Hey Shawn this is an interesting take on the subject.
In my personal experience, there’s always plenty of room at the front of that marathon. If you can work your way ahead of the “peloton” and establish yourself a respected professional in your field and location, there’s always plenty of work. I’m absolutely inundated with demand and I have been for a years. I don’t see that slowing down, only getting worse.
You do that by being more professional than the rest. Better at communicating. More reliable. More honest. Offering more value in unexpected ways that make your client’s feel they’d be lost without you. And of course delivering world-class results. Repeat over many years.
That takes time. Not everyone will get there. If you’re stuck in the peloton I imagine it feels a little hopeless. The situation may be a bit like the housing market. If you got in a little while ago and managed to establish yourself before the boom, you’re all good. But if you’re just trying to get into the market now, things are a lot tougher. The classic Millennial struggle.
Forming an agency isn’t the only answer. There are many other ways you can consider growing a freelance business. And there’s no shame in staying a one-person team for as long as you like. I’ve done it for 17 years. So many of my clients come to me specifically because they want someone independent that will give them maximum personal attention and commitment. Things they don’t believe they can get from an agency.
How long until freelancing isn’t sustainable? If you’re great at it there’s no end in sight. If you’re mediocre, it may be getting harder and harder all the time.