After learning that now more than 55 million people have entered the freelance market we went looking for freelancers and market gurus in the freelance space to share their thoughts on the current state of the industry. Where is freelancing going? What are the impact of more marketplaces having on the industry? What is the next big thing on the horizon? Here are their thoughts:
I have worked as a freelance web designer/SEO for the past 3 years and have had great success working with local companies who need new websites built. I predict that freelancing will continue to grow as more and more people are looking for alternatives to the typical 9 to 5 job. As we become more plugged in as a society, going in to work every day could potentially become obsolete as more people find work online from the comfort of their own homes.
Thomas Adams is an SEO Specialist who’s side hustle is Freelance Web Designer/SEO & Tactical Gear Salesman
Stephen Gibson is the founder of creative startup blog Vyteo.com where they feature poetic reviews of the latest upcoming tech companies. Since 2009 they’ve written over 500 of the best startup reviews on the planet
I’ve been freelancing as a copywriter off and on since 2003, when I first published my copywriting website. Early on, I dominated Google easily for keywords like “freelance copywriter”. But as directories, and then freelance marketplaces, entered the scene, individual freelancer websites like mine were edged out of top spots. Freelance copywriting became widely known as a work-from-home opportunity and more and more people jumped in as freelancers. Courses to become one started cropping up, and many copywriters turned from actually writing to coaching. Now freelance writers are almost a commodity.
Since 2007, I’ve also been hiring writers as part of my work at an SEO company. There are really talented writers offering their services for a fraction of what they’re worth. The trouble is, they are mixed in with all the others, and its really difficult to find the right talent. I’ve hired writers who I later discovered were plagiarizing, others who simply disappeared, and many who come up with excuses and complaints about the work. I’ve realized it can be really expensive to hire a cheap writer, and it is really important to put a lot of effort into making sure you and the freelancer are a good fit before starting to work together.
To distinguish themselves, freelance writers can call out other complementary services they can provide, especially content promotion, media relations, and SEO. Freelance writers will always have a place, and functioning as a valuable member of a team will be where they can operate profitably, moving away from supplying low-grade material for pennies via marketplaces. Perhaps freelancer marketplaces will move toward matching writers with ongoing business needs rather than one-off projects.
Referenced in Writing Web-Based Advertising Copy to Get the Sale and the BusinessWeek bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR, Lisa was previously executive editor of a large website and marketing director at an SEO firm.
I personally believe that the freelance industry is flourishing like never before. I am hiring way more freelancers than I have in the past because it is easier for me to hire them and work with them. Plus, I feel as if a lot of business needs are super-specific that are better hired out to freelancers who specialize in one or two things. It’s the whole idea of specialization of labor that has allowed our economy to thrive – freelancing is going to take us to the next level.
We’re noticing a huge increase in the number of freelancers. What is interesting is that many of them already work existing jobs and are looking for supplementary income or weekend work. Over the next few years this industry will explode as A.I. and automation make more traditional jobs redundant. People will turn to online freelancing as the barriers to entry are low, and you can work multiple jobs at once. Unfortunately, this will likely mean that prices will decrease as supply grows, and freelancers will work for less and less, which will favor developing countries like China and India where fast Internet access is relatively new but costs of living are still low. Its important for new freelancers to focus on building relationships with potential employers, and finding a point of difference that helps them stand out. This might, ironically, mean more face-to-face meetings and attending conferences so as to get an introduction that might be “lost in the flood” over email or freelancing sites.
Ramsay is a serial web entrepreneur and founder of BlogTyrant.com – a website that shares tested strategies and tactics for building a new career online.
Freelancing in my experience isn’t in as bad a state as it was ~8 years ago in terms of availability of work. On the other hand, with work becoming increasingly global and more competitive, it’s harder for freelancers based in areas of higher cost of living to earn a living wage. In my business, online casting marketplaces that are pay-to-play, have become a huge problem for professional talent in that they’re basically SaaS platforms that monetize newbies and amateurs on the sell-side. They lure people in by glossing over how competitive the business is, how good one has to be to compete for legitimate work at fair pay, how much time, effort and investment one must put in to build up a steady career even on a part-time basis. Their whole business model is based on the idea that there’s a sucker born every day, so if one can just stay ahead of churn – keep signing up new suckers each year faster than one’s losing them – it can be neatly profitable.
