Hot Commodities: Companies Turn Their Focus to Freelancers
Workspan Daily
July 15, 2022
Key Takeaways

  • Assessing the freelance job market. A recent FlexJobs assessment found the most freelance positions available in fields such as accounting and finance, IT, HR and recruiting.
  • Expanding the talent pool. In some fields, hiring remote freelance workers may enable reaching a wider talent pool in a tight labor market or hire for non-traditional working arrangements, including short-term projects or part-time work.
  • Digital nomads in demand. The rise in remote work has created more opportunities than ever for people to find lucrative, flexible freelance jobs, which might be driving the increased interest in digital nomads.

The freelance job market is hot, and there’s reason to believe that it’s only going to get hotter.

 

Some recent reports, for example, predict there will be 90 million freelancers in the United States by the year 2028, comprising more than half of the entire American workforce.

 

FlexJobs, a subscription service for job seekers that features flexible and remote jobs, recently assessed the state of freelance work, identifying the hottest opportunities in the remote and freelance marketplace as well as the top career categories and job titles for freelancers.

 

Their evaluation found the most freelance positions available in fields such as accounting and finance, IT, HR and recruiting, with executive assistant, recruiter, accountant and graphic designer among the top remote job titles for remote freelance jobs in the coming months.

 

Across industries, businesses struggling to bring on regular, long-term employees often turn to freelancers to help fill talent gaps or meet an increased workload, said Kathy Gardner, vice president of communications at FlexJobs.

 

“In fields like accounting and finance or computer and IT, which have strong overall projected growth rates, hiring remote freelance workers may also provide the chance to reach a wider talent pool in a tight labor market or hire for non-traditional working arrangements, including short-term projects or part-time work,” she said.

 

Digital Nomads on the Move

One particular type of freelancer seems to be increasing in numbers. Digital nomads differ from typical remote workers, in that they are more frequently on the move, opting for a lifestyle that’s independent of location and allows them to travel and work remotely anywhere in the world.

 

One recent study finds the number of American workers describing themselves as digital nomads increasing from 7.3 million in 2019 to close to 11 million in 2020, representing a 49% jump.

 

The increase in remote work has created more opportunities than ever for people to find lucrative, flexible freelance jobs, which might be driving the increased interest in digital nomads, Gardner said.  

 

“But it’s important to remember that many remote jobs are open to applicants residing anywhere they choose,” she said, citing FlexJobs findings that 95% of remote jobs require applicants to be based in a certain state or country.

 

Still, Gardner predicts that digital nomads who don’t want to stay in one place for too long could soon have more opportunities available to them.

 

“We may start to see a number of freelance jobs turn into full-time employment once companies have a better understanding of their longer-term needs post-pandemic,” said Gardner, noting that recent FlexJobs data suggest many companies are looking to hire remote freelance talent, which could create even more options for freelancers in the future.  

 

In addition, a growing number of countries are offering digital nomad visas in an effort to attract foreign workers to help boost their economies. This development seems to underscore the increased attention that remote work travel programs have gained since the start of the pandemic, said Gardner, noting digital nomad visa programs in places such as Estonia and Antigua.

 

“These programs are especially good for people who are looking to move to a new location, but want to continue working remotely,” she said.

 

Working in Cheaper Locales

Justin Hampton was looking to do both when he left Seattle in September 2021 to start a new venture, Compensation Tool.  

 

Compensation Tool is still technically based in Seattle, but Hampton didn’t want to stay in one place as he got the market pricing and compensation benchmarking software platform up and running.

 

“For me, it was a personal matter. I wanted to have the flexibility and the freedom to see and experience different cultures and see what the world is about,” he said. “With a regular job here in the United States, you might get to travel one or two weeks out of the average year, and it’s travel within the U.S. I didn’t want to just travel one or two weeks out of the year. I wanted to see and really experience other places.”

 

Hampton’s travel goals were personal, but his move made a lot of sense from a business perspective, he said.

 

“It’s a lot cheaper to live here than in Seattle,” he said, referring to Playa del Carmen, Mexico, where Hampton is currently living and working on growing his enterprise.

 

“So, trying to start this business and making sure we had enough runway — it was kind of a no-brainer. I figured I could go to Mexico and live on one-third of what I lived on elsewhere and still have the same quality of life. That was certainly a driver of my decision to pick up and get moving.”

 

Since leaving Seattle last year, Hampton has worked extensively around Mexico, in places such as Holbox, Sayulita, Merida and Mexico City. He plans to move on to Medellin, Colombia, by autumn of this year, as Hampton is unsure when he might return stateside.

 

Being the CEO of his own company might give Hampton a bit more freedom than the average freelancer or digital nomad looking to work from anywhere in the world, but many workers share the same wanderlust. Given current conditions, Gardner predicts that many other would-be freelancers will feel the need to indulge that desire to travel, and she says they will likely find a solid market for their talents.

 

“We’ve seen in the past that freelance opportunities tend to rise during times of economic uncertainty,” she said. “We expect that freelance jobs will be strong bets as the pandemic economy continues. Because remote work is more widely accepted by employers of all types now, we may see that employers that were previously hesitant to hire remote freelancers may do so moving forward.” 

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