After the pandemic, expect more work for freelancers

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The workplace is not what it used to be. And as it settles into a new post-pandemic normal, a change that took hold before COVID-19 is likely to continue: Companies are hiring freelancers and independent contractors to save money.

A study conducted by Harvard Business School and the Boston Consulting Group from November 2019 to January 2020 found that 60% of the more than 700 American business leaders surveyed would prefer to “hire, borrow or share talent” with other companies, and 60% anticipate a core workforce with fewer full-time staff.

With the pandemic underscoring the relative ease of working remotely, it’s likely that some companies will decide to hire freelancers who can connect from anywhere.

And while many may associate freelance work with transportation and food delivery jobs with companies like Grubhub and Uber, it’s becoming more common in white-collar fields like IT, digital marketing, and design. user experience as companies seek to build websites and security systems, said Nithya Vaduganathan, author of the Harvard study and managing director and partner of Boston Consulting.

“It’s really difficult for a company that can’t pay a high price, that is not in a place where talent comes together, [or]is not an industry that has a buzz factor to get this type of talent, and the supply is limited, ”said Joseph B. Fuller, another study author and professor of management practices at Harvard Business School.

Using freelancers allows businesses, especially small businesses, to hire expensive part-time talent and keep costs low.

These independent contractors may offer non-industry specific skills, such as coding and marketing. A user experience designer, for example, could help a tech giant with an app for six months, then work with a department store to revamp their website.

While self-employment has its benefits for employers, it also provides flexibility and autonomy for workers, including control over when they work, how and on what projects, said Vaduganathan.

And over time, experienced freelancers earn a similar salary working fewer jobs, said Phillip Lewis, senior vice president of Aquent, a Boston-based recruiting agency with more than 500,000 available workers in its pool, many of whom are looking for short term positions. Freelancers can also gain experience in multiple companies, he said.

A recent study by independent website Fiverr found that 80% of skilled entrepreneurs surveyed said they expected to earn as much or more in 2021 than in 2020.

But there is a downside for the self-employed: no advantage. No health insurance, sick leave, vacation or retirement either.

David Coppins, co-founder and CEO of IntelyCare, a recruiting company that connects nursing professionals with nursing and assisted living facilities, questioned whether to hire workers as a independent contractors. He chose not to, a move he said shows loyalty to his staff.

Companies that can only make money with independent contractors have an “imperfect” business model, he says.

“Classifying workers as contractors is like saying, ‘Just let me use you for a while, then let you go,’” Coppins said.


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