Freelancing is a form of self-employment that allows individuals to work with clients on a flexible basis, outlines Zeeshan Anwar.
Freelancers are not full-time employees for one particular company: instead, they have the freedom to set their own fees, hours and select clients/projects to work on.
We are now seeing a significant increase in the number of full-time employees that are either freelancing on the side for some additional income, or making the jump to become full-time freelancers. The freelance world has grown significantly in recent years, with two million freelancers in the UK. More businesses are looking to cut costs by temporarily working with freelancers, while boosting efficiency by hiring specialised skills and expertise.
The pandemic has shone a light on the preference for remote work and the need for flexibility and freedom. This has led both employers and employees to look at different ways of working.
Why is freelance work becoming so popular?
A recent study has revealed that 28 percent of UK employees are planning to go freelance in the next five years. This shift towards freelance work has rapidly grown post-pandemic. People have caught a glimpse of a world where they can enjoy greater freedom, choosing when and where they work. Being able to decide which projects they want to work on is also a huge incentive for freelancers.
The pandemic has led employees to truly value a work-life balance with location flexibility and having the opportunity to travel. This is all a viable option for freelance and contract work.
Pay is also a significant factor. With the current cost of living crisis, many employees are looking for ways to earn some extra income. This can often lead to people freelancing on the side before transitioning to become full-time freelancers. Being self-employed allows you to set your own fees, with companies willing to pay freelancers well as the work is often only temporary.
Why employers are turning towards contract workers
Freelance and contract work benefits employers too. As freelance work becomes more popular, the talent pool grows. This means employers can easily find specialists for specific roles or one-off projects. These hard-to-find skill sets are much easier to discover on a freelance basis. This is also much more cost effective than hiring a full-time employee.
Speaking of cost-effectiveness, employers are required to provide full-time employees with benefits, from paid time off to sick leave and pensions. As freelancers are not employees, the employer is only responsible for paying for the work, which saves a significant amount of money. This also enables employers to access experienced freelancers who charge higher rates, as the overall costs still remain lower than for a full-time employee.
The World Economic Forum has predicted that by 2025, 41 percent of employers will plan to expand their use of contractors for task-specialised work. As many companies run one-off projects throughout the year, it makes sense to build a pool of contractors. These projects often require a broad range of skill sets, so hiring multiple freelancers to fulfil the project is more logical than hiring a full-time employee who may not have all the expertise required.
Which industries are turning towards contractors?
Several industries are in constant need of contract workers, with plenty of options for those with the right skill sets.
Technology and IT
Technology is constantly changing and with the adaption of big data, cloud computing and AI — the need for talent is growing. Cybersecurity is also a key concern, with cybercrime rising by 600 percent since the pandemic. As a result, many employers are hiring cybersecurity professionals on a freelance basis to improve current systems.
With the recent financial challenges we’ve faced, accounting and finance freelance opportunities are on the rise. This is a lucrative field as every company requires a finance professional. Whether it’s accounting, bookkeeping, tax filing or auditing, it is a consistent freelance gig.
Virtual customer service is another role that’s in demand post-pandemic. With more people than ever before shopping online, having reliable customer service is key. With the increased demand, many companies are hiring freelance virtual assistants to help fill any gaps.
Most companies have digital marketing requirements and often turn to freelancers when launching new campaigns or services. With so much shopping happening online, websites are forced to up their marketing to set themselves apart from competitors. Highly sought-after digital marketing skills include SEO, brand development, web design and graphic design.
The future of contract workers
In uncertain times full of financial hardships, freelance work seems like a better fit for many workers, offering people the chance to increase their income and enjoy flexibility. This has benefitted many freelancers and contractors, with a much larger range of jobs available to them.
For employers, there may be a concern about losing their current talent. Building up a pool of freelancers is a great idea, as employers then have access to skilled experts whenever the need arises. We may also see an increase in umbrella companies, which act as a ‘middle-man’ between employers and contractors, taking care of pay, admin and communications. Both employers and contractors can benefit from this service. As the freelance world continues to expand, there’ll be more opportunities for both freelancers and employers to enjoy greater flexibility.
Zeeshan Anwar is Head of Compliance at Dolan Accountancy and Contractor Umbrella.