More consumers have dipped their toes into the freelancing economy over the past several years — a trend that the ongoing pandemic appears to be boosting.
Consumers experiencing income losses or those who have more free time when working remotely are taking their skills to freelancing platforms, with one study finding that 68 percent of remote workers are now interested in doing some type of ad hoc work.
The continued growth of the remote working lifestyle has also buoyed corporate interest in the freelancing world, Christopher Wong, senior product manager of payments, trust and safety at global online ad hoc platform Freelancer.com, said in a PYMNTS interview.
“I think what we have really seen is a kind of growth or a lot of questions on the enterprise side of things, where the companies are trying to engage with us to see how they can better take advantage of the freelancer marketplaces,” Wong explained. “So, [for example,] companies like NASA [are] looking to see how they can crowdsource technical problems that astronauts are facing on the space station and [seek out] ideas and designs from our marketplace, and other enterprises … are looking at finding ways of how they can better take advantage of remote working, whether it is the remote work of their employees or our freelancer user base.”
Companies have more opportunities than ever to find talent as remote working becomes more comfortable for individuals and firms alike, but to truly capitalize on these opportunities, businesses must conceive of their work — and how they seek talent — in a different way.
The Pandemic And The Freelance Enterprise
Remote working’s rapid worldwide expansion has dramatically enhanced the freelance lifestyle’s popularity. Freelancer.com has seen a 14 percent increase in the use of its platform year over year, Wong noted, with job postings spiking from about 465,000 in 2019 to 539,000 this year. More individuals are engaging in some level of freelance work on a global scale, whether they are opening up individual eCommerce shops, undertaking ad hoc web design projects or consulting on marketing or sales pitches to secure more funds while they adjust to a remote working world.
Wong noted that the ongoing health crisis’s most notable impact on the global freelancing world has been on how companies themselves are approaching work.
“I think … the workforce being remote [is a] dynamic shift compared to what enterprise companies are used to seeing,” he said. “How to coordinate larger projects or those kinds of items in a remote space [has created] new and challenging aspects for these kinds of corporates that have been set up in certain ways.”
Global enterprises’ growing interest in freelancing also means that the competition to begin working relationships with talented freelancers is growing more heated than ever, and reaching out to these ad hoc workers is becoming more challenging when firms search across multiple global markets.
Companies competing for freelancers’ attention must also be certain that they can pay these workers swiftly and securely in their local currencies. Freelancer.com supports multiple payment methods for ad hoc workers who sign up on its platform, and it can send funds in 39 separate currencies. Supporting payments from more traditional methods, like bank or wire transfers as well as emerging options like mobile wallets or more localized payments, is growing more critical as the space evolves, Wong said.
“I think, from a payments landscape, I see the payments world getting a bit smaller as we start becoming more global,” Wong said. “There seem to be a couple of major players that are signed [on] to … try to capture that global dominance. But, … locally, there are new payment methods being introduced that are trying to improve the local economies and providing unique payment methods for those. So, there are things happening on both ends of the scale, and it will be interesting to see how they come together in 2021.”
Companies must be sure to take these various payment considerations into account when they embark on their freelancer searches, lest they risk losing talented ad hoc workers to other firms. Businesses must therefore build personalization into their payments and how they approach working relationships with these freelancers.
Global Freelance, Personal Payments
Enterprises’ efforts to pay and interact with ad hoc workers in ways that create trust and loyalty mean that they must adjust their strategies from market to market and freelancer to freelancer. Meeting these workers’ localized payment expectations is key, even as the economy becomes increasingly global.
“We have historically always been focused on the entrepreneur being able to find work or jobs that can be done from anywhere around the world, and I think that plays well into the enterprise space,” Wong said. “A lot of these companies are not just in one country — they are global entities. So, being able to take what we have, from a matchmaking and marketplace side of things, and tap that into the enterprise… space, I think that kind of trend will continue.”
It remains unclear just how significant the pandemic’s long-term effects on the future of work will be, but one thing is certain: Commerce will become only more global and digitally connected over the next few years, even as consumers insist on payment methods that are more local. It is also likely that freelancing will become more attractive to individual entrepreneurs and enterprises alike. Companies must therefore pay careful attention to the unique and changing needs of freelancers operating in markets around the world.
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