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article imageThe evolution of online working — a perspective on digitalization

By Claudio Buttice     Nov 17, 2016 in Technology
From the first pioneering websites such as the (now defunct) Elance, oDesk (recently rebranded as Upwork) and Guru, the online job marketplace has rapidly evolved to be much more pervasive than just providing part-time freelancing services.
Up to a few years ago, "online jobs" mostly were nothing more than simple part-time gigs that anyone could find to raise some spare change. The largest players were just a bunch of vast marketplaces like Freelancers.com or Fiverr that offered no real diversity or methods to highlight a worker's specific abilities. Regardless of whether you were a data analyst, a copywriter or a web developer, most of these platforms just offered a simple interface to facilitate the hiring process and negotiations and, in some instances, some form of safe methods of payment (usually nothing more than an escrow and a few, laxly enforced refund policies). During that "age of pioneering" (from 2008 to 2013) very few individuals were able to make a living by working as full-time freelancers. On the other hand, those who were actively seeking a traditional job did so by looking for it on the social recruiting networks (mostly LinkedIn, but also Facebook or Twitter).
Did things change in the last three years? The answer is yes — they changed a lot. One of the most obvious changes is the actual merging of the concept of "traditional" job with "online" job. In 2015, the numbers of workers who telecommuted (i.e. they worked from home via a PC) rose to 37 percent, and 60 percent of American workers obtained one-quarter (or more) of their yearly income with freelance jobs.
And in the era of digitalization and system integration, the Internet and mobile markets reacted accordingly. Online recruitment platforms became more and more globalized, and freelancers quickly learned that if they wanted to find better opportunities, they needed more than just a mediocre blog. The first "online portfolio" websites started appearing, and, of course, new software that allowed to rapidly build a professional web page made the entire process even simpler. In the Pinterest era, everyone is a champion in his own field, and can easily showcase his own successes in a beautifully designed gallery. New specialty-oriented marketplaces made their appearance. Talent Cupboard, for example, was built to offer jobs tailored to students. But it didn't stop at that: platforms like ClearVoice were able to merge the two ideas by creating profession-specific marketplaces while improving a freelancer's visibility at the same time. Writers who worked on any other website can now get an "author score" based on their previous performances that could give them a universal evaluation, and find their jobs in a marketplace that focuses only on writing jobs of all kind.
But it's not just the global job marketplace that is now hosted on the Internet medium. Freelancers can literally transport their entire working life in a virtual environment, from their transactions to their worksheets. Timesheets and general workflow could be tracked with WorkZone or Moiety, but if you need to manage a team and assign them tasks or sync their efforts you got Pipefy and Trello too. Some apps such as IF This Then That (IFTTT) can even completely substitute collaborators by making other apps "talk with each other" by setting repetitive tasks and macros that interconnect them.
What about money, though? Anything from sending and receiving money, invoicing and billing could be done instantly with the new digital wallets such as Due.com that also allow transactions with eCash and cryptocurrencies. As mobile payments in real-time keep becoming even more mainstream and digital cash keeps rapidly evolving into a new form of universally recognized virtual currency, virtual wallets as a whole are just one of the many examples of how the digital evolution is influencing the entire world's economy.
Although the time is not ripe yet for a full digital transformation of the classic idea of work, it is not hard to foresee a future where freelancing is going to be much more common than it is now. Maybe one day we will all get rid of the annoying necessity of walking to our workplace, and we could all work from our homes.
More about freelancing, freelancers, online marketplace, online job, work online
 
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