Who You Calling An Adult?
I know a freelancer who objects to this. He understands my point about IPs being the most "adult" workers, in the sense of being most on their own and least protected. However, his gut feeling seems to be the opposite: that somehow, freelancers seem less adult.
I know what he means, even though he didn't explain. His feeling has some real basis to it -- but in a different sense than I was talking about, and even then only for some IPs. He's a young musician/computer geek, and his friends are too, and they all do freelance computer work just enough to support themselves. To young people for whom freelancing means casual work, and who freelance in a field that's different from their real goal, freelancing can feel like an alternative to becoming a real adult. "Adult" in this context means buckling down to a full-time job, getting married, buying a house, having kids, and being chained to a whole range of possibly un-hip and un-creative responsibilities. Deep down, many drifting freelancers aren't that interested in their freelancing at all. Instead, they balance fantasies of making it big in some other kind of IP work (whatever it is that they love, usually in an artistic or otherwise glamorous field) with the expectation that they'll eventually end up with a "regular job" they don't really want.
However, some of them -- the luckiest ones -- may discover that there are things they can do for decent money that also matter to them. To older (or just more successful) IPs, who've learned how to make a good living freelancing or consulting at work they love, being an IP isn't just youthful screwing around. At best, it combines youthful exuberance and freedom with the adult sensation of being responsible for your own fate, with no daddy boss to yell at you and no mommy corporation to take care of you.