Freelance earnings have returned to pre-COVID levels: Report
Flexing It, Asia’s largest platform for business consultants and highly skilled flexible talent on-demand, reported that freelance earnings, which saw a decline at the initial onset of the global pandemic, have increased in the third quarter of 2020 and returned to pre-COVID levels. Flexing It, a curated platform which connects 70,000+ highly skilled freelancers with 3000+ companies worldwide, released new research today based on 3,84,000 fee quotations and benchmarks collected from independent consultants which showed trends in freelance earnings based on skillset, experience levels, gender and industry including Professional Services, Pharma & Healthcare, FMCG, Education and the Development Sector.
Chandrika Pasricha - Founder & CEO, Flexing It said: "After the initial decline in the earnings of freelancers as a result of the pandemic, we have now seen a return to pre-COVID levels. As top-tier global talent increasingly chooses freelancing because of the flexibility, autonomy and financial opportunities it offers, large corporates are rapidly recognizing and leveraging this talent pool for the agility, quality and specialised skills offered. Our data represents over 200 skills sets (including strategy, marketing, operations/supply chain, technology, HR and more) and reflects key trends in the earnings of top performing freelancers across sectors."
The impact of COVID
The median fee earned by freelance consultants dropped by almost 25% between the first and second quarter of 2020 but started picking up in the 3rd quarter onwards- slowly reaching pre-COVID levels.
In the FMCG industry, consultants were least impacted by the pandemic in terms of fees while in other industries, including Professional Services, Pharmaceuticals and Education, there was a decrease of over 20% in the median compensation between the 1st and 2nd quarter of 2020.
The impact of the pandemic on fees paid to junior consultants (with less than 5 years of experience) was limited and their earnings were relatively unaffected.
Longer term trends
The professional gig economy (the market for highly skilled freelance/independent talent) values experience, with skill levels, education and years of experience determining the fee they command. On the Flexing It platform, the income earned by consultants increases by 120% between 5-10 years of experience (INR 6800 per day) vs. 15-20 years of experience (INR 15000 per day). In addition to simple years, the ‘quality’ of a consultant’s experience i.e. educational background, past organizations and positive feedback on prior projects, has a significant impact on his/her ability to charge higher fees.
This trend is also prevalent across the top industries demanding flexible consultants. Here is a snapshot of the per diem fees paid to consultants with 15-20 years of experience level at the median, 75th & 90th percentile for some of the industries with high usage of freelance talent on Flexing It:
With respect to top skills in demand, Information Technology is the highest paying skill for Junior Consultants with less than 5 years of experience with a median per diem fees of INR 6500 and those in the 90th percentile commanding INR 28000. At higher experience levels between 15-20 years of experience both Strategy & IT Consultants charge the highest median fee of 15,000.
The impact of gender on earnings
The gender pay gap persists in freelance work too with the median income of women lower than that of men by 35% (based on per diems). Though the median compensation of women is significantly lower than that of men, it grows at a relatively higher rate than that of men until 20 years of experience. However, it stagnates at this point while that of men continues to grow. Post 20 years of experience, while men's median income rose by 20% from 15,000 to 18,000, that of women remained the same at 12,000.