How the freelance market has changed post-pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all aspects of life. Even now, 18 months on, society is still adjusting to this ‘new normal’. Certain things have been changed forever as the pandemic and lockdowns have changed the way that we live our lives. This article will be focusing on how the freelance market has changed and what the future looks like for freelancers in a post-pandemic world.
The freelance market pre-pandemic
Before the pandemic, like many industries, the freelance market was relatively stable but like everything else, there was a huge slump in consumer spending. This meant fewer jobs and opportunities were available for freelancers. This was due to many businesses temporarily having to close due to government-imposed lockdowns, resulting in the majority of business activity and projects coming to a halt.
As workers left the office and millions began working from home, this ‘novel’ concept of remote working was all too familiar to freelancers. The majority of freelancers pre-pandemic were already working remotely so this shock to many was not felt; the biggest concern was the dramatic decline in freelancer jobs. In the UK, the self-employed were offered support packages from the governments in terms of furlough that kept them afloat to avoid mass unemployment.
How the market has changed during the pandemic
Even before the pandemic, over periods of time, companies in many sectors have steadily increased their demand for freelance workers. However, the pandemic has created a catalyst effect for this process and as a result, the demand for freelancers has grown considerably. As we will discuss later, this has transformed the freelance market and indicates a successful and promising future.
Throughout the pandemic, many businesses have had to adapt to these new conditions and in doing so, have had to become increasingly more flexible to ensure the survivability of their businesses during these unprecedented times. Freelancers were able to offer this flexibility that businesses sought which was great news for the freelance market as the huge surge in demand helped freelancers get back on their feet.
The future looks very optimistic for the freelance market post-COVID. Despite freelancing being around for many years, it was considered inferior to the typical 9-5 kind of employment, but as employees are increasing their need for flexible workers to complete a whole host of different types of work; freelancing is becoming a very appealing concept.
The labour market is evolving and it is something certainly to watch out for in the future. The pandemic has definitely shaken people out of the comfort of the traditional 9-5.
In regards to the future of the typical workforce, we can expect to see one that is more hybrid. So what does that mean for freelancers? Companies are likely to have permanent members of their workforce and then for certain projects, hire freelancers. This way of working is more cost-efficient as businesses will be able to hire skilled freelancers straight away and sometimes with very little notice, whereas if they were to hire a permanent member of staff then there would be extensive costs; costly in both money and time. There are also many other costs associated with permanent workers in terms of sick pay, HR and holiday hours to name a few. For freelancers, they get paid for the work they do and that’s it!
More and more skilled professionals are likely to make the transition from traditional employment to freelance work. As mentioned, as more companies seek freelancers for projects and contract work, there will be a higher demand making the transition from traditional employment to freelancer a viable option for many different people.
Another thing almost certain from the pandemic is that working from home is here to stay. Despite many returning to the office, many people have preferred working from home and companies are allowing their employees to split their time between the office and at home. This is great news for the freelancing market because working from home is a lot more accessible; companies know that working from home can produce the same quality of work as working in an office and it has opened their eyes to the world of remote working and thus freelancing. This also benefits the freelance market from the supply side; many more workers are familiar and comfortable with the concept of remote working so would be more inclined to take that leap from their traditional employment to freelance work.
Despite all of the positive news, in April this year, the government imposed IR35 tax changes which have created a level of uncertainty in the freelance markets. The problem with the changes is that there are no definitive criteria to distinguish between who pays the extra tax and who doesn’t and this has created confusion amongst freelancers as they may end up facing unexpected tax bills. However, as this is a relatively new change there will be teething issues that will be adjusted accordingly and HMRC has already received a significant number of complaints regarding the change.
Overall, the freelance market is definitely experiencing exciting change and growth. The pandemic was definitely a struggle and there was a lot of uncertainty amongst many freelancers if they could survive. But now as the pandemic is starting to wind down and the economy is opening back up, there is a sense of optimism in the air. In addition, how the pandemic has normalised remote working, freelancers can go back to work in a market full of opportunities and growth.
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