The world of freelancing has undergone a sea change. Traditionally underpaid and looked down upon, freelancers are now much in demand. While the earlier generation of them were mostly writers, columnists and journalists, now they are in every field, from information technology to management consulting. “Independent working, freelancing and project-based work are here to stay, and a change in how we all will work is expected to be one of this century’s mega trends,” says Chandrika Pasricha, founder and CEO of Flexing It, a curated marketplace connecting experienced business consultants with project-based work. “There is a huge push for more flexible work structures driven by demands of professionals and the risks increasingly inherent to businesses.”
The scenario has changed primarily because of two reasons—the growing number of startups and the BYOB (being your own boss) approach of the current generation. Startups, which are normally strapped for cash in the initial stage, prefer hiring people who can work on project basis. But Pasricha says established companies are also looking at freelancers for their specialised skill sets. “We are now seeing larger enterprises also co-opting freelancers to retain flexibility, source specific skills and access top talent that has opted to work on their own terms,” says Pasricha. Among the large companies that use Flexing It’s platform to connect with workers are the Tata group, GE, Deloitte, Dr Reddy’s and Emami.
At the same time, millennials, who form a large part of the workforce, want freedom and flexibility in everything they do.
Freelancers are no longer people with an average resume. Many of them boast degrees from top-notch institutions and have rich experience across marquee firms. Why do these people leave the prestige of a formal job for freelancing?
Soum Paul, a computer science engineer from IIT Kanpur, has worked with a clutch of technology startups in the US. But since 2007, he has been working as a consultant and pursuing his other passions of writing and documentary filmmaking. “Right now, I am busy with my second book, and taking time off for working on a project like this would not have been possible in a 9 to 5 job,” he says.
For long, freelancing was considered women’s forte, a boon for those who have to manage kids and earn a supplementary income to support family. Today, however, men are as open to working flexitime as women. “The way we work and live is getting redesigned and stereotypes are being broken. More and more men are realising the importance of experiencing the other side of life,” says Sairee Chahal, founder of Sheroes, which helps women find entrepreneurship opportunities.
A problem with freelancing has been the high risk attached to it. It does not ensure steady income. But now things are changing with platforms such as Flexing It and Sheroes. And, the ever increasing number of startups has ensured that there is no dearth of job opportunities for flexible workers.
Nandeep Kaul, an XLRI alumnus, has worked with the likes of Yahoo and British Petroleum. Now an independent human resources consultant, he helps companies hire senior level talent. “Getting work has never been an issue for me. Once you are in the industry for some time and have built good relationships, it helps you a lot,” says Kaul. What has also helped him are some online certifications and courses that he did. “It has added lot of value to my existing expertise in this domain. Companies are willing to pay a premium for good quality flexi-workers,” he says. According to FeeBee, Flexing It’s proprietary smart fee benchmarking tool, a consultant with 10 years experience in marketing can earn from Rs 20,000 to Rs 75,000 a day.
What has also aided the growth of freelancing is technological innovations—better bandwidth and the development of payment systems. “Working remotely is no longer a pain—smartphones, web apps, higher bandwidth and other technological innovations have enabled 24/7 connections across the world,” says Jappreet Sethi, an HR and business strategy professional, and co-founder of YoStartups.com, which connects job seekers with startup opportunities. “Advances in online project management tools and escrow payment systems have turbocharged this segment. These tools have made it easier and safer to work with someone who is sitting across the world.”