As the world is coming to grips with the implications of the coronavirus pandemic, the future of the freelancing industry is shrouded in uncertainty.
Companies around the world have indeed begun to embrace more remote work, but it does not necessarily mean there will be more job opportunities for freelancers—at least in the short term.
The reason is that layoffs are expected to continue in the coming months and the now budget-conscious businesses are increasingly inclined to tighten their belts by shelving new projects and reducing the amount of outsourced work.
This has left many freelancers wondering where their next gig and paycheck will come from.
A recent report by Payoneer, a New York-based financial services company, sheds a bright light on what the future holds for freelance professionals.
In a survey, it asked 1,000 freelancers from over 100 countries to share how COVID-19 has affected the demand for their services, their hourly rates, and the expected opportunities and risks associated with the unfolding health crisis.
Here are the main takeaways from the report:
1- Demand for freelancers has dropped in the short term.
The findings of the survey show that freelancers have experienced a fall in demand for their services in the past three months.
“Close to 32% of the freelancers surveyed mentioned that demand has decreased greatly, suggesting that the overall slowing of the global economy has led to a slowdown in both ongoing activity and the start of new projects with outsourced talent,” Payoneer wrote.
However, this should not be a serious cause of concern for gig workers as 23% of the respondents said that business remained as usual while 17% reported an increase in demand for their services.
According to the company, the increase could be partially attributed to the fact that companies are hiring freelancers to compensate for the reduced activity from their in-house team during this time.
The survey entitled “The State of Freelancing During COVID-19” also shows that demand from clients varies region by region.
“Freelancers with clients based in North America and Europe reported the highest slowdown in demand. Asia and Australia—regions which first felt the impact of the outbreak, have seen slightly less of a decrease in demand for freelancers.”
Payoneer says this lends to the view that there is a bright silver lining for freelancers in the long run when the coronavirus is brought under control.
2- Freelance hourly rates remain stable.
The 2020 Freelancer Income Report by Payoneer put the global average hourly rate charged by freelancers at $21/hour, which is significantly higher than the average worldwide hourly rate for workers.
When asked if they have changed the rates they charge due to the pandemic, a clear majority of the surveyed freelancers said their rates have remained the same or even gone up. Only 23% of them have lowered their hourly rates.
It shows freelancers generally feel confident that their services are essential for businesses, Payoneer noted.
In addition, 21% of the freelancers managing their team said they have done their best to protect their employees and sub-contractors.
“83% stated that they have kept their team’s rates the same or even increased them in a few cases,” the report said, adding that 74% plan to either keep their team the same size or grow it.
3- The future of freelancing post-COVID-19 looks positive.
According to the survey results, the prospects for the freelance industry are very promising as more and more businesses are finding a lot of value in flexible talent in a variety of situations.
“53% of freelancers believe demand will increase from what it was before the pandemic, with a further 21% expecting demand to revert at least to how it was prior to the crisis.”
A majority of the respondents answered that they remain optimistic and believe the shift to remote work will open up more opportunities for freelancers in the coming months.
However, with opportunities come risks and challenges. Payoneer says freelancers see tighter competition ahead in the post-outbreak world.
Furthermore, some of them are concerned that their clients may suffer financially and not have sufficient resources to pay handsomely for freelance services.
It is apparent from Payoneer’s survey that the demand for freelancers has slowed in the short term.
However, many believe that the industry will rebound once the world begins to recover from the immediate impacts of the unprecedented pandemic.
With competition increasing, successful freelancers will be the ones who can level up their skills and adapt fast to the shifting demands of businesses worldwide during this testing period.