2021: The Year of the Freelancer?

After an awful 2020 for small business could 2021 be the year that small business shines?
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By Jess Dixon

As I’m writing this, the UK has just come out of Lockdown 2.0 (officially, though most of us are still in Tier 3, or Lockdown By Any Other Name.) It’s December, and many of us are starting to look towards the new years and make plans. 

Whether your business has thrived or barely scraped by this year, it’s been a rough ride. We’re all going to need to plan, strategise, and draw on all the resources available to us next year. With that in mind, I wanted to delve into an interesting trend I’ve noticed and ask this question: will 2021 be the year of the freelancer?

Many people have turned to freelancing to survive

To say the jobs market has been challenging this year would be an understatement. Millions of people worldwide have lost their jobs through redundancy or business closures. As a result, those with appropriate skills have turned to freelance work out of necessity. 

The number of freelancers in the UK has risen steadily year-on-year, and the pandemic has accelerated that growth. Of course, not all those people will stay freelance. Many will return to traditional employment when the jobs market levels out. But I’m also sure that some of them will realise they like freelancing and decide to stick with it long term!

Freelancers are earning more

Freelance jobs boards such as Freelancer.com and Upwork are infamous for advertising gigs for very very low pay. But pay for freelancers is actually on the rise overall. According to an Upwork study, 60% of freelancers earn more than they did in traditional employment. Why would people want to go back when they can earn more being their own boss? 

Short-term issues, but long-term hope

According to Websiteplanet, just over 60% of freelancers experienced a drop in demand for their services due to the pandemic. However, due to an increase in remote working, over 50% predicted that they would see an increase in the long run. 

Another reason that has been cited for this shift is the removal of geographical boundaries. Now that companies are seeing that people can work effectively from home, they are more likely to hire the best person for the job even if they live in a different city or country. 

Demand for freelancers is set to grow overall

The advantage to businesses when it comes to hiring freelancers is obvious. They get access to a wide range of highly sought-after specialised skills. Though freelancers often charge more per hour, things often work out cheaper for the company on average because they can just pay for the hours they actually need. They also don’t have to go through the enormous expense of hiring a full-time employee, onboarding them, and providing benefits. 

According to Forbes, 47% of hiring managers are now more likely to take on an independent professional than they were before the pandemic! 

So will 2021 be the year of the freelancer?

If 2020 has shown us anything, it’s that the world is hard to predict. I don’t think any of us had “global pandemic” on our bingo cards this time last year! But things are looking up for the UK and the world’s freelancers in several ways. 

In other words: it’s been a tough year, but brighter days are coming. Let’s see what happens!

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