Editor’s Note: Maari Casey, the founder and CEO of Durham-based Uncompany, moved from a role at McKinney to become a freelancer, later launching Uncompany. 


DURHAM – A study recently ranked Durham, Charlotte, and Raleigh among the top 20 cities for freelancing.  WRAL TechWire spoke with Maari Casey, founder and CEO of Durham-based Uncompany, which matches clients with freelancers and freelancing teams for project work, about the study, and about the challenges that exist for freelancers.  The interview, lightly edited, appears below.


WRAL TechWire (TW): Walk us through the challenges that freelancers face in today’s economy. 

Maari Casey, founder and CEO of Uncompany (Casey): First, cost.  Sometimes as a freelancer fixed costs like office space can be a nonstarter when they work and get paid gig to gig.

The way to get around that is for them to find coworking spaces that offer flexibility.  That includes shorter leases or flexible lease terms, or maybe they have fractional usage so a certain numbers of days per week.  Or, perhaps they don’t work at a specific desk but more of a bullpen-style space.  I feel like most coworking spaces who cater towards independent workers have made a variety of options available.

But there’s also another challenge when it comes to space: the coziness and comfort of remaining at home.

Even when you don’t have to go in to the office, there may still be pressure felt to go to a location when you are paying for it.  It can feel a little bit of a bummer when you are comfy at home or in a coffee house, to then pack up and go into your office.  And that little bit of guilt and stress can be a deterrent for those considering coworking.  The same solutions can be applied to this challenge as to concerns around costs.

Still, even when you do pay for and regularly use space at a coworking facility, it can be isolating.

There are usually some folks who are heads-down, getting work done.  If you are there to socialize and connect, you can feel a little lonely in that environment.  I think it’s important to visit different spaces and see what they provide and how their spaces flow will give a freelancer what they are looking for before committing.

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TW: What’s important to freelancers?

Casey: Right now, some of the most important things for freelancers are the typical, usual ones.

That includes insurance: how do find it, how to afford it, and how to make it work.

It also includes business development, and bringing on board good clients, who pay well and on time, and keeping new clients like this coming on board.

As an independent worker, it’s also important to consider your plans for retirement, for growth, and for personal time that can help prevent against burnout.

At some point as an independent worker, you get tired of exchanging their time for money.  You only have so much time, and gosh, of course you also want to take a vacation.

So figuring out how to grow, scale, and maybe one day, retire without having to turn off the income are important things for freelancers to consider.

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TW: Any concerns about the current economic climate?

Casey: Yes, there’s an additional concern right now.  That’s because many wonder what this possible “pending recession” could mean for freelancers.

So many freelancers faced hardship in the early part of the pandemic when everything shut down. Then of course it was followed by what could be described as “drinking from a firehose of work” over the course of the last year.  Now, many freelancers are burnt out, tired, and worried that the seesaw might swing back the other way.

Finding a balance of work is always a struggle, but right now with the teetering state of work in the world as a whole it’s a concern on what it will look like for those in the world of freelancing.

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