That millennials are overwhelmingly responsible for the gig economy driven by their natural affinity with technology and changing trends

Most surprisingly, according to the article linked in Fast Company article, GenXers are among the most prolific  of early adopters when it comes to technology. We were in the sweet spot where the web, mobile phones, and what are now mainstream technologies were new enough to pique our curiosity, but not necessarily the curiosity of older generations in general terms.

What is actually clear is that we GenXers are pretty amazing. If you’re a millennial, you should thank us GenXers for the entrepreneurial spirit and pragmatism that we instilled in you, as well as your natural tendency for technology. If you’re a Baby Boomer, you need to thank us for our continued patience in showing you (once again) how to work your “electronic gadget thingies”. Disclaimer: Yes, I am joking.

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