The freelance economy - A liquid workforce
The future labour market will become more liquid and dynamic. Our employment and traditional worklife will be changed forever. Today, your CV is usually a record of fixed employment history, and counts in most people’s case about 5-20 different positions in a career – many of them for the same employer. Now imagine this: your CV consists of hundreds or thousands of projects you have done. Your employer have become your costumer.
The transformation to the Freelance-economy has started, and it will transform the way we organize our companies, our mobility as workforce, our expectations for work-conditions, our expectations as consumers, our education and training, the economics – and the list continues. We will in this blog post focus on what drives the Freelance-economy and the perspectives for the individuals and the organizations.
Before and after the freelance economy
Disclaimer: The Freelance-economy is not a new phenomenon. With this being said, we miss the perspective, which also includes challenges and possibilities from company-perspective. Innovation Lab is in many ways organized for the Freelance-economy in regards to employment formats, structure, autonomy, etc. Furthermore we experiment with optimizing our interface with external competences to create liquid resources according to our need and those of our customers.
The Freelance-economy is in high growth. In the US, 34% of the total workforce are working freelance. This counts for self-employed , entrepreneurs, provisional-jobs, etc. (Edelman Berland, 2014) and it is projected that by 2020 50% of the workforce will work freelance either part- or full time. We see the same trend in Europe, where the number of freelancers now consitutes 25% of the entire workfoce.
Digitalization is boosting the freelance-economy
The causes are not as interesting as the possibilities, but let me share some perspectives and ideas anyway:
The crisis has (once again) proved that a permanent job doesn't equal job-safety. Permanent employment are given a short-lived safety in the form of the notice period, but your employer cannot guarantee that they will need your comptence in the future. During the economic crisis, many have changed jobs – and in many cases changed to a career of self-employment.
The digitalization offers new possibilities to create one’s own job. Fiverr – where everything cost from 5$ - is a marketplace for “micro-freelancing”. You can from 5$ hire people to almost every assignment you might need help for. From Sean Connery voice-overs for your Christmas greeting to financial advice. Etsy – the world’s biggest marketplace for unique crafts – now has +35 million products for sale from 1,6 million sellers, with 24 million active costumers from all over the world. 1/3 of the American sellers have made their “Etsy-store” their primary career and source of income (Etsy, 2014)
The last couple of years we've seen most knowledge-skills being digitalized thus digital marketplaces are on the rise - where supply and demand controls the market and where we now can create our own “job”. Everyone of these marketplaces reduces the barriers to work independent (find costumers, communicate, invoice, etc), so you will only have to concentrate about what you are best at – or what motivates you the most. Below is some of the most popular platforms that might provide you with your dream career:
- Bed and breakfast: AirBnB, HomeAway
- Taxi driver: UBER
- Clothing designer: Threadless
- Data analyst: Kaggle
- Travel agent: Firefox
- IT, Web, etc: Upwork, Freelancer.com, Toptal
- Consultant: HourlyNerd
- Tasks: Taskrabbit, Tispr
- Education / teaching: Skillshare, Teach Me Now
- Engineer: Engineer it
The last mentioned platform Engineer it, is a new marketplace for engineering-services, which are developed by Innovation Lab and will be launched in the spring 2016.
The 31st of March we're inviting interested parties (freelancers and organisations) to a presentation of the "Engineer it" concept and a discussion on how this way of working can solve challengeses both for the organisation and the worker / engineers. You can register here: http://attending.io/events/freelance-okonomien-for-ingeniorer-virksomheder
Diversity of competences and work. As a freelancer, you are 100% responsible for your income – and therefore also responsible for finding your next assignment. You have to develop professionally and personally to be able to work and to be competitive in a global market (which raises some interesting questions about the present forms of education). Diversity in competence is relevant as never before.
You can work anywhere, any time. You are no longer attached to the same place and function 40 hours a week. Your “workday” can now be: Uber-driver in the morning, AirBnb-host in the afternoon and jewelry-seller on Etsy in the evening.
A freelancer's workweek
As company it doesn’t mean you’re loosing your best employees. Far from it. You will get access to the world’s best talent – at the right time and place. A liquid and agile workforce at a global scale. This will provide organisations with access to the necessary competences at the right time, reduce costs and risks related to recruiting, training and general employment of permanent staff. You will experience that freelancers have a different motivation and ownership for their work and delivery - as they now are independent and you are their costumer.
The companies that can manage and balance freelance-resources will experience significant business advantages in time to market, creativity and adaptability. You can quickly scale up and down your resources as needed and quickly apapt to new customer’s requirement.
At Innovation Lab we often use the above-mentioned platforms. For internal projects as well as part-deliveries to costumers. Our experience: it gives us faster results in innovation processes where other competences often is needed differently from the competences our costumers or we normally have acccess to internally. With Engineer it, we want to give these advantages to companies with ad-hoc needs for engineer competence.
The flexible access to resources and competences are covering multiple of our design parameters for Transformative organizations in the digital age: Openness, agility and scalability.
You probably have a healthy skepticism to the above perspectives (?) Especially if you – as most people – see the many advantages in the existing job-economy – because they are planty. There will be challenges which have to be solved before we all get the possibility to choose the career we want: freelance, permanent employment – or something in between. Because that is exactly the point: The choice is ours.