Freelance work reigns despite the economic uncertainty
Coronavirus pandemic which persists to challenge us all on a global scale has upset the balances in the business world as in many other domains. In the scope of social isolation measures, thousands of organizations experienced the remote work model worldwide. And today, as we gradually take baby steps towards normalization, the concept of the “new normal” has made a swift entrance into our vocabulary.
But how has the uncertainty and the necessity to work solely from home affected freelancers and what changes are we to observe in the freelance ecosystem with this so-called “new normal”?
As Ruul; a finance company offering innovative solutions to individual professionals and organizations operating in the freelance work arrangement, we conducted a survey with freelancers around the world in order to shed light on the changes observed during the pandemic and to understand what is expected in the new normal.
Core details about our survey and the participant profile
Between April 21 – May 11, 2020, we shared a survey comprised of 8 questions with 25.000 freelancers in our network as well as other independent professionals we reached through announcements of our survey on social media platforms, namely LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.
Professionals from 32 countries participated in our survey with primarily the following geographical distribution:
EU countries, 37%
While the sample was predominantly made up of full-time freelancers (59%), it also included occasional freelancers (25%) and those who define themselves as digital nomads (14%).
Work arrangement, areas and experience
Participants were majorly working remotely regardless of their frequency of freelance workload. 58% of all participants expressed that 75 to 100% of their work was done remotely.
We also had the opportunity to collect opinions from a diverse sample in terms of experience in freelancing. 49% had been working freelance for less than 3 years, whereas 51% were freelancers for 3 or more years.
Within the distribution of work areas, Design & Creative stepped forward with 35% and was followed by:
Sales and Marketing (27%)
Web, Mobile and Software Development (22%)
48% of the participants were active in more than one area.
In general, those who serve in the field of Web, Mobile, and Software Development were also present in Design and Creative. And similarly, Sales & Marketing and Consultancy were among the pairing fields.
Effects of the pandemic on work-life
According to the results of our survey, the COVID-19 pandemic affected the work arrangement, income expectations, and motivation of freelancers. However, despite economic concerns, flexible and independent work continues to be preferable.
Our key findings show that 44% of freelancers have observed a drop in their income. In addition to this 44%, one in every 2 freelancers stated that they expect a drop in the following months.
Drop in income was prevalent in:
Design and Creative (35%)
Writing and Sales & Marketing (26%)
Turkey (37%) and EU countries (35%) were prominent in the geographical distribution of freelancers who observed a decline in their income.
Decline in demand and increase in competition may lower the prices
One independent professional out of every 3 thinks that they may have to lower their prices in the new competitive environment. 55% of those who share this view predict that competition will increase.
Work areas of those who feel that they will have to offer better deals to clients are predominantly:
Design and Creative (45%)
Web, Mobile and Software Development (31%)
A significant portion (36%) indicated that they observed a drop in their workload, whereas 16% have recorded an increase. The picture was not gloomy all over. 28% did not mention any decline in their income, workload, or client number.
Although the workload is in decline for the majority, some participants still stated that they work for longer hours. 58% of those who work for longer hours did not see an increase in their workload. In fact, 13% observed a decline. This; in our opinion, points out to the fact that the pandemic has altered the daily work arrangement regardless of the quantity of work and due to other factors such as motivation and concentration.
Daily work arrangement and motivation
With a significant rate of 29%, decrease in motivation was also among the common effects we discovered through our survey. Similarly, 18% indicated that they have difficulty in keeping the balance between their personal life and work as they continue to work from home.
10% have pointed out to the fact that their working hours shifted in the axis of day and night. Based on the fact that the percentages related to work-life balance are not high (under 20%), we had the assumption that freelancers were already accustomed to working from home routine and in fact quite reconciled with it in general.
Projections on the new normal and the post-pandemic period
When the participants were asked how the pandemic would affect their work habits and decisions, we reached the following substantial findings:
50% of the participants expect a change in the attitude towards freelance work
48% believe that the new normal will require new adaptation skills
48% think that the market will become more competitive for freelancers
47% assume that they will need to find new clients
41% believe that freelance work will become more prevalent
32% think that freelancers will need to offer better deals to find work
17% conceive that freelancers may need to change their existing service areas
Freelancers are content with their work arrangement
We asked freelancers their perspective regarding working freelance work as compared to the pre-pandemic period. With an average of 68%, freelancers mentioned a positive turn of thoughts on freelancing in contrast to their perspective before the pandemic.
Furthermore, 80% of those who marked the change as positive submitted a point between 8 to 10 on a scale from 1 to 10. This positive look has shown us that independent work arrangement continues to be preferable and indispensable for freelancers despite the pandemic.
The economic crisis brought about by the pandemic worldwide has undoubtedly caused financial loss. In this tableau dominated by uncertainty, freelancers are concerned about sustaining their regular income and continuing to ensure work keeps coming in this competitive environment. Daily work routine has also altered. Most importantly, work habits and expectations show a tendency to change for good.
Freelancers we reached through this survey advocated the thought that freelancing is here to stay. As a company offering solutions nourishing the passions and strengthening the skills of independent professionals, we believe that conditions stipulated by the pandemic will cause tremendous change in the composition of the workforce, the framework of work models and the attitudes of employers.
By the universal flexible work experiment necessitated by the pandemic, it seems that flexible work culture will flourish in the near future. The new normal will establish the ground for a breakthrough and in the business world, innovative steps to be much more inclusive for the freelance workforce will be taken.
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