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Driving the Disruption: The Rise of Professional Freelancing

Driving the Disruption: The Rise of Professional Freelancing

It’s quickly become easier than ever to find skilled, vetted freelancers for extra support on anything from IT infrastructure to content marketing. The move to hiring freelancers has become so common that we forget how recent this shift was made – and is still going on. Companies were not always as comfortable hiring freelancers, and there wasn’t always as large a pool of qualified freelancers to draw from. In fact, the disruption caused by the freelance workforce has been so significant that the World Economic Forum (WEF) has declared that we are in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

So what is driving this disruption and why has the labor market changed? The immediate answer is advancements in technology. Technology has revolutionized everything from how we travel to how we communicate. WEF points to cloud technology and the mobile internet, as well as the sharing economy and crowdsourcing as two technological trends driving the fourth industrial revolution.

In the United States, two factors have come together to make the gig economy stronger than ever before: the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, colloquially known as Obamacare), and the rise of talent platforms.

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The Affordable Care Act

With the ACA, many Americans who had previously not had health insurance found themselves covered – and many other Americans who had been insured through their employers suddenly found new freedom in not having their health insurance tied to their jobs. That made many of them take the plunge into freelance work. The ACA freed many Americans from “job lock,” where the fear of being uninsured made them stay at jobs they didn’t want to be in. The ACA instead allowed them to choose how and where they wanted to work and some employees chose to move on to different jobs that they enjoyed more while others chose to work for themselves.

The Congressional Budget Office actually predicted this effect in its 2014 study of the ACA, stating “… the ACA could influence labor productivity indirectly by making it easier for some employees to obtain health insurance outside the workplace and thereby prompting those workers to take jobs that better match their skills, regardless of whether those jobs offered employment-based insurance.”

That same year, a graduate student named James Bailey tested a hypothesis about the Affordable Care Act; he examined whether 19- to 25-year-olds were more likely to work as freelancers if they were able to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans. His research showed that those with coverage were 2-3 times more likely to go into business for themselves than those without coverage.

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Also, after the ACA was implemented, it made more financial sense for companies to hire freelancers rather than provide insurance to full-time employees. In our 2016 research report The Rise of Blended Workforce in the New Gig Economy, we found that 74% of 600 HR decision makers said they would contract more freelancers as a result of the ACA. Further, an astounding 28% responded that they intend to hire a greater number of freelancers than full-time employees by 2020.

The ACA is simultaneously triggering companies to turn to freelancers, while also freeing many Americans to pursue their passions in their new independent careers. The result is the blended workforce – a perfect marriage of companies and freelancers, each satisfied with their arrangement.

The Rise of Talent Platforms

In addition to the ACA, the rise of talent platforms has made it easier than ever for companies to find the freelancers they need. Websites such as LinkedIn paved the way for more niche sites to match freelancers with work opportunities, and the online marketplace of the new gig economy is growing rapidly.

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As our 2016 study found, 38% of freelancers are now being sourced through freelance management and talent platforms. While general online job boards are still more popular at 43%, freelance management platforms are quickly narrowing that gap.

Such sites make it easy for companies to quickly find freelancers with the skills they need. Many outline the freelancer’s specialties, provide a portfolio of past work and include reviews from previous clients. This makes it quicker and easier than ever before for companies to find freelancers they can feel confident in hiring.

A McKinsey Global Institute report on the labor market outlines the many reasons that talent platforms are good for freelancers, companies, and the labor market. McKinsey estimates that by 2025, such platforms may add $2.7 trillion to global GDP and begin to improve many of the problems today’s labor markets face.

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How will these platforms add so much value to the economy? The McKinsey report suggests:

  • Talent platforms give job markets a boost. As these platforms grow, “they will become faster and more effective clearinghouses that can inject new momentum and transparency” to stalled job markets.
  • Talent platforms show which skills are in demand. This transparency may even inform people’s educational choices, steering them into in-demand professions. According to McKinsey, more effective spending on university education “could reduce some of the $89 billion misallocation we find in Brazil, China, Germany, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”

The freelance trend shows no signs of stopping, which demonstrates the ongoing need for talent platforms. As our 2016 research report found, one in five top performing firms say 40% of their labor force is already composed of freelancers and nearly half of top-performing firms intend to increase their hiring of freelancers by 30%. Successful companies are already hiring freelancers in droves and more companies are sure to follow – which makes talent platforms an invaluable resource.

This is no blip – the ACA and talent platforms have helped ensure the rise of the professional freelancer. If your company hasn’t already considered hiring freelancers, what are you waiting for?

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via image.shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on August 14, 2020

How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

How to Find a Career That Is Right For You

There are thousands of careers to choose from. No wonder finding the one that’s right for you can feel like a guessing game.

Choosing or changing careers can be scary. Even if it’s right for you now, you might wonder, who says it’ll still be a fit in the future?

The truth is, you have to start somewhere. Whether you’re looking for a first job out of college or need a new career, follow this process to find the right one for you:

1. List Out Careers You Could Pursue

It sounds simple, but it’s good advice: Start with what you like. Even before you begin looking for the right career, you probably have an idea of what you’re interested in.

Next, make a second list, this one including your strengths. If you aren’t sure whether you’re actually good at something, ask someone close to you who’ll give you a truthful answer.

Once your lists are made, cross-reference them: What do you like to do and do well?

In a third list, rank these. If you’re skilled at something you don’t particularly like, for instance, that should fall lower on the list.

