The Future of Freelancing

Freelancing is big business. But when you consider that only less than 1% of the $500 billion global staffing industry is captured by online freelance platforms, perhaps freelancing isn’t as big as it should be. Yet.

There are parallels between freelancing as we know today and the early days of e-commerce. 20 or so years ago, e-commerce accounted for less than 1% of all commercial transactions. Today, it’s 15%. Back then, people simply didn’t whip out their credit cards as readily as they do now. The modern consumer however is much more willing to buy online, and trends indicate that e-services is headed the same way.

It’s a great time for freelancing. The market’s changing everyday, there’s constant innovation, and more people are getting into it from every field and region. Here’s a look at how the new age of freelancing is being shaped:

  • More professionals and specialists choose to work as freelancers, either full-time or moonlighting when convenient. According to Forbes, almost one-third of the US workforce qualify as freelancers.
  • Businesses are more eager to hire freelancers than employ full-time staff. It makes a huge difference in HR costs, not to mention freelancing brings world-class talent from anywhere in the world.
  • Freelancers are gradually moving to the online space. It’s a much bigger market than offline, and makes logistics and payments easier.

Change Is in the Air

We’re on the cusp of change. By 2020 the industry is expected to grow to between $23 and 46 billion, with more than half the US workforce engaged in some sort of freelance work. It’s a staggering statistic, but when you think about it, it makes sense. Let’s look at why.

Internet Penetration

Anything web-based is going to grow with higher levels of Internet penetration. As vast swathes of markets in different parts of the world get online, and as Internet-provider services improve, the online freelancing space is only going to get bigger and better.

e-Commerce Paradigm

Today, Amazon is a $90 billion enterprise whereas the most successful online freelancing platforms struggle to achieve $1 billion in annual revenues. However, e-commerce giants such as Amazon started out much the same way as today’s freelancing platforms, and it’s only a matter of time that online freelancing takes off and achieves similar figures.

Ready Supply

Just as any marketplace, freelance platforms have two sides — the demand side and the supply side. The supply is made up of professionals who are willing to share their expertise with businesses in exchange for fees, and the demand side is represented by businesses in need of expert services.

The Internet-savvy professionals of today have already established an online presence by opening accounts on multiple freelancing or portfolio sites. There’s Dribbble and Behance for designers, Contently for copywriters, Upwork and for most type of freelance work, and LinkedIn for just about everyone.

That is to say, the supply side is ready. This is similar to the early days of e-commerce, when stores were first getting their inventory online (and building tools to make the inventory discoverable) to ready the supply. As happened with e-commerce, when the freelance supply reaches the critical mass, the demand side will follow suit and grow.

Diversified Platforms

There’s a plethora of freelance platforms out there. First, there are the general freelance marketplaces such as Upwork and where clients post jobs, receive bids and hire professionals. Then there are platforms where you buy services in prepackaged form. These include sites such as Fiverr and DigiServed. Finally, there are vertical marketplaces that offer an optimized experience but focus on a narrow scope or specialization — there’s Scripted for content, Zirtual for virtual assistants, Upcounsel for legal work, Toptal for high-quality engineers.

Whatever your need, there’s a freelance platform for it and plenty of capable professionals ready to help you out.

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