“I ask the question because one of the distinguishing characteristics of this current economic downturn/recession/depression is that it is pushing a lot of workers out of regular jobs and into the ranks of the self-employed, whether they like it or not,” writes John Hollon, editor of Workforce Management. He argues that freelancing—once a lifestyle choice—is becoming an economic necessity. That out of work, talented people are cobbling together a living with contract work, part-time gigs, and other work-from-home projects. And that it’s possible that as the economy bounces back, employers will find they like their freelancers (no benefits to pay!) and employees will realize they can “be successful working for themselves without the BS they get in a traditional job.”

Awesome! But is this really that new? Web gurus have been advocating generating multiple streams of income for years—here’s an article back from 2002. And personal branding, though it’s gotten more attention in the last year or so thanks to Twitter and LinkedIn, isn’t a new concept: FastCompany wrote about the idea in 1997. Working, consulting on the side, and possibly teaching a class or two is a given in the media industry, right? Or is Hollon right, and the economy’s pushing people to fend for themselves on a scale never before seen?

What do you think? Tell us in the comments.