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Charlotte Gregson, Managing Director UK & Ireland, COMATCH
Industry View from
The nature and role of the freelance workforce has changed enormously in recent years, often in ways that have not been clearly communicated and are not especially well known.
Tech enablement, agile business needs, and greater demands for flexible working are all contributing to an expansion in the independent working sector. According to the UK’s independent professionals organisation IPSE, one in seven of the workforce is now self-employed, a 35% increase over the last decade.
The ups and downs in what’s often called ‘the gig economy’ have garnered much of the attention in recent years. As a result some of the key trends in independent working have been overlooked by the media.
Crucially, the independent workforce is increasingly diverse. It ranges from the Deliveroo drivers and TaskRabbit workers juggling a variety of ‘gigs’, to high-skill, and high value consulting and transformation experts. It is this latter group which has driven the recent boom in independent work; growing 47% since 2008 according to IPSE’s research, the biggest change of any section of the freelance market.
COMATCH and other similar marketplaces are where these independent professionals and their clients increasingly find each other. Our own research shows that nearly half (48%) of independent professionals use an online marketplace to find work. Quality and consistency is key; by screening and supporting our members and working with clients to identify their needs, we ensure companies have fast access to an international pool of top quality professionals and can be confident of strong and immediate fit with their culture and way of working.
This approach delivers great benefits for both independents and clients. Increasingly, businesses of all types and sizes need access to a wide pool of specialist and expert talent. For smaller businesses in particular, this has previously not been possible without great effort. Now, whatever the need; from supporting regular processes in busy times (eg peak sales times or their financial reporting cycle) to bringing in niche experts for one-off projects; all businesses can rapidly find and engage people with precisely the right skills.
For the independent professionals it is not so much finding work, but finding the right work that matters. Research among consultants registered with us highlights that ‘freedom to decide on projects’ was the main reason for going freelance (86% said this was important or very important). Variety, access to new and different sorts of client, as well as flexibility over when and where they work were also important factors.
It is also worth stating that, for the vast majority, becoming an independent professional was a considered and conscious decision. According to our research two-thirds of consultants quit their last jobs to go freelance, against just 15% who were made redundant. Most are committed to remaining independent; just one in ten (11%) would consider returning to a full-time employer. Although a majority (58%) make more money than they did as an employee, it is the work-life balance that is key. Over 90% say they are as happy or happier as a freelance worker than they were as an employee.
So this is a highly skilled, highly committed and highly motivated independent workforce that businesses of all types should consider tapping in to.
Companies looking to ‘right-size’ their workforce whilst ensuring that they have the skills and experience to meet highly dynamic customer and market demands, will increasingly look to leverage the ‘open talent economy’ to augment their existing employee-base.
Freelance and independent working is now an attractive option for many highly skilled professionals and a flexible, cost-effective solution for businesses challenged by finding talent and creating a workforce fit for purpose.
Some see this as the future of work: for many of the most highly skilled professionals in the 21st century, it’s already here.
Image provided by COMATCH
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