What the future of freelancing could look like

Future of Freelancing: An Ever Changing Landscape for Job, Talent, and Work

Get ready to explore the future of freelancing! See the exciting possibilities and evolving trends that will be shaping the freelance landscape. From digital innovations to global connectivity, discover why freelancing is not just a job but a dynamic journey!

November 26, 2023

According to the World Bank, almost half of the global workforce, approximately 47%, is now freelancing. This signals a significant meltdown in the traditional employment structures. The surge is further validated by the research from Absolute Reports, revealing that the global freelance platform market has grown rapidly to a staggering $3.39 billion. 

We can attribute the growth of freelancing to many factors that have reshaped the work and employment sector. Firstly, the widespread availability of digital technology like AR and AI has facilitated easy connectivity, helping freelancers collaborate with clients and employers from anywhere in the world.

The rise of the gig economy is another factor. Many professionals now prefer the flexibility and variety of projects that freelancing offers over traditional 9-to-5 employment. This shift is reshaping the traditional employer-employee relationship, with more people opting for freelance work to achieve a better work-life balance.

Also, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the adoption of remote work. This pushed both employers and workers to explore alternative work arrangements. With its inherent flexibility and adaptability, freelancing emerged as a viable option for businesses looking to navigate uncertainties and workers looking for diverse opportunities.

Salary is also a possible factor. According to Payoneer's data, freelancers earn an average of $21 per hour worldwide. These substantial earnings and the flexibility and autonomy freelancing offers have attracted a diverse talent pool. This is especially true for those looking for opportunities to shape their professional destinies, but what does the future of freelancing look like?

How Freelancing Is Changing the Labor Market

Freelancing is reshaping the labor market in several significant ways. It has become increasingly popular and offers new opportunities for both employees and employers. Here are some of the ways freelancing is changing the job market right now:

Employers Now Value Skills Over Degrees

80% of employers prioritize skills over degrees
A good per cent of employers now believe in skills over degrees. Source: American Student Assistance

Employers are undergoing a profound shift in their hiring strategies, with a growing emphasis on skills rather than degrees. In a recent Fortune survey, 45% of respondents indicated that they abandoned degree requirements for specific roles this year. Furthermore, 72% of these employers actively adopt skills-based hiring practices, prioritizing skills over certificates. This trend shows a broader drift towards skills-first hiring gaining momentum in the professional realm.

Another study conducted by American Student Assistance in collaboration with “Jobs for the Future” reinforces this shift. It reveals that a striking 81% of employers advocate for prioritizing skills over degrees. Moreover, 72% of employers express skepticism about relying on degrees as a correct measure of a candidate's quality. This collective retreat from the traditional emphasis on formal education signals a fundamental change in how employers evaluate and select candidates, all thanks to freelancing.

All these show that employers are beginning to recognise and value diverse skills and experiences beyond traditional academic qualifications. As the workforce sector evolves, this shift towards skills-based hiring provides opportunities for a broader talent pool. It aligns with the changing dynamics of work, echoing the themes of flexibility and adaptability championed by the freelancing movement in the modern professional era.

There Is a Rise in the Gig Economy

Gross volume of the gig economy between 2018 and 2023
How the gig economy has steadily risen between 2018 and now. Source: World Economic Forum

Modern workers are increasingly prioritizing flexibility, a trend that has propelled the gig economy into a substantial force within today's labor market. According to the World Economic Forum, the gross volume of the gig economy has witnessed remarkable growth, which showcases the enduring appeal and economic significance of gig-based work.

Corporate Finance Institute underscores the driving force behind this shift, emphasizing that contemporary workers place a premium on flexibility more than ever before. This preference for flexibility is a central factor propelling the prosperity of the gig economy, synonymous with the principles of freelancing. Notably, 82% of gig workers express high satisfaction with their choice, emphasizing the intrinsic happiness of the autonomy and adaptability inherent in gig-based engagements.

