How COVID has Affected Freelancers and the Gig Economy

Work From Home (WFH) may be a new dynamic for many, but for freelancers and gig workers it’s just business as usual.

However, are things still as they’ve always been, or has the global shift toward WFH changed how the remote work and gig economies function?

At Ultimate Edge Communications, we work with a wide variety of freelancers and contractors. We spoke to them to see how their lives and operations have changed and how they’ve been affected by COVID-19.

Here’s what we learned:

Competition among freelancers is stronger than ever

Freelancing has always been an attractive work proposition, with the number of working professionals pursuing it as an alternative to the traditional employment model increasing every year (drawing everyone from fresh graduates through to retirees).

However, COVID-19 has caused the available market of freelancers (and gig workers) to surge even further.

New entrants include those in full-time employment who’ve been forced to work from home (and learned that remote work is actually possible), as well as those who’ve been retrenched or made redundant and are trying to fill the gap while they look for a new full-time role.

In an already tough field, the competition to be the lowest bidder is as fierce as ever. New freelancers just starting out and trying to make a name for themselves as finding it tough to compete with those operating out of areas with lower living costs having a price advantage. COVID-19 has made it even harder to land and keep good freelance clients.

For employers though, it’s provided access to a wider pool of available talent, helping them connect and engage with talented professionals who otherwise weren’t previously available.

There’s less stability and more uncertainty

Many freelancers are also digital nomads (the two terms overlap, but are not interchangeable), meaning they travel while they work.

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the travel industry and introduced a great deal of uncertainty for digital nomads. With countries (and states) coming in and out of lockdown, borders closing at short notice, and remote work providers temporarily suspending operations (such as Remote Year), digital nomads have found themselves having to make some tough decisions, fast.

For many, this means heading home to access to healthcare and a strong support network of friends and family.

Returning home however carries a price, with the cost of living usually much higher than it was as a digital nomad.

For employers, there’s the question of when to resume ‘business as normal’. Bringing teams back into the office carries new risk with the situation changing almost daily, with government recommendations and restrictions being constantly tested.

Not only that, but with more people staying home and consumer trends changing, there’s significantly more uncertainty within the business community when it comes to sales and the marketing strategies.

There’s more opportunity

While many things have become tougher for freelancers and employers alike, there have been some benefits.

Just as many employees discovered their ability to work from home, so did employers. This has led to companies of all sizes engaging more freelancers than ever before, covering remote roles for customer service all the way through to technical web development, mobile design, etc.

It’s also enabled many organisations to adopt longer-term work from home (WFH) plans, keeping more of their full-time work force at home, and helping lower costs.

We’ve worked with freelancers and remote teams since the beginning. If you’re a remote worker seeking a new opportunity, please contact us.

You can have a look at some of our previous posts for suggestions and insights on how to manage the shift to work from home for both employers and employees.

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