This post was written by consultant Jacqueline Alexander.
Freelancing is a growing economy, but one that’s relatively unexplored by the establishment.
In less than 10 years, freelancing has gone from being a niche activity to the lifeblood of business, and it will only continue to rise as more Americans take up the practice.
When Freelancer.com first started doing its research in 2002, the company surveyed very few people who decided to freelance full-time. Today, there are more than 9 million freelancers, many more than there were in 2002.
And while most freelancers reported to be good at making contacts, they had a hard time finding good help.
“There was this whole gap in the market,” Adam Nash, CEO of Freelancer.com, said. “There was no place where you could turn to get vetted for the kind of work you could get.”
Years later, word of mouth has helped to double Freelancer.com’s subscriber base. Now that it has the power of the Internet and people who trust its recommendation, the company is pushing to build the same kind of reputation as a job board, through daily newsletters and blogs.
People have a hard time staying unemployed. Fifteen years ago, 54 percent of the labor force was employed full-time. Today, that number is close to 80 percent. This is typically the result of advancements in technology and the need for more efficient production.
“The job-seeking process is now moving from employers using a number of job boards to individuals creating their own job boards,” Nash said.
Although its competitive against the large, traditional job boards like CareerBuilder and Monster, Nash explained that it has learned from them and is incorporating certain elements into its job descriptions. Some of the differences are less semantic, like the number of months needed to get a job on the list and the amount of time applicants can wait for responses. But Nash said the popularity of using Freelancer.com has also helped the company innovate, like giving applicants a sense of what they should expect when they get jobs from the company.
“Freelancing is not a choice for every business, but it can be a solution for some,” Nash said. “There is an opportunity for companies to leverage the economic benefits of the freelancer community.”
These benefits range from revenue to employees who can take advantage of more flexible work schedules.
“Instead of requiring people to take a 10-week vacation in August, you need to see them every day,” Nash said. “Now you don’t need them to sit in the office, you can easily draw them away from home to make sure they’re spending time with you.”
It’s also easier to take advantage of freelancers when time, budget and other concerns prevent employees from performing the full day’s work.
“There’s no time to grow your passion project when you have three clients that need to be submitted,” Nash said. “Freelancers can take the projects that are the most important and grow them.”
Freelancing seems to be an increasingly popular career choice, not only because of its growth in terms of numbers, but also because it has been a much sought-after job over the past few years. Many companies are desperate for new workers, and many are aware of the factors that go into freelancing, such as being able to work remotely or taking vacation days that your employer doesn’t.
Nash said his company’s expansion to new markets has a lot to do with finding good talent. Freelancing is a growing industry, and companies know that they will need skilled workers.
“The economic recovery led to a lot of people seeing working outside the office as a great alternative to working at a job,” Nash said. “This marketplace is becoming so big that people are trying to dig into it and figure out where it’s going to take them.”
The proliferation of freelancing may well herald an even bigger future for the once little-known form of work. This makes it clear: Freelancing has found a great place in our world, and it could quickly have an even bigger impact on the workforce of the future.
And in doing so, it could be a welcome change.