How freelancers can overcome the challenges faced in a growing gig economy

As the number of freelance experts increases right around the world, it’s important to ensure that the gig economy learns, grows and develops with it.

The gig economy is expanding fast and with that comes a growing number of challenges. Both employers and those searching for an alternative work life are coming up against hurdles they must leap on a daily basis.

According to McKinsey, 162 million people in the US and the EU now partake in independent work, and a large number of those are joining through choice. As the number of freelance experts increases right around the world, it’s important to ensure that the gig economy learns, grows and develops with it.

A study by Forbes found that freelancers are expected to become the majority workforce by 2027, due to a number of reasons mainly focused on freedom, automation and flexibility. With that in mind, it’s important to continuously identify the challenges faced by both the freelancer and the employer and face them head on.

Unifly recently spoke with ASOS Chairman, Brian McBride, and communications analyst, Dave Michels, to get their thoughts on the growing gig economy and why organisations should tune in to the freelance marketplace.

McBride said that “while seasonal gig work has been around for decades in retail and manufacturing, it now reflects changing customer behaviour”. A changing online environment, a more flexible attitude and an economy based around knowledge are all helping to feed into this growing trend.

Michels believes that fitting into company culture is one challenge, but the tools needed to ensure clear communication and effective collaboration are another. “There’s an attitude problem and there’s a technical problem where external resources are not on the same footing as internal resources. It used to be a painful experience as a remote worker. On conference calls you couldn’t see what the room were doing, couldn’t see what was on the wall, couldn’t hear half the people in the room; and when you tried to express yourself it was very difficult, so we penalised that person as a remote employee,” he said. Technology has changed all that. The remote worker is now as much a part of the team as those sitting in the office, as much a part of the decision-making process as a key worker.

Michels cites Uber as a good example of a company with gig workers and how it operates, which can be applied to many other business models. “It’s not just a driver’s license that makes you an Uber driver. You have to know the company procedures, how to deal with accidents, drunken customers, all kind of situations. They have to run their drivers through some kind of orientation. They don’t do that by flying them all in. They do this on demand, you watch these videos. So, the reality is that a lot more of this onboarding process and a lot more of this alignment has to be done in a more effective model for the gig and remote workers,” he said.

To avoid challenges faced in this growing gig economy, communication tools are crucial to its success. Not only is collaboration a fundamental part of overcoming the challenges faced, but is important to build a healthy, competitive and successful marketplace.

According to Forbes, there are five fundamental points to take on board when faced with challenges in this highly successful, and highly competitive gig economy.

  1. Find a sense of identity

Not only is it important to forge your own identity, but you must build a reputation within your field in order to succeed. One of the greatest challenges faced by freelancers is the amount of competition in any given area, and how much of an ‘expert’ that person really is within their field. Not only do today’s workers have many different clients or employers, but they have many different types of gigs at the same time. As the knowledge economy grows, and organisations search for the best experts in any given field, it’s advisable to focus on your niche, know your craft and excel in your field. That way you can command the highest rates, find a sense of identity and become truly respected within your industry.

  1. Legalities

There are often challenges faced when determining whether a freelancer is indeed a gig work, or an employee. There are so many grey areas around this question, that it’s fundamentally important to ensure that all ‘gig’ contracts are clear and outline exactly what their position within the company is, what is expected of them and how they must conduct themselves.

Risks can be elevated by having freelancers on long rolling contracts undertaking roles that are traditionally undertaken by full-time staff members. The freelance workforce can fall under the HR radar, bypassing checks and systems put in place to mitigate risk to the organisation. Hiring managers must heavily vet and check employees before they join the business, before they are given access to sensitive information, computer systems and specific internal practices. Make it clear that they are independent workers but still respected.

Forbes highlights Uber as a prime example of a company where drivers are considered independent contractors, and the company determines rate of pay. Their drivers are not eligible for any benefits and they must conduct themselves as freelance entities, who cover their own tax and take care of their own business. However, the employment status of many gig workers is still unclear, and there are legal changes to this process all the time. Be aware, keep vigilant and make sure you’re on top of any employment law changes.

  1. Supply and demand

A study by New Scientist found that the market is becoming increasingly more competitive as the gig economy grows. It’s therefore a matter of supply and demand, which means pay decreases and workers are having to find more jobs to sustain their freelance work life. It’s therefore fundamentally important to focus on the advice given in point one, ‘Find a sense of identity’, to ensure that the worker is the best in their field and can command the best rates.

  1. Payment problems

There can be a number of challenges faced with payment methods. First of all, freelancers can find it a slow and agonising process to receive payment for their work, sometimes finding it hard to receive payment at all. There’s not much recourse available when faced with an employer who won’t pay, the only option might be to take legal action which could prove expensive and very time consuming.

Secondly, there can be problems faced when working on a freelance payment platform, Upwork for example. Although Upwork is one of the best online freelancing sites for employers to find work and vice versa, they are notorious for charging high fees and additional costs. Although these kinds of platforms secure payments for gig workers, they can leave them worse off in the long run through the sheer number of deductions taken.

  1. Stress and hassle

You are your own boss, and all the stresses and hassles that come with that fall on your own back. Forbes points out that gig workers are responsible for their own client relations, marketing, contracts, and all financial elements of running a business. Not forgetting all the tax and legal complications that can surround a freelancer in today’s marketplace. Administrative headaches take time away from what actually generates revenue and could prove more problematic than it’s worth in the long term.

One way to ensure that you minimise the challenges faced in the above mentioned points is to take advantage of an online freelancing platform – like Upwork, Alifery and Freelancer. They not only offer businesses the best talent, at the right rate but help take the headache out of the recruiting process for the freelancer at the same time.

One of the leading online platforms to find experts in the legal, finance and consultancy sectors is Australian-based freelancing website Alifery Freelance Experts. The Alifery ecosystem provides access to skilled and vetted talent, tailors work to meet business needs and reduces overheads.

Alifery states that they are all about people. The company uses technology to bring people together to find answers to problems of any size. They connect businesses to Australia’s largest pool of intelligence who come from a wide variety of backgrounds but share a dedication to excellence. Their online platform manages all stages of the client/freelancer relationship so insight can be shared quickly and effortlessly.

Find out more about Alifery here or register an account here to gain access to short term projects or freelance experts.

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