This has pushed wages in the whole ecosystem down, hitting talent and its representation most immediately but also hurting producers, because the game for these sites is to try to ultimately be the only intermediary between client and talent. For example, I’m based in San Francisco. In terms of size, it’s a secondary market, after primaries of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. In terms of cost of living however, it’s higher than that of all those other places. I know of production companies and advertising / marketing agencies here in the Bay Area who, instead of calling up one of the local talent agents, will normally use these online marketplaces to hire out-of-state talent so they can get higher margins on their projects. They’ll justify it as what they need to do to stay in business. That’s the whole production and service chain being impacted.
Now it’s a war where, because in many cases it’s most if not the whole of how they’ve made their living, professional voice actors and their agents are actively boycotting not just the sites but in some cases also blacklisting producers found using them. It’s not that they want to hog the business. It’s that these are folks who’ve made their living this way and they need to just stay in business. As such, they can’t afford to lose projects to a mushroom of new talent and labor that, even if it’s good, doesn’t know how to tell buyers “No” because it really doesn’t know the difference between a job that should pay $1,000 instead of $100, or $10,000 instead of $3,000 moreover with residuals and specific terms around the scope and terms of how the actor’s recorded performance will be used, and so on. Also, professional talent and their reps are recommitting themselves to their own direct marketing and networking, also start working together more, to fight back against all the technology-driven commoditization of the work. While it’s always been primarily an issue on the non-union side of the business, the union side has been starting to pay it more attention too because of how these sites have encouraged the work moving increasingly non-union.
So for example, I no longer take on any new clients without one of my agents or my management being always looped in. On weeks my VO bookings are light, rather than entertain sub-par rates just to get more auditions or bookings in my pipeline, I choose to fall back on doing consulting work (at fair market rates). On one hand, sure, that means comparatively shifting over to a kind of work that has lower ROI in terms of my time and labor, on the other hand that’s OK if it’s the overall price of always making sure I’m not hurting myself, an industry that I love, and my peers and friends in it. I’d rather have a healthy and steadily-growing part-time acting career and stay in a position where I can say “No” if ever I want or need to, and be part of the solution, than be part of the problem and settle for a career that may technically be full-time yet which still doesn’t always make ends meet, and maybe just gets less profitable every year. Screw that. I’m just glad I’ve kept a fall-back. Not everyone has.
Scott is a professional voice actor, working regularly for some of the world’s largest and most trusted brands, and an LA-trained talent currently based in San Francisco. He’s voiced hundreds of projects from broadcast to non-broadcast including radio and TV ads, video games, apps, toys, corporate videos,e-learning and more.
Freelancing is critical for an entrepreneurial economy to thrive in the United States. Freelancing allows individuals to essentially own their own businesses and have more control over what they do, how they do it, and when they do it. Freelancing enables cash-strapped small businesses to hire and grow without exposing them to the risks of long-term commitment. A healthy freelancing economy would mean and abundant quantity of high-quality opportunities available. A robust freelancing economy allows individuals to make a full-time living off of these jobs alone. This is why companies such as Uber are so critical to the ecosystem.
My company, dronegenuity, provides aerial drone services to customers mostly located in the United States. Thousands of freelance drone pilots, photographers, videographers, and editors have applied to be a part of the organization. We need to keep them happy, engaged, and involved. We view other companies offering freelance opportunities as partners, instead of as competitors. This week’s news that Uber lost its license to operate in London should be concerning to all people not involved in the traditional taxi-cab business. Freelancing, or gig economy, companies will likely always be under intense scrutiny by the public and the press. There are some who suggest that companies such as Uber and Fiverr provide health and other benefits to its workers, ignoring the fact that Uber, for instance, is not yet profitable in its current state, and that it would likely cease to exist under such constraints.
Despite the resistance the freelancing economy faces, things are still headed in the right direction. Large freelancing firms continue to grow, and technology-fueled startups continue to enter the fray. This seems inevitable. The growth that results will create a perpetual cycle where attract more and higher-quality individuals to the promise of freelance work, and will ignite more and more freelance startups.
Dan Edmonson is the founder and CEO of Dronegenuity. Prior to founding Dronegenuity, he launched a successful Business Process Outsourcing firm before pursuing & earning his MBA from Babson College.
The freelance economy is growing rapidly. Companies are cutting experienced employees and hiring more contractors to cut costs. For a company, an employee costs twice their salary, if you include all the expenses that go into employing an employee: hiring costs,firing costs, capital equipment, travel and meal expenses, health insurance,other insurance, taxes, social security, etc. It just makes more sense for companies to outsource their needs rather than spend so much money on workers in-house. With so many people out of work, and the demand for independent contractors on the rise, it only makes sense that the freelance economy will continue to grow.
Narsh is an employee turned entrepreneur/author and has been featured in CIO Magazine, and Entrepreneur Magazine about his digital marketing books, entrepreneurship and expertise.