As we look to a new decade, it’s time to reflect on the evolution of the gig economy and what these changes mean for freelancers. In part two, we’re making predictions for freelance work in the years to come.
The shift from 2019 to 2020 wasn’t just another lap around the sun, but the turn of a new decade. Any major shift challenges current freelancers and aspiring ones to look forward and plan for the future. Freelance opportunities have only skyrocketed over the past 10 years, and if you ask the experts, this trend isn’t changing anytime soon.
However, as the economy adapts to a new normal that redefines work and success, freelancers must stay educated and attentive for the road ahead. Or in other words: instead of merely thinking about 2020, think about 2030 so you’re prepared for anything.
Predictions for how freelance work will transform in the years to come:
1. Freelance will shift in focus from jobs to people.
If you’ve been following along with news in California and now potentially in New Jersey, freelancers are enraged by potential limitations put on the amount of output they’re able to do with one company, per year. Though this legislation is meant to discourage other freelance work — like Uber drivers — it’s hitting a pain-point and disrupting economies for all solopreneurs.
Though we hope this isn’t the norm, co-founder and chairman of Jitjatjo Ron McCulloch says the emphasis on gigs rather than people is changing, fast. And more likely than not, this means putting various regulations in place to protect freelancers, companies and governments:
Employers require hard-working, dedicated talent. Gig economy workers desire flexible schedules, quality opportunities and easy access to payment. Legislators are starting to take notice of the challenges that both sides face and are being compelled to act. This evolution will push the contingent labor industry to adapt.
To make a difference, you can write letters to your legislators to prevent them from writing or suggesting bills that threaten your freelance business. If you don’t speak up, you’ll never be heard.
2. Freelance won’t seem abnormal anymore.
If you’re a full-time freelancer, you know the pain that is trying to explain what you do to your grandmother. Or perhaps, even your mother. For a long time, working for yourself held a negative connotation, or one that was associated with a struggling artist. In recent years especially, this definition has changed, as more freelancers have built six-figure incomes from their talents.
In the seasons to come, founder and CEO of The Lonely Entrepreneur Michael Dermer says social expectations around salary and professional success will continue to transform:
Gone are the days that individuals think of themselves as ’employees.’ The choice for the future will no longer be ’employee’ versus ‘freelancer.’ Instead it will be, ‘what kind of work life do I want to have?’
3. Freelancers will require improvement in technology.
Considering the most competitive of talent no longer wants to sit pretty in an office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, employers must start to adjust their business model to respond to their demands. One of these is the ability to work remotely and file deadlines, send presentations and join conference calls from every corner of the globe.
To make this possible, accessible — and let’s face it, not frustrating — McCulloch says innovations in communication mediums are required:
Streamlined communication processes, improved payroll systems and effective means of sharing constructive feedback are just a few of the improvements that will make the gig economy more attractive to both potential employers and talent.
Rather than a decade down the line, he says this shift needs to happen, well, now: “The sooner the contingent labor industry starts to understand that they are working with people, the more successful it will be in ensuring that all parties benefit from the evolving relationship between technology and talent,” he adds.
4. Freelance will take on new models in every industry.
Traditionally, freelance has been confined to various markets. Think: writers, marketers, hairstylists, home improvement, photography and so on. But Dermer says other professionals have been paying attention — and figuring out how they can take their gigs on the road, too.
In the near future, he predicts many individuals will set new structures and parameters for how they work. This may mean a chef will not just work at one restaurant or any restaurant at all. At the core of the workforce is a need for freedom, and that’s a universal truth that can’t be canned in one segment alone.
New models that serve the needs of individuals and marry those needs with employers will be the wave of the future. This may mean two ‘half-jobs’ or perhaps even four ‘quarter-jobs.’ The balance of how much time one spends in a specific endeavor will morph to meet the needs of the individual.
5. Globalism will spur demand.
Digital nomads have already been making a case for pairing travel with productivity. Global markets have taken note, and are starting to understand the cost-effective benefit of having many voices from many regions of the planet.
As they set their sights on growth, Dermer says the demand for highly talented freelancers will follow suit. He says this is especially the case in the Middle East and Africa, where oil can no longer fuel economic prosperity:
Economies will seek expertise from the United States to support a growing thirst for entrepreneurism. Freelancers will find themselves collaborating on even more projects throughout the world to support this demand.
6. Value must emerge over price.
It’s every freelancer’s biggest anxiety: How do I set a fair price that doesn’t undermine my worth? Income is a touchy subject for nearly everyone, and for freelancers who make the rules with their own projects, standing up for their value is a major part of their job.
Dermer says competing on figures will only become increasingly more difficult, as far too many companies will do anything they can to undermine or lower rates. This is where the challenge will fall to the solopreneur, who must come up with effective arguments to justify why they’re charging what they’re charging:
The freelancers that are able to most clearly communicate their value, and to compete on value versus price, will have the upper hand. With so many more freelancers in the market, there will be a high degree of competition that will force freelancers to become adept at bringing their value to life.
7. Packages and process will become important.
So how can you set yourself apart and ensure your business is sustainable over the next year, five years, 10 and beyond? By selling to the new customer: big, big brands, and those who are new to the whole freelance marketplace bit.
To optimize your value equation, and thus, remain in the running, Dermer says freelancers need to create packages of value. Or more to the point: killer collateral in the form of decks, websites, services, packages, and beyond:
Packages that show a clear understanding of the problem to be solved and the exact fixed price cost to do so. Anyone can charge per hour — it is the freelancers that have performed a function enough that she can package an offering into a fixed price that can stand out from the crowd.