What is freelance work exactly? This is a growing trend that keeps growing! Read more details below.
Freelance workers, whether they’re sole proprietors, contractors, or full-time workers running a side-gig, have seen rapid growth in their industry for years now. But at no point did the freelance revolution barrel forward with as much speed and intensity as during the COVID pandemic.
What is a Freelance Work?
What does it mean to be a freelancer? It means working independently with different clients, setting per-project deadlines and hourly compensation, managing your own networking and marketing needs, and sending out multiple proposals every month to maintain a steady number of clients.
It means handling your own communications, bookkeeping, scheduling, and taxes. It means promoting your profiles, boosting your posts, and working for exposure – by potentially setting up a website, engaging with job listings, and fishing for clients.
Freelance work comes with a lot of freedom and flexibility. You largely set your own hours, and while you report to clients, you are technically your own boss. Many clients don’t care how you get your work done, as long as it gets done by the time it’s needed. And there are no worries or headaches surrounding company policy, getting along with coworkers, or relying on other team members.
It used to be that freelance work meant less job security and little to no chances at career growth. However, that’s changed. Newcomers to the workforce feel that traditional job security has plummeted as of late and see freelancing as a safer option in some cases.
Furthermore, the new generation knows that career growth is just a matter of experience and rebranding. Future workers who have little faith in the long-term value executives and managers might see in them are embracing freelance work as an opportunity to be in control of whom they work for, to what ends, and for how long. But why has freelance work grown so strongly as of late, even in the middle of a global economic crisis?
How COVID Drove Rapid Growth in Freelance Work
There are a few reasons why the pandemic was ultimately conducive to pushing newcomers in the workforce to consider freelancing as a viable option. The most likely reason is the shift towards remote.
COVID radically sped up global digitalization and the adoption of e-commerce technologies, e-pay, and work-from-home practices. More businesses went remote during or after COVID than ever before, and the use of telecommunications software exploded. Practically everyone was on Zoom or in a Teams meeting, and for many months, it seemed like going fully remote was becoming the New Normal for offices everywhere.
Since then, many companies have gone back to mostly working from traditional office spaces. But many others continue to operate in a hybrid or fully remote setting. And for some companies, that means access to a much wider talent pool, including freelance talent.
On the flip side, more fresh graduates and even experienced professionals who enjoyed or thrived through remote work have turned to freelance gigs as a means to avoid a return to the office, or to weather the financial storm that COVID wrought. Millions of people found themselves unemployed a short few weeks after the pandemic started, and that didn’t change for a long time. The loss of other work opportunities is another reason for the freelance boom.
Employers cut costs wherever they could, and despite employee retention tax credits and other incentives, many found themselves furloughed or working fewer hours as a result of the pandemic.
Freelance work became a viable opportunity to earn money on the side and turn the extra hours into much needed extra cash, by utilizing freelancing platforms like Upwork to find working opportunities.
Freelance Markets That Benefited the Most
While the tide rose on freelance work in general, some ships rose much higher than others. The pandemic saw especially high demand in the freelance markets for mathematics, statistical analysis, e-commerce, and game development.
Government organizations, private companies, and media outlets needed raw data to be analyzed and crunched as quickly as possible. As e-commerce platforms exploded in growth, they needed a wave of fresh hires and freelance workers to manage the work that their exponential growth brought on.
Freelance statistical analysts and big data analysts saw demand rise as companies and platforms saw a stark increase in user activity as more people stayed home. And with the stay-at-home orders came an influx of new gamers, as well as more time and money spent on gaming consoles and new games than ever, helping studios finance the expertise needed to build assets and kickstart development remotely via freelance work.
Entering the Freelance Market
If you’ve never gone freelance before, then there are a few things to know before you consider entering the game – first, know your niche.
While demand for freelancers has grown considerably, it’s still a competitive market, and pay may not be the best at an entry level. Skilled work is greatly valued, but you must be careful to avoid gigs that openly try to exploit your work for poor pay.
Consider testing the waters with a few gigs before jumping full-time into freelancing. It can be difficult to tell whether it’s worth it, especially if you aren’t sure how demand will fluctuate over time.
And most importantly, never stop learning. Online courses, both paid and free, net you both knowledge and certification. Improving your skills is a crucial step in staying competitive in the freelance market, and stagnancy can lead to career death.
Alternatives to Work-From-Home
While the growth in remote work through work-from-home is a vital factor in the growth of freelance work in general, it isn’t the ideal workplace setting for many.
Some companies have reverted their work-from-home policies, while others have adopted a laxer attitude to remote work and work-from-anywhere.
Freelance workers who can control when and where they work get the best of all worlds – through coworking spaces. Coworking spaces provide freelancers with the same perks of a fully-fledged office environment without asking them to build their own office or join a larger company.
Through a coworking space, a freelancer can thrive in a busy environment and benefit from potential collaboration and networking opportunities with other workers around them, while getting away from a distracting home environment.