As companies emerge from the pandemic, hybrid teams—made up partly of traditional employees and partly of freelancers—are catching on quickly.
The trend is likely to continue as companies ramp up their operations in 2021, with 36.1% of hiring managers saying they plan to increase their reliance on independent talent “somewhat” or “significantly” over the next six months, according to Upwork’s recent “One Year Remote” report.
That trend is coinciding with others that bode well for freelancers who like to work remotely, with the report projecting that 20-25% of professionals will work remotely in the next five years. As the report notes, historically the same companies that tend to hire freelancers also are the ones that have been comfortable with remote work.
“It’s a great time to be a remote freelancer,” says Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork. “For those who haven’t taken that step, now is a great time—there are so many people looking for freelancers right now, it’s a great opportunity.”
Many freelancers will find companies that are familiar with remote work putting out the welcoming mat. Upwork reported it had 6,400 new core clients in the fourth quarter, compared to 4,000 in 2019.
When managers personally enjoy working remotely, they are 10-16% more likely to work with freelancers, the report found. Perhaps it is not surprising that 58% of professionals who are not currently freelancing said they were considering freelancing in the future
As the report points out, the pandemic provided more evidence that both workers and employers feel working remotely increases productivity. All told, 61% of workers said productivity had gone up as a result of working remotely, and, as of late April, 32.2% of hiring managers did. And hiring managers’ comfort with remote work increased over time, with 68% saying working remotely was going better than at the beginning of the pandemic in a second survey in November.
Greater adoption of remote work seemed to bring many professionals—both freelancers and employees—a greater sense of geographic freedom, the report found. An estimated 23 million people planned to relocate due to an increased ability to work virtually. Many also find that remote work brings them more freedom, saving them time and money on commuting, the report found.
Against this backdrop, Upwork in January introduced catalogs, where employers can shop on the platform for the entire team of freelancers they will need for a particular project. Someone who, for instance, wants to build a website would be able to find all of the freelancers they needed, whether or not they knew exactly what roles they needed to fill. The catalogs identify the types of professionals they need and offer them access to suitable candidates. “We want to make sure that anyone who comes to the platform can work with freelancers how they want to work with them,” says Ozimek.