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The ‘gig economy’ means we could all be freelancers soon

Most people of working age now have home computers or smartphones and access to the internet 24/7

Recent developments in digital technology mean an increasing amount of work can now be done outside of the office environment. In turn, this means companies are able to outsource more work to freelancers instead of employing temporary workers inhouse.

This enables them to save costs, as work can be more targeted to the right worker and less time is spent on recruiting. This ‘gig economy,’ where firms use self-employed workers for temporary projects, or gigs, is becoming more prevalent in western society.

In Britain, almost five million people are now self-employed, while in America about a third of all working people – roughly 54 million people – now work on a freelance basis. A recent study predicted that nearly half of all workers in the UK and USA will be freelancers by the year 2020.

The attraction to both employers and employees is obvious.

Workers like to be able to create their own work/life balance, deciding when and where they work, as well as who with. So someone who lives in Europe can, for example, do projects for clients in America by working in American hours, enabling them to spend more time with their family.

Businesses have the benefits of being able to choose workers only when they need them, rather than employing someone full-time, with all the associated costs. They also get a wider choice of employee.

Alex Abelin, chief executive of LiquidTalent, a New York company which matches designers and developers with employers, has said that firms like being able to access people with specific skills, at a time when they need them.

He believes the trend in this kind of recruiting will only increase in coming years, leading to more professionals in a growing range of industries offering their services online on a freelance basis.

The gig economy has already led to a boom in the number of websites linking freelancers to those needing their services. Developments in technology mean almost everyone is now able to connect in this way.

It has also led to the rise of competition marketplaces like Innocentive, which allows firms to post work challenges to be solved by innovators in return for cash.

Greg Eredics, director of Innocentive, says his service allows clients to find solutions to problems they may have been trying to solve for some time, by linking them to people who they would not normally have been able to find.

Of course, the expansion of the gig economy does have its drawbacks. Many freelancers earn less than their full-time counterparts, and do not enjoy the same job security and benefits of someone employed in the more traditional way.

It is also essential for employers to ensure the people they are employing, even for a short time, have the required qualifications or skills for the job, if they want the work to be carried out in a professional and timely manner.

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