Nowadays careers are no longer hinged to one company and are often more about juggling multiple clients, managing various forms of work and turning spare rooms, coffee shops, sheds and the garages, into ‘office space’. Whether they are termed contractors, freelancers, temps, self-employed, one-man bands or sole proprietors, these independent workers are now an integral part of the workforce.
The transition we are witnessing can easily be referred to as a paradigm shift, or at the very least a ‘positive disruption’. Since the industrial revolution we have not witnessed a more significant shift in working habits and the workplace.
According to research by freelancers trade group, the PCG, in 2011 the UK freelance market was estimated to be worth in excess of £202 million.
It’s fair to say that the economy has played its role in pushing certain professionals into freelance work. However, many more people have chosen this model because it allows choice, flexibility and the chance to leave the office environment behind, which often constitutes even the best of jobs.
Freelancing manages to drive flexibility and creativity through remote and online working, while cutting costs and creating a whole new niche for more specific and smaller contracts.
Elance, an online freelance tool, has recently released its growth statistics for the UK. Vice-president Kjetil Olsen says that the growing demand for UK freelancers has increased on a long-term basis. Approximately half of freelancers are signed up for more than six months with 25 per cent working for the same client for over a year.
Elance further revealed that enrolment from independent contractors in the UK has jumped by 51 per cent and they also estimated that the amount earned by UK contractors increased by 47 per cent over the last year.
They go on to say that the most popular freelancers are those with IT and programming qualifications. More than 20 per cent of their subscribers started freelancing after being laid off from their jobs, while 40 per cent chose it for the additional income. Their breakdown for the major categories this year:
- IT - 54 per cent
- Writing and Translation - 16 per cent
- Design and Multimedia - 14 per cent
- Admin support - 7 per cent
- Sales and Marketing - 5 per cent
According to the research from PCG, the data suggest there are an estimated 1.56 million freelance workers in the UK. This figure comprises 1.35 million working freelance in main jobs and a further 207,000 working freelance in second jobs; 13 per cent of all freelancers work freelance in a second job. Freelance workers constitute about five per cent of all people in employment.
However, some believe that the number of freelancers is actually much higher, for instance on the world-wide website Freelancer claims to have four million people registered from the UK. Perhaps the definition of freelancing is experiencing a paradigm shift of its own!
When it comes to companies looking for skillful people, in the first instance they often turn to known associates and colleagues in the freelance market. However, there is no guarantee to find the right person, at the right time with the experience and quality of skills required for a certain project.
Many bespoke staffing companies have flourished supporting this need to find specific experts, especially in the IT sector where the use of freelance contractors is a tried, tested and trusted solution.
One such provider is Curo Resourcing, a Smart Teaming Partner to Microsoft Services UK, they operate as a ‘virtual bench’ for their clients.
Treesje Verlinden, Director of Resourcing said: “One of the key things about freelance IT experts is that they are continually evolving their skills, ensuring they are leading lights in the latest technologies, so our role is about building relationships, connecting their depth skills with our clients. The fact that they are not confined in terms of location, ensures their work gets national or even international exposure, thus opening more doors to new opportunities”.
The transition and growth of freelancing is a viable business model. Many companies prefer it and are able to maximise their budgets and achieve a flexible workforce that responds to their changing needs. It may have been the economy that has caused this rise of the freelancer, however, the considerable benefits of the model for both companies and individuals, are strong enough reasons to ensure the continued growth of the freelancer.
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Susie Hughes © Shout99 2013