The gig economy's expanding financial footprint is not just a reflection of monetary transactions; it signifies a cultural shift in how people perceive and pursue work. As freelancers continue contributing to the gig economy's growth, the paradigm of short-term, project-based engagements becomes increasingly planted in the fabric of the labor market. This fosters a more fluid and adaptable professional landscape.

Remote Work Is Becoming the Norm

The reasons why remote work is getting more popular
Most of the reasons why remote work is becoming the normal. Source: Sprint Zeal

The surge in freelancing also aligns with the pervasive acceptance of remote work. This marks a significant shift in contemporary work norms. The possibility of being able to work from anywhere is rapidly evolving into a standard practice. This is helping reshape the organizational structures of companies and creating expansive opportunities for employers and freelancers.

As of 2023, Forbes reports that 12.7% of full-time employees are engaged in remote work, with an additional 28.2% adopting a hybrid model. This statistic shows the widespread adoption of flexible work arrangements in the professional landscape. Notably, 98% of workers express a desire to work remotely at least some of the time, highlighting a growing preference for the autonomy and freedom that remote work provides. This sentiment is mirrored by employers as 93% plan to continue conducting job interviews remotely, showcasing a sustained commitment to flexible work practices.

This shift towards remote work as the norm reflects a broader transformation in how work is conceptualized and executed. The synergy between freelancing and remote work is not merely coincidental; it reflects a dynamic and evolving professional landscape where the boundaries of traditional office structures are redefined, and the emphasis on flexibility and adaptability becomes paramount.

How Freelancing Could Change the Labour Market in the Future

Global gig economy market size in 2031
Projected gig economy market size in 2031. Source: Business Research Insights

Freelancing is poised to be a transformative force in shaping the future of the labor market, particularly in the realms of the gig economy and remote work. According to Business Research Insights, the global gig economy market is projected to witness a remarkable expansion, with a robust CAGR of 16.18%. The forecast anticipates a surge from $873 billion in 2027 to a staggering $1.8 trillion by 2031, underlining the monumental impact freelancing will have on the economic landscape.

2 out of 3 people believe the traditional office setup will be obsolete by 2030
Traditional office setups could be obsolete by 2030. Source: Finances Online

Finances Online reinforce this trajectory, revealing that two-thirds of people foresee the obsolescence of the conventional office setup by 2030. The rise of remote work, driven by the growing prevalence of freelancing, is predicted to become the new normal. This shift aligns with the desire for flexibility expressed by contemporary workers and signifies a broader cultural transformation in how work is perceived and executed.

As freelancing gains prominence, its integration into the gig economy and remote work practices is poised to redefine the labor market. The compelling statistics affirm that freelancing is not just a trend but a pivotal force that will shape the future dynamics of work globally.

Trends and Predictions That Could Shape the Future of Freelancing

The future of freelancing is expected to be shaped by a number of trends for the next few years. Here are some key predictions:

1. There Will Be Increased Automation

As technology advances, the freelance industry is poised for increased automation, integrating AI-powered tools into tasks such as data analysis and project management. Sage Journals' study predicts a substantial decrease in employment for 47% of occupations in the next 10–25 years. This highlights the impact of automation on work, generally. Nearly 50% of work activities across all occupations are projected to be automatable using digital technology.

Some freelance jobs, such as routine data entry or basic coding, may witness a reduction in demand due to automation. At the same time, this shift creates new opportunities for freelancers with expertise in emerging fields like AI programming, automation strategy consulting, and algorithm design. Freelancers adapting to these technological advancements stand to benefit from the evolving landscape, finding novel avenues in the intersection of their skills and the automated future.

2. Specialized and Highly Skilled Freelancers Will Be in Higher Demand

As the freelance market becomes increasingly crowded, a shift towards heightened demand for specialized and highly skilled freelancers is evident. To stand out in this competitive landscape, freelancers must have specialization, honing in on specific skill sets or carving out niches in the market. For instance, expertise in advanced data analytics, blockchain development, or AI-driven content creation can set freelancers apart.

