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Future of Work: Will we all become freelancers?

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22 September 2015
Future of Work: Will we all become freelancers?

In recent years, there has been a lot of discussion around what is termed the ‘casualisation of the workforce’ or ‘the gig economy’ – that is, the rising number of workers on casual or freelance contracts as opposed to in permanent positions.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data from 2015, while the overall proportion of casual workers has remained constant, the number of under-30s employed on a casual basis has risen considerably.  While it is difficult to accurately measure the number of full-time freelancers in Australia (as many 9-to-5 workers also undertake freelance work in their spare time) a survey by Edelman found that 32% of Australians engaged in some kind of freelance work.

RELATED: What are the benefits of contracting?


Freelancing driven by desire for flexible work

Advances in mobile technology and high-speed internet access are continuing at an astounding rate, allowing new and more flexible ways of finding, producing and delivering work. Consequently, professionals are increasingly seeking arrangements that align with their lifestyles and preferred ways of working. Freelancing therefore emerges as a way for people to take complete control of their careers.

While many professionals who are accustomed to the security of a permanent, full-time role might be fearful of the instability that comes along with freelancing, the increasingly high priority we place on flexibility may just overcome this concern. 

Income diversity seen a wise choice

In addition, as even established businesses fluctuate in an uncertain global market, some are starting to see the diversification of income streams as a way to guarantee their income in the event of an unforeseen circumstance such as redundancy, relocation or the increasing automation of jobs.

Many people are keen to get ahead financially as well, and are happy to work evenings and weekends to save for buying property or for more spending money.

Hiring managers taking an agile approach to hiring

Complementing people’s desire to take a flexible approach to work is the fact that businesses are able to flex up and down headcount with contractors, freelancers or temp workers as required.

In times of heavy workload, to fill in a gap while looking for a new hire or to reach a deadline, hiring managers are taking advantage of a flexible contingent workforce that can meet their needs without the necessity of making permanent hires. 

Many hiring managers work with preferred contractors and freelancers at set times of the year, with both parties benefiting from an ongoing relationship.

The future of work

So are we all destined to become full-time freelancers? Probably not. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, the majority of young professionals still prefer full-time, permanent roles. Meanwhile, for hiring managers, the value of institutional knowledge gained from long-term permanent employees is unmatched.

Some roles lend themselves better to freelance than others, and as companies streamline for greater efficiency, it is likely that these roles will be moved out-of-house – presenting more opportunities for those who want to work as freelancers. It is also likely that more people will take on occasional extra work to bulk up their income and diversify their skills.

Contracting is also an increasingly attractive option – distinct from freelancing, contractors with specific skills will typically join teams for fixed periods or projects on a full-time basis, whereas freelancers would typically do smaller jobs for a range of clients.

Contractors usually pursue this path to enjoy the flexibility of changing roles periodically and being paid at a higher rate, but also having visibility over how long each contract is, allowing them to line up the next job in advance.
 

Becoming a freelancer

If you're considering becoming a freelancer, it's crucial to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is there a demand for my services or is the market crowded?
  • What is the market value for my services and can that sustain me compared to my current income?
  • Where would I find work and whom would I approach?
  • What are my reasons for wanting to freelance?

RELATED: FAQs for future contractors


If possible, it's a good idea to do some freelance work after hours to get a taste for what it is like to source and secure work, and the volume of work that is potentially available.  After all, flexibility doesn't mean much if you can't pay your bills.

Freelancing and contracting isn’t for everyone, but for those with the drive and skills it can be a rewarding career option.

To discuss the benefits of freelancing versus contracting or permanent roles, get in touch with one of our career consultants.

Summary: 

People are turning to freelancing because they want flexible working arrangements and diverse income streams. While this can also be beneficial to hiring managers who can take advantage of a flexible workforce, it’s unlikely that everyone will end up as a freelancer while full-time employees (and full-time employment) remain in demand.