Benefits of a ‘gig economy’

Technology plays a huge role in “disrupting” industries and has been creating amazing opportunities online for businesses and individuals around the globe. Technology has also caused a dramatic change in the way we work, and trends are going against the traditional office and nine-to-five jobs. If you didn’t notice, workplaces are transforming; instead of hiring full-time employees, organisations are turning to freelancing and crowd-sourcing.

People are preferring to take on remote work, choosing to focus on objectives or goals as main indicators of performance instead of the amount of time spent at work. They also favour the flexibility of picking their own projects and work hours.

The future of the workforce is expected to benefit more and more businesses and professionals across the world who are jumping onto the bandwagon in this “gig environment” that allows a whole new set of employment options. One wonders if there will come a day when future workplaces will rely on freelancers in place of full-time employees.

“By hiring freelancers, businesses can achieve their goals at competitive prices and more importantly, they can employ freelancers on a demand-driven basis. Still, it does not mean they don’t need full-time employees. Businesses still need full-time employees, hence the workforce for their core business will remain in-house but non-core ones will continue to be, in an increasing way, awarded to talented freelancers,” said Freelancer.com communications manager (Asia), Helma Kusuma.

In the cards
Helma shared that there are a few hypotheses to the prospects of the freelance market. One of them is that the gig economy can be a major solution to unemployment and wage problems. The opportunity to work for a few extra hours and earn additional income or to get an instant job after being laid off, is a powerful way to overcome a lot of worries pertaining automation.

Based on a report by McKinsey Global Institute in 2017 involving 46 countries, comprising a mix of developed and developing economies, it looks as if by 2030, 16% of occupations will be automated and this will cause impact and dislocation.

“The midpoint across 46 countries is 16%, the midpoint for advanced economies would be much higher than that, in the 20% range, whereas the midpoint for developing economies will be much lower; simply because their wage rates are much lower,” Helma explained.

“At the low end, it could be very little and at the high end, it could go all the way up to about 30%. The reason for that range is that it depends on the rates of adoption, the nature of the country, the wage dynamics in that country, and the wage dynamics in the sectors in that country.”

If you’re in Japan, you could expect a higher percentage of your workforce to become automated, whereas if you’re in India, you could expect a much lower percentage – largely due to the different labour-market dynamics.

Freelancer.com, a platform akin to an eBay for jobs, thinks the gig economy has started to impact more people and industries, and they see this from the tremendous growth of their online users worldwide since 2009 – starting with hundreds, reaching six million in 2015, then to 15 million and currently, just hitting 28 million users and 14 million jobs posted.

“It has been impacting more industries as well. I remember when Freelancer.com started, the total number of job categories listed on our platform was around 20, then it rose to 500, and now it has increased to 1,000 job categories from hundreds of industries,” Helma shared.

On preparation
Although the freelance market is huge, it still has the potential to grow. Thus, companies should adapt their work and management culture by creating a proper environment, changing their traditional methods and mindsets to current working models.

“They can start by trying to hire people online, and not be afraid of exploring online tools like Freelancer.com to grow their business, plus take smart risks. Be open to the idea of having remote teams working from different parts of the world.

“Nowadays, it is common to hear of small businesses that have teams of three to five remotely collaborating from different countries,” Helma informs.
Meanwhile, for freelancers, her advice is to always upgrade one’s skills, narrow one’s niche to stand out, write bids that clients won’t say no to, and provide quality service beyond clients’ expectations so they will come back to you.

“For full-time employees, the digital economy can provide people with a way to earn a living, even if they are otherwise excluded from the traditional labour markets such as stay-at-home women, college students and people with disabilities.

“The key benefit about this digital economy is that it allows and encourages remote working, where gender, location and age may not matter as much as it does in the physical economy. It also opens up a world of opportunities for more people.

“So if people don’t start preparing themselves by acquiring new skills and jump into this new set of work options that can benefit them to become independent workers and finally to become entrepreneurs, they will miss the big opportunity that the digital economy can offer them,” Helma stressed.

Managing a remote team of freelancers may be difficult. Companies can cope, coordinate and communicate well with their freelancers from different countries and zones by focusing on communication and coordination.

Helma encourages having regular virtual meetings with the team. It is an effective way to tackle daily problems and find solutions via discussions, coordination and brainstorming ideas she says.

Next, use apps for online collaborations. Many tools are available like Google Drive for shared documents, Google Hangouts and Skype for video calls, plus chats like Trello and Slack.

“Make sure employers share the goals of the projects and key performance indicators (KPIs) are set up in advance with their freelancers. This ensures everybody in the team are in the same direction and on the same page, which is important for the success of the projects,” Helma informed.
To follow suit

According to statistics by Freelancer.com, Malaysia is the third largest country in Southeast Asia, eighth largest in Asia, and 18th largest internationally – in terms of number of users. Based on the demographics, Freelancer.com sees potential in Malaysia becoming one of the top freelancing and crowd-sourcing hubs in the Southeast Asian region.

“Malaysia is a big market with 85.7% internet penetration in a 32 million population. Our global mission is to beneficially influence one billion peoples’ lives across the world by giving them a job through our platform and we want to make sure Malaysia is a part of it,” Helma said.

To make the cut, education and connectivity are key areas. In terms of connectivity, although Akamai in their Q1 of 2017 study reported that Malaysia has an average connection speed of 8.9 megabits per second (mbps), (a 9.1% increase from last quarter and a 40% improvement from the first quarter of last year), the country still needs to raise its internet connection speeds, especially in rural areas for better opportunities for those living there.

In terms of education, Malaysian youth, especially students, need to be better educated and encouraged regularly – to become entrepreneurs, starting off as a freelancer while still a student. They need to practise being a business person as a freelancer and earn as freelancers do to pay bills, make a living, support their family and save, focusing on establishing their own company in the future.

From here on
Freelancer.com Fast 50 Report, which analysed over 415,000 jobs posted this quarter reported that “hot” freelancing jobs are business-function related like networking technology, data mining and processing, Javascript and C# programming; designing such as Adobe After Effects and InDesign, 3D design and CAD/CAM; and writing jobs like English and German jobs, plus legal writing.

“The future of freelancing will not be limited to certain categories of jobs, but to more skills and fields. It will not be limited to general fields, but specific ones and it will create more new fields that we cannot imagine right now. Upcoming trends include blockchain, data privacy and security, and artificial intelligence.

“Freelancing will continue to become a respected field and one that flourishes in diversity of talent and opportunities. And employers in the freelancing industry will not only come from start-ups and small businesses. Moreover, corporate companies will also be part of this,” Helma concluded.