Millennials Are Rewriting the Rules of Work and Entrepreneurship


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What do Millennials want? Flexibility and independence top the list, according to a new study, “Millennials and the Future of Work,” from oDesk and Millennial Branding that polled nearly 2,000 people aged 19 to 30. Here’s some of what the study found, and what it means for your business.

Millennial Workers Want Freedom and Flexibility

Millennial workers want freedom and the flexibility to work how they want.  Many Millennials have a “freelance” attitude. Almost nine in 10 (89 percent) say they prefer to work when and where they choose (compared to a corporate, 9-to-5 job). When comparing freelance work to “regular” jobs, Millennials say freelancing gives them more freedom to:

  • Work wherever they like (92 percent).
  • Work whenever they like (87 percent).
  • Work on more interesting projects (69 percent).
  • Travel while working (half say they’d prefer this to taking vacation time).

You Might Have a Closet Freelancer on Your Staff

Many Millennials are biding their time at regular jobs and freelancing on the side until the time is right to leave.

Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of those who work regular jobs want to quit to be entirely independent; 61 percent say they likely will quit within two years, and 17 percent say they definitely will.

Millennials Have a New Definition of “Entrepreneur”

For 90 percent of Millennials surveyed, being an entrepreneur means having a certain mindset, rather than starting a company. Aspects of this mindset mentioned included being a self-starter, risk-taker, visionary and someone who “spots opportunity.”

Millennials see themselves as building entrepreneurial careers whether they work for someone else or freelance – they don’t necessarily have to start their own businesses. In fact, more than half (58 percent) already classify themselves as entrepreneurs.

Millennials Have a Rosy View of Entrepreneurship

Three-fourths of them say the benefits of being an entrepreneur outweigh the downsides. In fact, for 57 percent of Millennials there are no downsides to entrepreneurship. More than one-third (38 percent) say they’d pursue a promising startup opportunity rather than finish a traditional college degree.

What do these figures mean to your business?

  • Satisfy their desire for freedom: Keep Millennials on your staff happy and attract more of this age group by offering flexibility and the ability to work from home or on the road.
  • Help them move ahead: Millennials have an insatiable desire to move faster in their careers. Provide lots of feedback and let them know what they can do to improve.
  • Sell them on “small:” Millennials hate having to follow corporate rules and climb the steps of the corporate ladder, making small businesses a natural fit for them. If you’re looking to hire, promote your small business as a place where they can wear different hats and learn a lot of skills.
  • Tap into Millennials’ entrepreneurial attitudes: Since Millennials can feel entrepreneurial even as employees, take advantage of their self-starting nature. Give them projects of their own and let them run with them.

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.