10 Dec 2018

As 2019 draws to a close, we decided to look ahead for this week’s #ConnectWithContent, the blog we write every week and we distilled some predictions on the future of freelancing, trying to find out whether or not freelancing will be the future of employment.

At HRbuilders we have seen the freelance economy take off in Belgium and Europe. Like the other HRbuilders #dreamteam members, we are convinced freelancing is on the rise and that’s why we are committed to building freelance careers and connecting HR freelancers to challenging assignments. But that doesn’t mean we think we’re all fated to become independent contractors or solopreneurs.

So… No, We Won’t All Be Freelancers In The Future Of Work

And the author of this first article that we'd like to share with you, tends to agree: while many of today’s workers are swapping long commutes, outdated workplace hierarchies, and the nine-to-five grind for the freedom to be their own boss and set their own hours, the fact is that not everyone will. Traditionally employed workers are on the decline, but that model isn’t about to vanish.

The truth about freelancing?

Freelancing is often portrayed as liberating, empowering, and even glamorous, but the reality - as easoned freelancers know of course - is far more complex…

Let’s start with some facts and figures that I found in this article

Fact: today, freelancers represent 35% of the United States workforce. In the European Union, the rate is 16.1%. Both figures demonstrate the same global trend: from creative entrepreneurs to those paid by the task, freelancing is on the rise worldwide.

Fact: A 2017 study found that the majority of freelancers in OECD countries are “slashers”, meaning that their contract work supplements another part-time or full-time position.

And these additional earnings can vary considerably

The most glamorous face of freelancing is the so-called creative class: an agile, connected, highly educated and globalised category of workers that specialise in communications, media, design, art and tech, among others sectors: we’re talking web designers, bloggers, consultants, whose job it is to stay on top of trends. The most cutting-edge among them end up playing the role of social “influencers”. In London this group has been partially responsible for what the economist Douglas McWilliams has dubbed the “flat-white economy”, a flourishing, coffee-fuelled market based on creativity, which combines innovative approaches to business and lifestyle. Such hipsters, who are also referred to as “proficians”, may be relatively successful in their self-employment, with numerous gigs and a wide portfolio of clients, representing the future of British prosperity.

Next to the proficians, we have the precarians: task-tacklers working long hours carrying our repetitive tasks, that do not require a high level of expertise and creativity, and are thus easily interchangeable.

And in between we have those struggling to juggle enough gigs to get by and in-betweeners: people driven by their passion but struggling to earn a decent living out of it; students earning a few extra euros by working a handful of hours a week or people who have recently been confronted with unemployment and are making sure they have a plan B.

Freelancers will have the majority of jobs in the future (?)

According to the author of this article freelancers will not only be a workforce to be reckoned with, employers - she states - will no longer be focused on hiring and retaining full-time or part-time workers but on building a team of freelancers that they can rely on and call on as is needed to run the business.

We don’t agree…

True, with the rise of technology and flexibility, it stands to reason that more and more companies will begin running and growing, their businesses with considerably fewer employees. This does not necessarily mean an increase in unemployment. Instead, it likely will mean more freelancers.

In our opinion, freelancers will certainly not take all the jobs, but we are moving towards a blended hybrid workforce, where freelancers are working together with full-time and part-time workers.

And the biggest challenge will be for leaders to get used to managing this very diverse multi-generational,
multi-cultural and blended teams and leveraging the talent of all those people to achieve great business results.

That’s why we are convinced that HR should take the lead!

First of all to support leaders in managing such a hybrid workforce, second because total talent management will gain relevance in 2019.

So, while traditional companies will stick to only hiring and training employees to do the job and invest in a lot of training and skill development, the more progressive companies will also reach out to freelancers to fill the gaps of skills that their current team lacks.

Freelancing because a fulfilled life is better than a work-filled life

The rise of technology has enabled more people to create their life around their work.
A ‘life-first’ attitude is prevalent especially among millennials but also impacting
all generations as human beings seek to have a fulfilled life, not a ‘work-filled life’.

Freelancers also know they are only as good as their performance on their last project. Therefore, they are constantly upgrading skills, staying on top of tech innovation and actively seeking opportunities as they see them arise.

In this article I found 4 key criteria that successful freelancers of the future will need to possess in order to stay competitive and succeed:

First, a specialized skill set: specialization is more likely to win the day.

It’s a matter of supply and demand: The more specialized your skills, the rarer they’ll be, and the more people will pay for them. The average shelf life of many existing skill sets is declining, with employers already having trouble filling open positions. In fact, more than 80% of HR professionals find it difficult to attract people with the right skills, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.

As a result, in the so-called “war for talent,” professionals who can offer a
differentiated skill set for a particular project will have a leg up in the freelance marketplace.

Second: today’s in-demand skills won’t be tomorrow’s.

If you’re comfortable moving swiftly from one job to another, you may have an easier time staying up to date in the freelance economy–by picking up fresh skills and experience with each new project.

And today’s freelancers have already learned this lesson as they are skilling up
more quickly than their traditionally employed counterparts.

Third: a solo-preneurial mindset.

Becoming a freelancer is a lot like running a business, except that you are the startup. Like any good business model, your goal is to build a long-term profitable company that’s steady, stable, and not particularly risky to run.

So it’s important to think like “solopreneur,” rather than
someone haphazardly picking up one gig, and then the next, and then the next.

Freelancing meets 3 needs for professionals:

  1. The need for freedom of where work is and how it’s done
  2. The need for building work around life (flexibility)
  3. The need to control money to live life

Companies everywhere are looking for talent. And those with talents and skills that are in high demand can pretty much control their work life: where they work, how they work, compensation packages, and a host of other specifications about their work life.

This is a huge opportunity for freelancers, if they keep current with demand and continue to enhance and expand their skills.

So, regardless if freelancers will or will make up the majority of the workforce,
the number of people that are making the leap keeps on growing…

Want to become an HR freelancer?

Join our upcoming HRbuilders workshop December 13th (Mechelen): To Freelance or not to freelance

Registration is free >> info via this link

Want to join our HRbuilders freelance community?

Reach out to our HRbuilders #dreamteam: Nancy, Isabelle, Tama, Sofia, Cecile, Sigrun, Sofie or Jennifer

Talk to you next week!

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Written by

Lesley Arens

HR Matchmaker & Public Relations at HRbuilders

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