2020 has caused upheaval for many businesses, but it hasn’t slowed the global shift to freelancing.
After all, experts have been predicting that the majority of the workforce will go freelance a long time now.
[M]any people are now pursuing freelance work out of necessity, not by choice.
But the freelance revolution was often seen as a gradual shift that would take place over many years. Instead, the COVID-19 caused it to happen in a matter of months.
Businesses were forced to shut down and lay off many of their employees. Hiring freelancers who work remotely has quickly become the norm instead of the exception.
To see what this holds, let’s look at the freelance trends coming up next year.
5 Freelance Trends to Watch in 2021
Whether you’re a new or experienced freelancer, you’re likely looking ahead to 2021 and wondering what’s in store for the gig economy. Here are five freelancing trends for watch out for in the New Year.
1. More People Will Go Freelance Out of Necessity
According to a study done by Upwork, two million Americans have gone freelance in the past year. Freelancers now contribute $1.2 trillion to the economy, which is an increase of 22% since 2019.
In many ways, this freelance trend isn’t a surprise since many people were predicting a global shift to freelancing. But COVID has massively accelerated this trend.
And the major difference is that now many people are now pursuing freelance work out of necessity, not by choice.
Before the pandemic, many people chose to be freelancers because they wanted more flexibility and work-life balance.
Then the pandemic hit, and millions of people lost their full-time jobs. And companies began to realize the cost-benefit to relying on freelancers instead of full-time employees.
This means people who would have otherwise preferred the stability of a full-time job will be forced to take on freelance work to pay the bills.
2. Freelance Work Will Become More Stable
Freelancing has always been viewed as an unstable career choice. The income is unpredictable and freelancers don’t qualify for things like health insurance.
But that perception is quickly changing thanks to a growing number of support networks. For instance, the Freelancer’s Union is helping to build more structure for freelancers.
The Freelancer’s Union provides affordable health insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, and more. They also offer financial resources, resources for dealing with COVID, and help for freelancers who are dealing with client non-payment issues.
And there are a number of professional organizations for freelancers that provide virtual networking opportunities.
For instance, AIGA is a professional network for design. Members receive access to job listings, professional development, and more.
In 2021, for this freelance trend you can expect to see more organizations popping up that are designed to support freelancers and provide more stability.
3. Freelancing Platforms Continue to Grow
Freelancing platforms have been one of the biggest growth drivers for the gig economy. A decade ago, some people may have been interested in freelancing, but they would have had no idea how to find those freelance jobs.
Today, there are dozens of freelancing platforms that provide access to a variety of different types of jobs. These platforms make it find clients, sell your services, and many of them allow you to bill clients directly within the app.
Companies like Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com all experienced significant growth in April when the pandemic first hit.
And increasingly, many platforms are looking to cater to freelancers with specific skill sets.
For instance, Toptal recently announced an offering for freelancers who specialize in project management. Kolabtree specializes in helping businesses hire freelance scientists and researchers.
And in 2021, many of these platforms will begin treating freelancers like valuable customers. Instead of treating freelancers like commodities, the freelance trend for 2021 will shift to community support and providing resources.
4. Freelancers Will Continue Leaving Big Cities
In the past, some of the best freelance jobs were located in a handful of big cities. For instance, if you wanted to be a writer, it was widely accepted that living in New York was a career necessity.
But it’s no longer necessary to live in New York, L.A., or any other major city to find a wealth of professional opportunities. And while the job opportunities have dried up in places like New York, the rent prices are still sky-high.
The cost of living outpaces the average salary in most major cities. The shift away from big city living was already underway but it sped up drastically after the COVID-19 hit.
Suddenly, living in densely populated urban areas seemed much less attractive. This has led many freelancers to flee big cities in search of affordable housing, lower taxes, and a higher standard of living.
This freelance trend has led to a rise in second-tier cities like Houston, Austin, Atlanta, and Denver. Freelancers have access to just as many career opportunities, at a more reasonable price tag.
5. The Pay for Freelancers is On the Rise
For a long time, freelancing was seen as a hop, skip, and a jump away from unemployment.
Freelancers were often creatives who had to do free work to gain exposure. And even when they did get paid, many worked for seriously low wages.
But that’s no longer the reality for most freelancers. There is a growing trend of highly-skilled freelancers, and reports show that the pay for freelancers is on the rise.
For instance, a report from MBO Partners found that one in five freelancers earns over $100,000 per year.
And another report found that 60% of freelancers who left their full-time job now make more money as a freelancer.
And as more individuals with highly-specialized skill sets make the switch to freelancing, these figures will likely continue to rise.
The Bottom Line
These five freelance trends will shape the experience of freelancers in 2021 and beyond.
If there’s one common thread weaving all of these freelance trends together, it’s that freelancers will be increasingly valued and in-demand in 2021.
As the number of highly skilled freelancers continues to rise, their pay will grow accordingly. And freelancers will have more options when it comes to where they live, work, and who they work with.
I hope you found this article helpful, and that it inspires you in your own freelancing journey. Have you noticed any of these freelance trends in your own freelancing business?
Comment below and let me know!