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article imageOp-Ed: Changing job market — 87 percent of grads opt for freelance work

By Paul Wallis     Feb 28, 2014 in Business
Sydney - The world’s biggest and arguably best freelancing site, Elance, has published a new study showing that 85% of graduates with first or second class degrees saw freelancing as a component of their careers.
This is a huge departure from the conventional career map, and it’s highly significant in terms of future career planning models.
At first glance, this finding may seem somewhat self-serving on the part of Elance. After all, this is a website which provides freelance services on a huge scale. That’s not quite the case, however. This is an extremely significant issue for the whole job market. The rise of global freelancing online has been huge, and there are no actual figures about how much money this type of work is generating.
According to the International Business Times:
According to jobs site Elance, which questioned 1,000 UK university leavers, freelancing is now seen as a highly attractive and lucrative career option by a vast majority (87%) of graduates with first or second class degrees – compared to 77% of those with lower class degrees.
The research also revealed that more than two in ten (21%) of university leavers with first class honors say they have already chosen to work as a freelancer.
Elance also said almost three in ten (29%) of the survey's respondents said freelancing is part of their career strategy in the next five years.
One of the more likely inferences of this finding is that the graduates don’t have much faith in the job market, either. The process of trying to cram ever more graduates into tight, restricted job markets with only so many actual vacancies can hardly be reassuring for them. Freelancing, therefore, is a viable option, allowing them to expand their range of career possibilities and create more job options for themselves.
The freelance job market – Underrated and under-analyzed
Elance,, Craigslist, and many other websites routinely have very large numbers of paying jobs for freelancers. It’s not easy to quantify exactly how significant freelancing is within the economy, but it’s clear that freelancing and freelancing services are turning over billions of dollars’ worth of work per year. last year trumpeted the fact that it alone had $1 billion worth of contracts at the time it floated its IPO.
Exactly why this eternally expanding sector isn’t on the radar for job market analysis isn’t clear. It’s big money, big business, high turnover and it’s absorbing a lot of demand for skills. It’s also generating a range of demands from freelancers to provide their services, so it’s hardly insignificant.
The types of work available are also expanding for freelancers. In the past, freelancing was largely for professionals, but now if you can offer a service of any kind, you can be a freelancer. The result has been that a lot of work which was previously salaried work is now being outsourced, which is directly affecting both employment figures and hiring practices on a large scale.
Career realities for Generation Y
There is no doubt, however that the grads have basically got it right in at least one respect. Freelancing is now seen as a portable, efficient way of earning income, and it includes useful career positioning possibilities. Freelancing can be a good way of promoting yourself up the career ladder, fast.
Most freelance jobs are basically “portfolio” jobs. As a freelancer, you can get better work, and more advanced work which you can use as part of your portfolio to promote your skills, advance your career, and get better work. In a conventional job, you’re pretty much restricted to what the job does, not what you’re capable of doing. Career opportunities are also largely restricted to the job role, and not much else.
A further consideration is that most people eventually outgrow their jobs. At the point at which a job ceases to be a challenge, it becomes restricting. This is particularly relevant in relation to the advantages of freelancing. Freelancing really is a way out of the box. Freelancers have far more say in what work they do, and usually have much better career portfolios as a result.
As a freelancer, you can both develop your skills and expand your horizons very rapidly. Conventional jobs can’t deliver anything like the same range of opportunities. At entry-level, in fact, jobs are usually quite restrictive, and baseline in terms of skills usage.
For graduates, freelancing makes a lot of sense in this regard. Why would anybody with a first-class degree want to work at kindergarten level? Why would a graduate with high-value skills want to be chained to a job description?
Freelancing reflects the extremely fluid dynamics of the modern job market more realistically than conventional jobs. Generation Y, quite rightly and understandably, sees an entirely different spectrum of job opportunities and career possibilities. Even the idea of being nailed to a career path for 40 years can’t be expected to make much sense to people in their early 20s.
The dollar values of freelancers
Employers have been incredibly slow, even by the market’s undemanding standards, to grasp this new way of working. It’s debatable whether or not they even understand the economics of freelancing and outsourcing. For some incomprehensible reason, they seem content to spend a fortune daily on expensive business premises and on-site business overheads, while simultaneously complaining about the cost of wages.
Freelancing is in fact a much more budget-friendly way of employing people. Freelancers are invariably highly motivated people, trying to do business for themselves. They cost far less than conventional employees in terms of payroll taxes, on-site facilities, human resources costs, insurance, and just about everything else which is unavoidable built into the costs of a conventional job.
The Elance survey is one of the few glimpses of exactly where Generation Y intends to go with its careers. It looks very like Generation Y wants to go into business for itself, and there’s not much anybody can do about it. This will be the way of the future, whether the corporate world likes it or not.
In dollar terms, it’s no contest when comparing freelancing services and conventional jobs. With freelancers, you can simply pick up a phone and get any kind of professional services you need at contract rates. You can basically hire an entire workforce on fixed costs, without the overheads. Freelancers provide their own equipment, software, and time. Conventional jobs have a huge logistic tail attached to every employee. No fortune-telling is required to see how this comparison will ultimately pan out.
Real hiring costs
The new job market: Self driven  self-sustaining.
The new job market: Self driven, self-sustaining.
Elance Blog
Even the cost of conventional hiring doesn’t make a lot of sense. Conventional hiring is a ritualised, bureaucratic, and very slow process. The time factor, in fact, is arguably more expensive than the value of the work to be done. By the time you’ve hired an employee for a project, a freelancer would have already done the work you wanted done.
Freelancers are much better and far more flexible time managers, valuing their own time, therefore saving employers time. Most freelancers work very long hours, specifically to control their times. If you give a freelancer a deadline, that deadline will be met, simply because it’s better business practice for the freelancer.
The future is freelancing networks
It’s a matter of when, not if, freelancing becomes the norm. In a global job market where costs are the drivers, networks of freelancers are the obvious, as well as the natural solutions. The future workforce will be comprised of freelance networks, rather than conventionally structured businesses.
September 2012 total workforce unemployment chart. Courtesy of
September 2012 total workforce unemployment chart. Courtesy of
New technology will also promote the cost efficiencies of freelancing. Cloud technology in particular will create a perfect environment for heavy duty freelancing, moving large amounts of business materials around the world quickly and efficiently.
This is the containerisation of work. Freelance networks can manage infinitely larger amounts of information, data, and materials, reducing waste, lowering the vast array of business costs, and improving time management.
It really is a no-brainer. Better jobs, better career options, improved cost efficiencies, what’s wrong with a freelancing future? I think we can give the graduates a pass with honours for correctly analysing their future career options.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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