In 2024, Gen Z workers are expected to outnumber baby boomers in the American labor force for the first time. Despite this shift, the youngest generation in the workforce, with the oldest members now 27, is often treated as a novelty. From email signatures to salary expectations, Gen Zers are scrutinized in every aspect of their professional lives. CNBC Make It delves into how Gen Z is truly making its mark on career advice, office culture, and more.

Gen Z, defined as individuals born between 1997 and 2012, is rethinking what it means to enter the workforce. According to a February 2024 Fiverr survey of 10,033 Gen Zers worldwide, 70% are currently freelancing or plan to do so in the future.

Freelancing, where individuals work for themselves rather than for a company, is a popular choice among Gen Z. A May 2024 Upwork survey of 1,070 Gen Zers found that more than half (53%) work full-time hours on freelance projects. This generation is the most likely to work in this way, according to Upwork’s recent Freelance Forward Report.

The reasons for freelancing vary. According to Fiverr, 44% want to be financially comfortable, 30% want to travel and work from anywhere, 25% want to own their own business, and 20% aim to retire early.

“I think a lot of people my age or graduating are coming into a world, post-pandemic, where it feels like there’s more uncertainty than ever,” says Kate Brunotts, a 24-year-old freelance writer and music producer based in New York.

For many, freelancing provides a sense of control over their lives and careers.

Turning Passions into Profits

Sophie Riegel, 23, graduated from Duke University in May 2023 with a degree in psychology. Since college, she has been making a profit selling used clothing online. She also earns money through personal coaching and public speaking about mental health and Gen Z.

Riegel’s online clothing business alone brings in six figures annually. “When I graduated, I never considered applying for a job,” she says. “It seemed like such a foreign thought to me. I don’t even have a resume.” For many Gen Zers, freelancing’s appeal lies in doing something they love.

“I think people are starting to realize they can take control of their life in a way that they didn’t think they could before,” she says. “And that passions can turn into jobs really easily.”

Valuing Time and Flexibility

For Harlan Rappaport, 25, freelancing is about building his own schedule. He began doing email marketing for a neighbor’s tattoo supply company in 2016 and expanded his client base over time. In 2020, just before graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in business administration, he started booking clients on Fiverr. He also began a full-time job in asset management but continued freelancing in his free time. By May 2023, he quit his job to freelance full-time.

Rappaport now freelances on both Fiverr and Upwork, earning about $15,000 on Fiverr alone in April. “Personally, I’ve come to really appreciate the value of my time and having control over it,” he says. He enjoys the flexibility to work for a few hours in the morning, take a lengthy midday break, and sometimes work into the night or take time off. Post-pandemic, more people are questioning the traditional office routine of five days a week for eight hours a day.

Brunotts herself has about eight different clients for various content creation projects, from audio production to writing. In 2023, her freelancing gigs grossed about $57,000. The variety of clients adds to the appeal. “I’m not wholly dependent on one client for my livelihood,” she says. “This can come with some challenges, but it also brings a lot of freedom.”

This flexibility and control are central to the allure of freelancing. “I think just the whole concept of designing work around your life, rather than the other way around is very attractive to many people,” she says, “including myself.”

By Impact Lab