The days of bagging a gold watch as a result of working for the same company for 25 years look well and truly over. It’s not that companies are cutting down on the dishing out of watches, it’s more that people are now moving away from traditional ways of working, and so perceived job security and the benefits that come from working for the same company for many years are now not what people are looking for in a job.
It is therefore no exaggeration to say that we are on the verge of the industrial revolution of our time. And while digital technologies and artificial intelligence will completely revolutionise certain industries – an area that we’ll be dedicating many more blog posts to – It is the rise of freelancing and our changing preferences towards work that is also contributing to the forthcoming transformation.
The UK freelancers’ association IPSE said that at the end of 2014 there were 1.88m independent professionals working in the UK, a 35 per cent jump from 2008.
Why exactly are we seeing this growth?
Driven by a changing workforce
Millennials have different views on their career, the life-style they want, and the importance of purpose in their working life. Freelancing is therefore what the millennial generation are turning to, to satisfy both their career needs, and their desire to improve their work life balance.
Research from Pew shows the millennial generation as now being the largest segment of the workforce. And so unsurprisingly, it is this new generation who – by taking over the workforce – are playing a big part in driving the growth in freelancing.
87% of graduates see freelancing as a highly attractive career option
Driven by a changing organisation
It’s not just the workers who benefit from a freelance approach; there are significant benefits for organisations too.
1. Organisations can be more agile and flexible – They can boost or cut their staffing levels in accordance with changing demand. Simply, talent is moving from a fixed cost to a variable cost.
2. There is a greater pool of talent, and availability of in-demand skills – meaning specialist skills can be accessed and brought in for short-term projects easily and cost effectively.
There are two other key ingredients that without, the freelance way of working would have really struggled to take off…
This is broken down into two sub sets.
1. The technology platforms that connect employers to freelancers: There are now many digital marketplaces, from which employees can source freelance talent – Upwork and Freelancer are two such examples. In addition, social media has become another important tool for allowing freelancers and employers to find out about each other and easily connect.
2. The technology platforms that makes freelance work easier to undertake:
Rich collaborative tools such as Slack, and productivity apps such as Trello are making it far easier for freelancers to work remotely and collaboratively with organisations.
More and better places to work remotely from
In most central London coffee shops and cafes, you can find yourself in the minority if you don’t have a laptop to go with your beverage of choice. Coffee shops and cafes have become the office for many a freelancer, offering the perfect environment conducive for effective working – all for the small cost of a coffee or two.
Co-working spaces. These are popping up all over the place now, another sure sign of the rising freelancer economy. A step up from the trusted coffee shop, yet not quite a return to the corporate office. Co-working spaces fill that happy half way ground. What sets apart co-working spaces from coffee shops, is their ability to offer the freelancer support and resources. The best co-working spaces actually make each freelancer feel like they are working for a startup. So not only do they offer a collaborative culture, but they also offer additional perks such as human resources, help with accounting, and training talks/presentations to name but a few.
Co-working spaces are great because they help to reduce the feelings of isolation that can be felt by independent freelancers; by offering much needed support and resources.
Freelancing is undoubtedly only going to grow in size and importance in the future. Therefore organisations must accommodate freelancers in order to compete. Organisations not only need to make themselves more attractive to freelance talent, but they need to ensure that they have the right tools and processes in place to efficiently manage the new freelance ways of working.
A long-standing bargain made between employees and employers is how:
Employees gave loyalty and the organisation gave security.
It’s an arrangement that perhaps looks set to be absent from the future of work, as freelancing looks set to dramatically reshape the nature of organisations and the structure of careers.
Yet, it’s worth pointing out, freelancing is not always a bed of roses. Yes you’re ‘your own boss’, and so you can choose the projects you want to take on, and take time off when you would like to. But being a freelancer also means you’re responsible for seeking and acquiring new business, taking responsibility for continual learning, and dealing with everything else that goes with running a business.
Will the future of work result in everyone being their own boss? Well, for now traditional ways of working still reign, but it’s looking more and more likely that a huge ‘way of working’ revolution will soon be upon us…