In the recent years, a change has quietly swept the workforce statistics. The word ‘freelancer’ is no longer equated to laziness or unemployment. There are many successful freelance professionals who get paid a handsome amount for their work, and are happy about their work hours too. According to the recent statistics published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, the number of freelancers or contract workers in the “gig economy” stands at more than 15% in the US alone.
So what is this “gig economy” and why is this “alternative workforce” so important for the future? Let’s find out.
The gig economy
The gig economy, as defined by Investopedia is one where “temporary, flexible jobs are commonplace and companies tend toward hiring independent contractors and freelancers instead of full-time employees.” [sic]
In most parts, it is seen as a threat to the mainstream traditional full-time workforce. With the rise of technology, and the availability of a globally connected, highly skilled workforce willing to take on temporary part-time positions to fill the needs of employers and customers, providing them with high-quality services at a lower cost. The perfect example of this is seen in Uber and AirBnb. However, it isn’t limited to these consumer-led services alone. In fact, the four biggest contributors to the gig economy are education, construction, healthcare, and professional and business services.
The alternative workforce
Not all jobs are suited for freelancers or part-time employees. Jobs that require a finite engagement from the employee, like writing assignments, website and app design, IT and computing, statistical research, public relations, and digital marketing are considered the best opportunity banks for freelance professionals.
These alternative workers often pursue opportunities to suit their passions or available skills to create a second source of income. It offers them the flexibility and variety in work that is otherwise missing from a full-time job.
However, there are some cons to this arrangement as well. The inconsistent availability of work and the lack of benefits can prove to be a hinderance for some people. The lack of a set hours can often make it difficult to focus on work as well, but that can easily be corrected with self-motivation and dedication.
The future of gig economy
Micha Kaufman of Fiverr believes that half of the working population will consist of freelancers or gig workers by the year 2020. In another article for Wired, he goes on to say that it would bring countries like the US that were among the hardest hit by recession, back from the annals of the 2008 depression. This environment, where freelancers are getting their dues and are seen as making valuable contributions to organizations by experts, needs more marketplaces where they can promote their expertise and connect with employers looking for their particular skill set.
However, others like Larry Alton, a freelance digital marketer and writer, believes that the gig economy is yet another bubble about to go bust just like the dot-com bubble of 1999 and the sub-prime loan bubble of 2008.
Whichever might be the case you wish to believe in, the fact is that being a freelance professional is no longer a taboo in the business world. Not only does it provide professionals with an alternative source of income, but also benefits them by adding to their skill set and resumé as they progress. For businesses, it is proving to be extremely beneficial to hire the best experts at extremely economical rates and get the best results without exerting themselves financially.