What does “YOLO economy” stand for?

YOLO is the acronym for "you only live once". It’s used as a reminder that life is short and we need to make the best of it. YOLO encourages us to take risks and try new things while we still can. Like what? Let's discover together.

Leon Cordier
Leon Cordier

The world is changing. Well, it’s always changing, but the past couple of years had seen a lot of it. Covid-19, the subsequent lockdowns, and the ways we have all had to adapt have changed the ways people live and work. It’s forced a lot of people into reconsidering where they are in their lives and how they want to live it. Hence YOLO.

When the Canadian rapper Drake popularized this term almost a decade ago, it was a generational rebranding of carpe diem. “You Only Live Once” is trending again now, because young professionals are making career moves that embody this saying.

Now, these workers are looking for autonomy; or the power to be the decision-maker to take firm control of their careers, start their own businesses, or find careers that fit their schedules. It’s shaking up the labor market, something worth considering when working with newly minted solopreneurs.

YOLO Economy explained

As mentioned previously, YOLO means you only live once. While it originally meant something along the lines of living life to the fullest, the term is getting a new meaning today. YOLO economy can be defined as describing the shift in a work culture that young professionals are experiencing. Increasingly, professionals have changed the way they view work and are quitting their stable jobs for a fresh look at new career options.

The new normal means more flexibility for workers

For the young professionals who are making this jump, the YOLO economy means flexibility for people to decide their own schedules. The primary reason why people leave or realign their careers is that they feel their old careers were no longer fulfilling. The overwhelming response is that young professionals are no longer content with traditional 9-5 roles and want something that feels more rewarding.

Flexibility means more than just starting work an hour later or taking Thursdays off. It means being available for moments in life that were missed before. Many professionals confess that they regret being absent for children’s plays, missing that fun trip with friends, or any number of moments because of their old jobs.

For many, Covid was a wake-up call. It allowed them to work from home and avoid that morning commute or getting to spend more time with family. This is one of the main drivers of the Great Resignation. It means reevaluating the time they gave to companies that sometimes weren’t willing to make accommodations during these unprecedented times. Now they want to work for themselves or at least find fairer arrangements.

A Microsoft Study found that around 40% of people surveyed globally were looking to change their career paths. During the summer of 2021, the job market saw a 60% increase in job resignations than the previous, according to the Wall Street Journal. These people are leaving to find new paths that suit them and accommodate their demands; they aren’t looking simply for a bump in salary.

Why do people prefer to live the YOLO lifestyle?

What does the YOLO economy mean for these new entrepreneurs? It means saying yes to autonomy and no to a permanent job. For many young professionals, especially those who have marketable skills or managed to secure a financial cushion during the pandemic, the risk of having a rewarding career outweighs the fears of leaving a stable job.

A significant number of the resignations during the Great Resignation is because these individuals are looking to start their own businesses. They want to work on their own terms. They want to set their own goals, their own hours, and not have to answer to anyone else. This means not having to work for someone else.

YOLO economy examples include turning that passion project or side hustle into a business. It means moving away from the crowded cities to work remotely in a small town to avoid expenses. It means being able to take advantage of your life and having a fulfilling career.

The YOLO economy is an outgrowth of workers from all walks of life who have had enough of being treated like cogs in a machine. So, the YOLO lifestyle means working with dignity and purpose in mind.


How to leverage your talent in the YOLO economy

It’s important to keep in mind the reasons why you decided to take on this new career path. For you, it means freedom and flexibility as well as the prospects of being in complete command of your career. This means that you should always look to leverage situations to your advantage.

Keep your personal goals in mind

As a self-employed worker, you should have your own goals. It’s probably the main reason why you drifted to solo work. This means that when working with clients, you should find ways to align your goals in a way that you both can get what you want from the arrangement. If you manage to get yourselves on the same page, then you’ll have a successful relationship.

When negotiating, be very clear about what the job requires

In a similar vein to aligning your goals, you should always negotiate the requirements of the job clearly and effectively so that there are no misunderstandings. You want to work on terms that are agreeable for both you and the client. This might mean wanting the space to do your best work and clear instructions on what they want from you. Finding a happy medium will get you the best outcome from the deal.

Know where you can really flex (and where you cannot)

This means that you have decided where you are willing to bend and where you are not.. Perhaps this means being willing to negotiate your price down a bit or changing your work schedule slightly to accommodate your client. However, always protect your right to decide for yourself. If something is very important to you like being free from micromanagement, then don’t budge on that issue. Keep this in mind when working with your clients.

Consider your emotional needs

One of the unique facets of being a solo worker is that you have a better opportunity to make your work fit your emotional needs. This ranges from making sure that you work in an environment that feels comfortable for you, making sure that you feel like your work has a purpose, or that you have the creative freedom to do what you want. Always take steps to ensure that you can meet your emotional needs.

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Leon Cordier

I'm an American guy living overseas that likes to write for a living.