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2. Take a Career Assessment

Standardized tests shouldn’t make decisions for you, but they can get you pointed in the right direction. Career assessment tests gauge your abilities and interests and make recommendations for career paths based on the answers you give.[1]

Before reviewing your results, take a break. Getting some perspective can help you see whether your answers were guided by your mood. Look at the percentage match and ask yourself whether you could see yourself doing the work of the career or role every day.

For example, if your responses emphasized helping others, the test might point you to a medical career. However, if you don’t want to work in a hospital or clinical environment, you might cut that option or place it lower on your list.

3. Sweat the Details

Every career has gratifying and frustrating things about it. Before you choose one, you need to be clear on those. Reading reviews and job descriptions you find related to each career, make a list of its pros and cons.

There are a lot of factors to think through. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • What are the hours required by this type of work? Can they be flexible?
  • What skills are required? Do I possess them, or would I be willing to learn them?
  • What are the education requirements? Can I afford to go back to school?
  • How much do jobs in the field pay? Is the payscale top-heavy or evenly distributed?
  • What does job growth in this sector look like? Are they traditional or contracted roles?
  • Are opportunities in the field available in my area? If not, would I be willing to move?
  • Would I be working solo or on a team?

In answering these questions, you’ll find yourself crossing a lot of careers off your list. Remember, that’s a good thing: You’d rather find out a career isn’t right for you now than after you’ve put yourself on that path.

4. Find the Sweet Spot

The crux of the career question is this: What’s the “sweet spot” between your interests and strengths and the market’s needs? The greater the overlap, the better.

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Be warned that you’ll have to compromise. Perhaps you enjoy working with animals, but there’s no demand for that line of work in your area. You might be good at math, but you wouldn’t want to crunch numbers in a cubicle for a living. Finding balance is crucial.

5. Start Networking

What’s the best way to get the real story about the careers you’re interested in? Talking to professionals in the field.

Where should you find these people?

  • Reach out to local businesses.
  • Scour your social media networks, particularly LinkedIn.
  • Ask a past employer for recommendations.
  • Sign up for industry events and conferences.

Schedule a short interview with each of your new connections. Ask them to weigh in on the comments you see online. Every role and company is a bit different, so don’t be surprised if their responses don’t align.

Regardless of who you find or what they say, write it down. If one interviewee’s responses differ wildly from online responses, chat with someone else in the field. Do your best to find out what’s the rule and what’s the exception.

6. Shadow and Volunteer

As valuable as networking can be, you need a firsthand glimpse of the work. If you hit it off with one of your interviewees, ask to do some job shadowing. Sitting beside someone as they work can help you understand not just the pay and the responsibilities but also the culture and work environment associated with each career.

Job shadowing is a good way to get your feet wet before taking a career plunge. If you felt uninterested or unhappy during your shadowing experience, it’s a good sign that you should ponder a different career path. If your shadowing experience made you want to come back for more, you may have found your calling.

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Volunteer work is an alternative to job shadowing that can get you the experience you need as you analyze your career options. As a volunteer, you can be more flexible with your time and get opportunities you wouldn’t find elsewhere.

7. Sign Up for Classes

Many careers have an academic component that you can’t ignore. If you decide you want to be a lawyer, for instance, you might want to know you can survive law school first.

Sign up for an introductory class or two related to each career you’re interested in. The earlier you do this, the better. If you’re still in college, the class will count as an elective and may be covered by your scholarship, but if not, look for a community college option to keep costs low.

Taking a single class is not the same as earning a degree in the field. With that said, it’s a good way to test the waters before you invest thousands of dollars.

If the content interests you and you look forward to class each week, that’s a good sign. If you start dreading the class or choose to drop it, focus your attention elsewhere.

8. Enter the Gig Economy

Contracted work is a great “try it before you buy it” career tactic. Skipping to an entry-level role requires more commitment than you might want to give while you’re still investigating your options. The gig economy offers the best of both worlds: paid work as well as flexibility.[2]

Gig workers take work from companies or individuals that do not directly employ them. Plumbers and artists are good examples. Rather than receiving a regular paycheck, they sell their services by the task or deliverable.

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In the gig economy, you aren’t bound by long-term agreements. If you don’t like the experience, you can simply move on.

You never know if you’ll enjoy something until you try it. And because contractors work with professionals in the field, gig workers naturally get networking and shadowing opportunities.

9. Market Yourself

As you zero in on your dream career, there’s one final test you can use to find out whether you’ll be successful: marketing yourself as a candidate for hire. Whether you get bites is a key indicator of how you’ll fare in the field.

Beware that, as someone without much experience in the field, you’re going to get a lot of rejections. Don’t be discouraged. If you get two interviews out of 50 applications, think of it as two opportunities you didn’t have before to find your ideal career.

Just as important as outreach is a good inbound strategy. Set up a website, and post your portfolio on it. Describe your dream job on your social media.

Recruiters are constantly on the lookout for candidates that fit their company. The more exposure you get, the more people will be interested in what you have to offer. Put yourself out there, and you just might find the perfect fit.

Don’t Give Up!

Nobody ever said it was easy to find a career that’s right for you. Finding one is tough enough, and even then, you may find yourself looking for a new field ten years into your career.

Whatever you want from your professional life, you have to be willing to put in the time. Don’t hesitate, and don’t give up. Start your search today.

More Tips on How to Find a Career

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

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