The freelancing industry is a fascinating one. Its break-neck growth in recent years has been astounding. People from every walk of life are now considering freelancing as a permanent career option. Let’s look at what the sector is currently like and how freelancing will change in the upcoming decade.
Freelancing is growing because of the seismic changes in the global labor markets. In-house 9-to-5 employment is no longer the only way to earn a good income. Digital work platforms and online talent marketplaces have initially commoditized access to top-caliber talent. Remote work further persuaded both employers and employees that labor can be productively done from anywhere.
This new degree of autonomy and flexibility made workers question their earlier career choices — and employers wonder why they haven’t used freelancers before!
What we see, as a result, are the rising rates of freelancer supply and demand.
In short, more employees are empowered to work solo and more employers are willing to higher independent talent.
That’s a good question, but not an easy one to answer. Because no one can tell the future, only guess it.
At Xolo, we did a fair bit of research to map the global freelancing trends into a visionary picture. We believe the future of freelancing will be defined by four factors:
Now, let’s zoom in on each trend.
These days, companies are more likely to recognize freelance talent as the true powerhouse it has become.
A 2022 survey by MassChallenge, says that 73% of tech companies now operate “blended teams,” made up of full-time employees and freelancers. Among those remote team managers, 71% agree that freelancers and independent contractors have significantly increased their business agility.
Freelancers’ work ethics, market experience, and modern thinking are all assets that companies want to benefit from. According to the “The Future of Workforce” report by Upwork, the sweeping majority of employees agree that:
So unsurprisingly, a sound 66% of employers plan to increase their reliance on freelancers over 2023-2024.
Given the turbulent macroeconomic developments, companies also have to be more flexible – and frugal – in their approaches to talent management.
Globally, 85 million jobs can be left unfilled by 2030 due to ongoing skills shortages.
Yet top-tier, highly-specialized talent is hard to hire and retain. Smaller employers are priced out by Big Tech firms in the ongoing battle for technology specialists, as well as non-technical people required to support software products.
At the same time, not all employees are really keen on accepting full-time office jobs (even amidst a likely recession). On the contrary, 60% believe that fewer people will have stable, long-term employment in the short-term future.
Instead, we’ll be heading into the future of work where according to PwC:
“Big business has been outflanked in a digital-enabled world that’s teeming with small entrepreneurial companies. Digital platforms match workers with employers, skills with demand, capital with innovators, and consumer with suppliers. This allows serial entrepreneurs to reach far beyond their size in terms of influence and scale.”
And the above scenario doesn’t sound as futuristic when you look at it through the context of current benefits freelancers generate for businesses such as:
Or, in the words of Irish researcher Andrew Burke: “Freelancers are unique economic agents in their own right who can add significant value to organizations throughout all the stages of innovation development” — and more and more employers are recognizing this trend.
As freelancing becomes more accepted by employers, new well-paid niches will emerge — and more digital freelance platforms will facilitate employment.
We expect a particularly bright future for freelancing in the following industries:
Discover even more in-demand freelance skills and professions!
In the early 2010s, freelancers had to get by with resources designed for small businesses or in-house teams. As the freelance economy grew bigger and bolder, better-tailored products started to emerge.
Today, Xolo seeks to bring a new evolution of superior and rethought freelancer tools into the modern era — no more flooded marketplaces, low-quality projects and lack of community and support. Xolo stands at the forefront of today, giving freelancers the spotlight.
In the second half of the 2020s, we also predict the following global freelancing trends:
As more people start freelancing, regulatory bodies around the world are finally issuing some helpful legislation.
For example, the rise of freelancers in the UK has not gone unnoticed by the UK Government. In response to this, it has placed a strong emphasis on self-employment in its ‘Good Work Plan.’ This sets out a package of workplace reforms over the next 20 years to meet the changing world of employment.
The European Commission, in turn, developed a series of proposals for protecting digital platform workers (both engaged in gig-based and regular online work). The upcoming legislature is primarily aimed at improving the working conditions of the digitally employed, clarifying their classification with the employers, and increasing transparency in the usage of platform algorithms.
The Swedish government, in turn, has proposed changes to the Work Environment Act. These are meant to extend the obligation of employers to perform systematic work environment management to freelance, self-employed, and contract-based workers. In simpler words — provide them with better working conditions and extra social protections.
The Philippines parliament also approved a new bill, which better protects freelance workers against poor or unsafe working conditions. Specifically, it now mandates hazard pay and night shift differential pay for independents.
Our hunch is that more modern legislation will become one of the defining freelancing trends in the second part of the 2020s and onward. Perhaps, we’ll see even more governments launching e-Residency programs (like the one in Estonia!) to attract, protect, and empower local and foreign digital workers.
A resounding "Yes!" Remote work will remain the “norm” and continue to gain popularity. In 2022, 58% of US workers (or 92 million people) already work from home at least once per week. By 2025, an estimated 36 million Americans (approximately 22%) will work remotely full-time.
Another forecast by Global Workplace Analytics, says that 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days a month by 2025. An earlier survey from Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) counters that as much as 40% of global workers will work remotely full-time by the same year.
Though the stats differ, the trend is clear: Remote work will remain an option because that’s how most people prefer to work. 75% of Millennial and Gen Z workers name hybrid or remote work as a preferred arrangement. Moreover, with the severe global talent crunch, more employers are willing to hire remote workers and permanently operate as blended teams. Combined, these factors make remote work, not just the “future,” but a “future continuous.”
Recession often means job cuts — and these will likely happen, but not among remote workers. As remote work leads to cost savings and productivity improvements, even the die-hard opponents start to re-assess their views.
Most are rationalized by the hard numbers about the remote work benefits:
In other words: Employers can run leaner, more productive, and more cost-effective teams by keeping them remote. And that’s just the kind of combo most need during the recession.
The future of freelancing assumes new workforce market dynamics where:
In response to this new market dynamics, new public and private resources emerge, ranging from favorable legislature and visa policies to extra tools for remote collaboration, finance management, tax reporting, and other business admin tasks.
And what do you think the future of the freelancing industry holds?
Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.
Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.
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