Freelance job market during COVID-19

The growing trend towards freelance work has been around for some time. The Intuit 2020 Report, forecast that by 2020 more that 40% of the US workforce would not be in permanent employment choosing freelance or temp work instead. The COVID-19 pandemic seems to have truly accelerated this shift, persuading companies to have more trust in remote and freelance work.  Upwork CEO, Hayden Brown, reported that they had seen explosive growth in new freelancer registrations and business requests for workers since the COVID-19 crisis began. According to this popular freelance job platform, 59 million Americans are now freelancing, i.e., 36% of the US workforce.  

COVID-19 will accelerate companies’ use of gig workers and legitimize it more”, says Joseph Fuller, a Harvard Business School professor of management practice who co-chairs a research project called Managing the Future of Work. “It’s forced companies to blow through some of their concerns about distance work for their overall workforce, and that facilitates the use of distance workers and third parties in ways that they may have not anticipated.

Switching to freelancing may be daunting for people who are more used to steady permanent jobs. Here are a few tips how to make it work: 

  • Narrow it down.

Marianne Ruggiero, founder and president of Optima Careers, believes that “the market rewards specialization.” Consider the relevancy of your specialty for the current needs of the market and adjust accordingly. “Don’t forget to analyze not only what you’re good at—but also what parts of your profession you like doing the most”, advises career coach, Sarina Virk Torrendell. 

  • Be prepared. 

The life of a freelancer is filled with “feasts and famine” and according to research co-conducted by Brianna Barker Caza, an associate professor of management at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, those who realize the level of income uncertainty involved are the ones who thrive in freelancing. 

Ask other independent professionals in your field about current market rates so you can set your own prices. You may want to consider consulting someone who can review your job-contracts, or learn to do so yourself, advises Prof. Fuller of Harvard Business School. 

Suggested read: Consultancy fees and per diems: insights and tips from DevelopmentAid recruiters

  • Market yourself. 

Every time you have finished one gig, the search for the next one must start all over again. Keep your professional social media up to date and think carefully  about which channels you use and how your networks can best serve you.  

According to Matt Barrie, CEO of online freelance market place, Freelancer, freelance jobs in the field of mathematical modeling — like Matlab and algorithm projects — saw the greatest increase in 2020, increasing by 99.6%. Statistics and statistical analysis positions also saw a huge rise of 75%. These skills are needed due to a spike in the use of competitive trading platforms and investment sites. 

As people spend more time at home, the demand for online shopping and home entertainment has increased dramatically, translating into a rise for game designers (68%), game developers (64%) and e-commerce professionals (54.4%).  

Platforms like Braintrust, Catalant, Fiverr, Toptal, Freelancer and Upwork are trusted sites that match independent workers with companies. These are typically are free to join but may charge commission on the contracts undertaken. As with any website to which you uploading personal information, make sure you read through the privacy policy so that you are comfortable with where your information and data is going.  

Suggested read: Rise of Digital Learning – Information on Demand

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