In their pursuit of tailored services, employers will seek freelancers who bring a unique depth of expertise to the table. Specialization will enhance a freelancer's marketability and position them as sought-after professionals in their respective fields. Embracing this trend as a freelancer will help you anticipate increased demand for your services as businesses will prioritize proficiency and specialization in the evolving freelance ecosystem.

3. There Will Be Increasing Demand for Soft Skills

The top 10 soft skills to develop as a freelancer by 2027.‍
The top soft skills to develop by 2027. Source: Coorp Academy

In the future freelance landscape, the significance of soft skills, including communication, problem-solving, and emotional intelligence, will intensify. As automation assumes specific tasks, clients will increasingly prioritize freelancers capable of delivering a human touch and building strong client relationships. Harvard Business Review identifies the top five soft skills for the future job market: effective communication, teamwork, influencing without authority, problem-solving, and leadership.

Freelancers equipped with these soft skills will not only navigate the industry's evolving demands but also emerge as valuable assets in a technology-driven marketplace. Effective communication ensures clarity in project discussions, teamwork promotes collaborative success, influencing without authority deals quickly with complex dynamics, problem-solving addresses challenges, and leadership guides projects to fruition. As the freelance arena evolves, cultivating these soft skills will be pivotal if you want sustained success and meaningful client engagements.

4. There Will Be a Bigger Emphasis on Work-Life Integration

Top benefits of good work-life balance.
Some of the advantages of good work-life balance. Source: Eleven Recruiting

In the future of freelancing, a heightened emphasis on work-life integration is anticipated as freelancers actively seek a balance between their professional and personal lives. This trend is underpinned by the recognition that freelancers value opportunities that help them integrate work into their lifestyles seamlessly.

A Frontiers research study found the importance of work-life balance, revealing its positive impact on employee job performance by enhancing psychological well-being. The study, particularly relevant in a medical context, emphasizes that job satisfaction serves as a mediator between work-life balance and job performance. 

The findings suggest that this trend will gain prominence in the future, particularly within the freelancing sector. As freelancers continue to prioritize work-life integration, businesses and platforms supporting this approach are likely to attract and retain top freelance talent. This will then foster a more sustainable and fulfilling work environment.

5. There Will Be a Continued Rise in Freelance Earnings

As the gig economy is expanding and the demand for specialized skills is surging, freelancers are poised to experience a sustained increase in earning potential. This economic incentive will serve as a compelling factor, drawing more people to explore freelancing as a viable and lucrative career option. 

The evolving dynamics of the freelance market, marked by a growing recognition of expertise and a demand for niche skills, will contribute to this upward trajectory in freelance earnings. This trend positions freelancing as an attractive avenue for skilled professionals and reinforces its status as a dynamic and rewarding sector within the broader work landscape.

6. Freelancing Will Extend More Deeply Into the Healthcare Sector

rojected dermacosmetics market showing a CAGR of 11.1% between 2021 and 2030.‍
The projected dermacosmetic market. Source: Research Dive

The trajectory of freelancing will likely extend more profoundly into the healthcare sector. The rise of telehealth platforms like Kaiser Permanente and Intermountain Healthcare and innovative healthcare apps like AMJ Workplace Wellness and Google Fit will drive it. 

Medical professionals, such as dermatologists, will now have opportunities to freelance with skincare startups, providing online prescriptions for personalized products. The booming dermacosmetics market, projected to surpass $25.7 billion by 2032, according to Globe News Wire, presents new avenues for freelance collaboration.

Mental health counselors will also find many freelance opportunities on online therapy platforms like BetterHelp and Talkspace, exemplified by Verified Market Research's projection of the online mental health market growing at a CAGR of 14.27% until 2030. This expansion of freelancing into healthcare not only creates diverse career possibilities for medical professionals but also reflects the integration of freelancing into evolving industries, aligning with the broader trends reshaping the future of work.

