Profit Minded

Generation Y gives entrepreneurship a new definition

Infographic: The oDesk and Millennial Branding Spring 2013 Future of Work SurveyTo be an entrepreneur you need not own a business, risk your personal capital, create jobs, or even work your rump off. You just need to have a certain mindset. At least that’s the definition of entrepreneurship offered by the expanding freelance workforce.

Survey results released today by the consulting firm Millennial Branding and oDesk reveal that 90 percent of independent workers and “solopreneurs” associate “being an entrepreneur” with having a mindset to “see opportunities, take risks, and make things happen,” rather than with having actually started a company. In fact, more than half of freelancers consider themselves to be entrepreneurs, according to survey results.

On behalf of Millennial Branding and oDesk, Genesis Research Associates surveyed more than 3,000 freelancers worldwide—over 60 percent of them between 19 and 30 years old (a.k.a. “millennials” or members of Generation Y) to examine their perspectives on the future of work. Small business owners might say their perspective is a bit skewed.

Survey respondents largely believe that entrepreneurship offers freedom and flexibility. Among those respondents who hold “regular jobs” at the same time they moonlight as freelancers, 72 percent say they want to quit the regular job, and 61 percent say they intend to within 2 years. That’s mostly because they “prefer to work when and where they choose.” For most, that’s no place exciting: More than half of millennials and 65 percent of respondents older than 30 say their preferred workplace is home.

oDesk CEO Gary Swart contends that “no one today wants to be confined to a cubicle.” His company, which crowdsources freelance tasks, has seen an eightfold increase in the number of hours of work assigned through its website since 2009. But oDesk-style entrepreneurship is no path to wealth: Many freelance opportunities advertised on the site promise extremely low hourly wages.

One other glaring difference between being a true small business owner and an “entrepreneur” as defined by those surveyed: The majority of millennials see no downside to being one.

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