Using Freelancing Statistics to Ride the Gig Economy Wave

By Bethany Johnson, Contributor, on December 5, 2017

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Many of us independent contractors waver between feeling intensely alone — like we’re the only ones working on a holiday — and feeling like we’re drowning in an ocean of competing freelancers. Either way, you may be right. Here are a few eye-popping freelancing statistics to give you the perspective you need to both thrive today and strategize for tomorrow.

Freelancing Isn’t New

The uptick of gig economy work may seem like a novel concept, but ever since the days of medieval warfare — when lords hired independent (“free”) swordsmen (“lances”) — the freelance has fought on behalf of the highest bidder. The practice of hiring untethered mercenaries was common over a thousand years ago, making this the most foundational (and dramatic) of all freelancing statistics.

It’s Time to Get Technical

Most of the fastest growing skills clients sought this year are technical. Want to go where the hottest gigs are? Then consider developing these top skill sets: Asana work tracking, artificial intelligence, rapid prototyping, immigration law and natural language processing, as listed by Upwork’s “Skills Index” report.

Showing up to 400 percent growth, these niches represent bigger, industry-wide trends that show us freelancers where the most common business needs lie. In other words, you don’t need to be a natural language processing expert to see that voice-to-text is on every enterprise’s radar. Be aware: Though these are the fastest growing niches, they’re not consistently in high demand.

Move Over, Copywriting

We’ve already established the technical skills that make up the fastest growing freelance niches, but what are the most commonly sought after talents? Believe it or not, the artists and writers you hear about most don’t make up the majority of indy jobs. The top industries for freelancers are actually information technology, administrative work and accounting, a fascinating reality pointed out by Fast Company just last year.

The need for all sorts of independent professionals means you and I can learn from other freelancers who aren’t competing for that same slice of the pie. Case in point: Just last week, a successful freelance medical transportation specialist gave me great freelance-specific tax advice.

Hiring Plans Are Changing

Believe it or not, there are more companies that plan to hire independent workers this year than those who don’t. Every year, consulting firm Deloitte asks over 7,000 organizations about their hiring plans. This year, 51 percent of their respondents said their enterprise wants to enlist more freelancers — and soon. Many of the companies even reported a plan to “significantly increase” their contingent workforce. Use this information to empower your efforts when you’re having trouble closing prospects. Hungry clients are out there, and instead of giving up, consider changing or updating your marketing approach.

You’ve Got the Power

Don’t forget: Freelancers are powerful. Together, independent workers earned about $1 trillion last year. This eye-popping figure is a substantial portion of the country’s economy, showing change in nearly every industry. For some companies, there’s been a subtle mindset shift to pay more attention to freelancers. But there are other companies that are really tuning in. PricewaterhouseCoopers already made drastic moves, launching an entire website dedicated to hiring freelance gig workers. It’s clear: Brands are finally perking up.

Gone are the days of hiring literal swordsmen. Today, brands hire and retain contract freelancers to attack their most pressing strategic concerns. The numbers agree: More and more freelancers will be brought on in the future, and both clients and workers will benefit from this trend.

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