The future of freelancing

What’s ahead for independent contractors and workplace mercenaries? Elance CMO Rich Pearson reads the tea leaves.


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The Future of Freelancing

Elance Chief Marketing Officer Rich Pearson (@pearsonisms) answered questions about freelance work during the January 9 #crowdchat hosted by (@crowdweek)

Storified by The UpstartCO· Wed, Jan 09 2013 21:45:20

Q1: Today’s job market is changing quickly. What’ll be its biggest transformation in the next decade?

Q1) The biggest transformation we’re seeing is that large employers and their workers embracing fractional or on-demand work. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q1) Of course, it’s not an exact parallel, but fractional work follows the on-demand trends paved by iTunes, airbnb and Zipcar. #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q2: What is @Elance and what role does it play in the job market evolution?

Q2) Today, 500k businesses are actively finding, hiring and managing freelancers on Elance today. #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q3: Where is this new resource pool finding its niche and providing the greatest competitive advantage?

Q3) Elance’s roots are in technical skills including frontend development, mobile apps and backend work. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q3) Recently, we’ve seen a surge in the creative economy ranging from graphic designers, copywriters, and illustrators. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q3) As companies continue to realize the value of digital content, they are turning to the Elance freelance community for talent. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q3) Finally, more “traditional” jobs like accountants and attorneys are growing very quickly on Elance. #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q4: How do workers perceive freelancing today? Who comprises this workforce competing online for jobs?

Q4) They seem to love it – Elance provides a steady stream of leads & removes the hassles of chasing down clients for payment. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q4) Here are some stats – 69% of our freelancers claim they are happier working as a freelancer than with a traditional job. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q4) Freelancers are a global group – Top earning countries on Elance are 1) U.S. 2) India 3) Pakistan 4) Ukraine 5) U.K. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q4) One interesting segment that is growing super quickly are students-they are growing 40% faster vs other freelancer segments. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q4) Again, this makes sense given students comfort level w/being online & how hard it is for students to land a job. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q4) In the U.S., 50% of graduating college students can’t find a job – in countries like Spain, it’s even higher. Yikes! #crowdchatRich Pearson
I’m glad I’m not graduating right now – if I were, freelancing would be a top option #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q5: What areas of work are more naturally abundant on Elance? Are you seeing this evolve?

Q5) The diversity of work on Elance is amazing. While hiring a plumber is hard, you can find a speechwriter or voiceover artist. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q5) Businesses typically get their aha moment after a trial project & then hire a team or individual up for 15-20 hours per wk. #crowdchatRich Pearson
very interesting.@pearsonisms: Q5) Businesses are now thinking of Elance as less of project work and more of staff augmentation #crowdchatEpirot Ludvik Nekaj
Q5) When I first used Elance (before joining), I thought it was cheating. I could get *great* work done & it took days not wks #crowdchatRich Pearson
Game changer… RT @pearsonisms: Q5) The biggest shift we’re seeing is businesses hiring teams or people for ongoing work. #crowdchatJeff Baumgarten

Q6: You’ve said that businesses are becoming more comfortable hiring from the cloud. Why?

Q6) First, it’s just easier to find the talent you need online. @Elance is like iTunes for talent. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q6) Over half of businesses on @Elance claim that the talent level is higher on Elance that they can find locally. #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q7: Elance fills an impressive 800k jobs/month. Is the move away from salaried positions win-win for employers?

Q7) I’ll defer to our customers- 85% of businesses claim that hiring online workers gives them a competitive advantage. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q7) On the freelancer side, 57% earned more money in 2012, and two-thirds expect that they will earn more in 2013. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q7) And they aren’t talking 3-4% raises. Freelancers on Elance are predicting that they their incomes will rise 43%. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q7) (note to self), start freelancing on the side! #crowdchatRich Pearson

Q8: Is #crowdsourcing work part of a solution for the unemployed and underemployed?

Q8) Elance appeals to both segments. 25% of our freelancers already have a “full time” job. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q8) Many start doing it on the side, quit their "corporate" job & now freelance full time. #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q8) If you are unemployed, you should definitely look to online work – over 3k new jobs are posted on Elance every day. #crowdchatRich Pearson
NOTE: Q9 was skipped by @Crowdweek

Q10: You’ve led tech companies in wildly successful marketing endeavors. Ever use the crowd for marketing?

Q10) Ha! My success is purely based on the quality of the people with whom I work. And of course, I can find those online #crowdchatRich Pearson
Q10) As proof, Elance has more freelancers on staff than employees. Typically, we are working w/ 200+ freelancers at a time. #crowdchatRich Pearson
@pearsonisms Indeed. A trusted crowd is a powerful crowd #crowdchatCrowdSource

Bonus question:

@pearsonisms @CrowdWeek #CrowdChat Your thoughts on Contests / Crowd sourcing ? and its pros & Cons ?The Legend The King
@Legendster By Policy, we don’t allow contests on Elance. We don’t believe it is a viable way for freelancers to earn a living #crowdchatRich Pearson
@Legendster Maintaining trust on both sides of the market place is really hard, but our aim is to be impartial #crowdchatRich Pearson
@Legendster We review our policies regularly and rely on channels like Twitter to remind us when we get something wrong :-) #crowdchatRich Pearson
@Legendster I’m biased, but I think yes. We are seeing many sizeable companies now who hire 90% freelancers #crowdchatRich Pearson
RT @envirotarian: @pearsonisms What is your #1 tip for freelancers? #crowdchatCrowdsourcing Week
@envirotarian Persistence and personality counts. Hiring is a personal decision so make sure your brand comes through #crowdchatRich Pearson
@envirotarian Freelancing full time definitely requires some risks and persistence especially to start. #crowdchatRich Pearson
@envirotarian Once you have a solid reputation on Elance and a list of clients, you will have more work than you need #crowdchatRich Pearson