By Doug Hanson
Much has changed in the US workforce. Hybrid work is here to stay, the way companies source talent is evolving, and there’s a growing market for talent platforms. More offices are remaining empty, and more workers are discovering just how flexible this new work climate can be.
No one could have predicted the cause of this shift, but the gig economy is not a new concept. Even before the pandemic sent millions home to work, enterprising workers were driving for Uber, doing freelance work, or starting their own small businesses. However, since 2020, the workforce has changed dramatically, and the number of people participating in the gig economy is growing as more people realize the benefits.
The Gig Economy in Full Force
If the time we spent working from home throughout the pandemic has proven anything, it is that working remotely is not only feasible but productive. Still, more workers are realizing the possibilities of working for themselves and leaving their employment at companies to set out on their own. Millions fled their jobs between March 2020 and March 2022, searching for other opportunities, with a record 4.5 million people quitting their jobs in March of 2022 alone. Many of those found freedom and opportunity in freelance work.
Within the gig economy, contracts and positions are temporary, and commitments are short-term. The internet and social media have significantly elevated gig work into something viable and wide-reaching. According to Pew Research, 16% of Americans have tried online gig work at one time or another as of 2021. With the urgency of the “Great Resignation” and the changing face of work in the wake of the pandemic, this number stands to rise in the coming years. Projections show that by 2027, 86.5 million people may be freelancing — a number half of the total US workforce.
Freelancers are gig workers, but FTEs can be gig workers too—it’s not a binary. People take side gigs to enhance their regular income, enable a less restricted lifestyle, or to work on a passion project. By 2028, the population of US-based freelance workers is projected to reach 90.1 million. By not relying on one company, role, or paycheck, workers can diversify their income streams and be more resilient during economic uncertainty.
Freelance Tech Work
One industry that has grown exponentially for freelancers is the tech sector. Tech freelancers with a myriad of specialized skills are finding that companies are eager to work with temporary talent.
Generation Z, those born after 1997, grew up with the internet, social media, and fast-paced advancements in technology as second nature. They are flooding the freelance market, with an astonishing 48% of them freelancing. These “zoomers”, as they’re called, are bringing in-demand tech skills to the market, and taking advantage of the flexibility of the freelance tech marketplace.
The gig economy has facilitated a mindset shift, ushering in a new way of working where temporary positions and highly-skilled independent workers are common. The use of non-traditional labor is accelerating as companies realize there are many benefits which ultimately drive improvements in their top and bottom lines. If a business has an important project to be completed, or is growing quickly, turning to tech freelancers or crowdsourced competitions can be a winning business decision. Companies can even forge relationships with freelancers and bring their most trusted partners back again and again for essential projects.
The Future of Work
Given the rise in remote work, the future for freelancers and new work models looks promising. Technology-based tools and platforms have enabled on-demand access to workers in nearly every industry and sector. Tech freelancers have joined marketplaces that not only offer paid gigs, but coding competitions, community, learning and up-skilling opportunities.
This is good news for businesses, who can now get amazing talent on-demand. ‘Gig’ is the engine for a lot of these changes, but this movement is bigger than staff augmentation. Companies that fail to take advantage of this shift in the future of work will likely find themselves at a disadvantage. And as more workers and organizations experience the benefits, we’ll see the work environment in the US continue to transform.
About The Author
With 25 years of leadership experience, business leader Doug Hanson is the CEO of Topcoder, a Wipro company and the world’s leading open talent platform for developers, designers, data scientists, and testers. He has held leadership positions at Grubhub, Amazon, Vivid Seats, and Microsoft. Doug was recently featured in Businesswire and Bloomberg. He holds a Master’s in Business Administration from Purdue University.