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Why the Freelance Life May Get Easier (and More Lucrative) in the Future

Winning well-paying projects at big companies may soon get easier for highly-skilled, independent professionals.

As Deloitte’s new 2019 Global Human Capital Trends Report points out, the alternative workforce — made up of freelancers, contractors and gig workers — has gone mainstream as talent markets have tightened. Organizations are starting to look more strategically at the full gamut of work arrangements, including alternative ones, as they plan their growth.

With the number of self-employed people in the U.S. expected to hit 42 million by 2020 and freelancers the fastest growing labor group in the U.K., many organizations are starting to embrace the trend when it comes to getting high-level work done. In Deloitte’s survey of nearly 10,000 people in 119 countries, 33% of respondents said their organizations are using alternative work arrangements for IT, 25% for operations, 15% for marketing and 15% for research and development.

What is driving the trend? One factor is the growth of large, general freelance platforms such as Upwork and Fivver. These platforms have increasingly focused on attracting enterprise clients and workers with the capabilities to serve them.

“It’s possible for organizations to tap into these platforms to find highly-skilled workers,” says Steven Hatfield, a principal at Deloitte who is global future of work leader.

The growth of platforms for particular types of workers — such as Kaggle, a hub for data science professionals acquired by Google in 2017 — has also contributed, the report found.

So has the existence of networks that focus on specific pools of employees — such as veterans or at-home parents. Among them are The Mom Project, The Second Shift and WeGoLook. They are now responsible for $2 billion in outsourced activity, putting people to work around the world, the report notes.

Talent networks are also springing up. Deloitte, for its part, has been setting up a practice called Pixel that helps organizations crowdsource ideas and tap into gig workers with particular skill sets and capabilities.

Against this backdrop, 42% of respondents said they considered it important to capitalize fully on the alternative workforce. “Organizations at this point are starting to acknowledge these are critical things,” says Hatfield. “They are thinking the opportunity is moving at a rapid clip. They need to accelerate it.”

However, only 28% reported they were ready, organizationally speaking, to address this and just 8% said they have best-in-class processes to manage the alternative workforce.

“Folks are still behind in getting their internal processes in place,” says Hatfield. Many need the right collaboration tools and security procedures, he says.

But attracting great free agents goes beyond policies and procedures. It also means building a freelance-friendly culture, Deloitte has found.

“They need to think about not just how to find a particular capability but rather have they created an environment that attracts this kind of workers and makes it easy for them to plug into work?” says Hatfield. “It’s about curating this workforce and creating the environment that attracts them. They will come to work for you because they like your culture and it’s easy to get work done.”

Pulling this off successfully brings real rewards. Deloitte found it increases organizational performance, as in the case of Bosch, where freelance senior consultants have a 92% satisfaction rate among their customers.

Even if the workplace isn’t fully ready to embrace freelancers, opportunities for those resilient enough to navigate the system will continue to increase, the report found.

One area where gig workers will face increasing demand is in new hybrid roles, known as “super jobs,” says Hatfield. For instance, if an organization needs a career coach who also can give financial advice, a gig worker with coaching experience might be hired to supplement the skills of an in-house financial advisor.

This trend bodes well for specialized freelancers. “I think there’s a world of opportunity,” says Hatfield. “It will be increasingly possible for people to use their passion.”


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