7. There Will Be Better Protection From Government

As freelancing gains momentum globally, regulatory bodies are taking steps to provide better protection for freelancers. In the UK, the government has responded to the rise in freelancers through its Good Work Plan, emphasizing self-employment and outlining workplace reforms over the next 20 years. The European Commission has proposed measures to safeguard digital platform workers, focusing on improving working conditions, clarifying their classification with employers, and enhancing transparency in platform algorithms.

The Swedish government is advocating changes to the Work Environment Act, aiming to extend employer obligations for systematic work environment management to freelancers, self-employed individuals, and contract-based workers. In the Philippines, recent legislation mandates hazard pay and night shift differential pay for freelance workers, offering enhanced protection against poor or unsafe working conditions. 

This trend towards modern legislation signifies a crucial aspect of the future of freelancing, with governments worldwide working to attract, protect, and empower freelance workers through comprehensive legal frameworks. The potential for more e-residency programs further underscores the evolving landscape of freelancing as governments seek innovative approaches to support and regulate the growing digital workforce.

How You Can Still Standout as a Freelancer in the Future

The top in-demand tech skills that will get you hired.‍
Top in-demand tech skills to learn now that will get you hired in the near future. Source: Karmick Institute

To stand out as a freelancer in the future, it's essential to focus on acquiring and honing in-demand skills, leveraging technology, and adapting to the evolving landscape of the freelancing industry. Here are some strategies:

  • Acquire in-demand tech skills. According to Shiksha, an online educational portal, the most in-demand tech skills for freelancers in the future will include data science, cloud computing, AR and VR, artificial intelligence, DevOps, blockchain, etc. Investing in these skills can help you differentiate yourself and meet the growing demand for specialized expertise.
  • Embrace technology. As the freelance economy becomes more digital, you must embrace technology and stay updated on the latest tools and platforms. This includes leveraging software and high-demand tools like Adobe InDesign for graphic design.
  • Adapt to market dynamics. The future of freelancing is expected to be defined by new workforce market dynamics, where companies are more likely to recognize freelance talent as a valuable resource. You must adapt to these changes and position yourself as an indispensable asset to businesses. This can be done by building a solid portfolio, developing a personal brand, networking and collaborating, etc.
  • Expand skillsets. The freelance industry is experiencing significant growth, and it's an ideal time to expand skill sets or break into new careers as this will be one of the trends in the future. This can help you diversify what you offer, ensuring you remain competitive in the market.
  • Stay up to date. Keeping abreast of the latest trends for the future of freelancing is crucial. You must understand that the industry's trajectory can help you make the best possible decisions about your skill development and career strategies.

The Future of Freelancing Looks Exciting

The market summary on the future of freelancing platforms.‍
Market summary on the future of freelancing platforms. Source: Mordor Intelligence

In the economy today, a growing number of people are turning to freelancing as a means to navigate the evolving work landscape. The rise of the Internet and the gig economy has transformed freelancing into a viable option for those looking for flexible work arrangements. The future of freelancing is promising. It will offer greater flexibility compared to traditional employment models.

Freelancers use various tools, such as project management platforms like ProofHub and Asana and communication apps like Telegram, to automate their work processes, enhancing efficiency. Businesses also benefit from freelancing as they can cut costs by hiring freelance talent with specific skills and expertise for projects without committing to full-time employees.

As the world increasingly embraces online connectivity, freelancing is set to become even more popular. The future of freelancing appears exciting, with its inherent flexibility and adaptability aligning seamlessly with the changing dynamics of work. If you are contemplating a freelance career, the time is now. 

According to Mordor Intelligence, the freelance platforms market size is currently estimated at $5.62 billion and is projected to reach $12.15 billion by 2028, indicating a remarkable CAGR of 16.66% during the forecast period (2023-2028). This growth underscores the expanding opportunities and economic significance of freelancing in the digital era, making it an exciting prospect for those considering entry into the freelance domain.

Shashank Kothari
F4P Contributor

My goal is to empower readers with insightful blogs that explore future trends, provide practical guidance, and spark curiosity. Together, let's navigate the path to personal and professional growth in an ever-changing world.

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