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It’s Official – The Freelancing / Gig Economy Is Growing and 65% of Young Brits Expect To Use It During Their Careers

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Now why would you be thinking about going freelance or checking out the “gig” economy on your first day back at work?

Perhaps it’s best not to answer that, but new figures quoted by freelancing Airbnb equivalent People Per Hour show that if you were contemplating swapping the office for the home, the laptop, or the beach, you are not alone – and, not that we want to encourage you, the conditions right now are particularly fine.

If you were to tell your boss to stick it (ed – don’t do this, they will probably end up as your largest single freelancing client!) then you’d be joining 4.69m fellow Brits, according to the latest statistics from the Office of National Statistics.

This represents an increase of nearly 1 million since 2008, when there were “only” 3.8m self-employed people in the UK.

PPH believe this upward trend can be explained by 3 different phenomena; firstly, technology has improved communication and connectivity to the extent that no matter where 2 people are based, they can interact instantaneously and share work online – so why spend 2.5 hours every day commuting, paying for travel, staring at the dull, grey walls of your cubicle etc. etc.

Secondly, the relationship of trust between employer and freelancer has become more robust – there has been “a move away from the belief that lack of supervision will inevitably lead to a lack of results”, as PPH puts it, “and a better understanding of the interplay between relationship and transaction for projects completed.”

Finally, the benefits culture and the small fortune that firms have to pay to provide their staff with pensions, bonus schemes, HR reviews and sickness and holiday pay, is hurting some small firms who would simply prefer to outsource non-core or even core functions to independent contractors without the hassle of looking after all of their personal, financial and social needs.

Millennials See Gig Economy As Part Of Career Plan

Unholy trinity or awesome trifecta? Well, gig work (working by the hour, on a freelance basis, and not being made an employee of the company you do the bulk of your work for), is popular like never before.

A recent PPH survey revealed that 65% of 18-24 year olds describe freelancing as “part of their long-term career plan” – so, like it or not, firms should start planning for the fact that soon they may no longer be able to persuade top talent to even their plushest offices – because they will be stationed on a beach somewhere in Bali.

But, this is a good thing for firms and here’s why: according to a 2014 study carried out by the University of Warwick, happy workers are productive workers. Happiness leads to a 12% boost in productivity, tests found, whilst unhappy workers are 10% less productive.

You may have an office in Canary Wharf next door to a gym with a climbing wall, or you may reside in a trendy Shoreditch co-working space, but can you compete with Caipirinha’s and grilled sardines on the beach for lunch. Talk about a 21st Century problem.

And it’s not just boffins from Warwick – McKinsey, the world’s premier consultancy firm, have also concluded that ““substantial difference in the satisfaction levels of independent workers and traditional employees” with independent, or freelance workers scoring higher across the board for both work and life.”

Pollsters YouGov have additionally discovered that freelancers, who do not have to travel to work (unless they want to), enjoy 720 hours, or one month’s more free time than their harassed commuting counterparts. Apparently, 8% of office workers (rising to 10% if you only include millennial office workers) spend more than 45 minutes of every hour on social media anyway, and exercise less than freelancers – who, because they have clear deadlines, do not have to sit around twiddling their thumbs in an office when they have downtime and tend to use that time more productively as a result.

433% Increase In British Freelancers on PPH Site Since 2012!

Xenios Thrasyvoulou, CEO fo PPH, says: “Startups and SMEs can’t always afford to strike out with new projects by hiring new teams on a permanent basis, so those looking to grow their business will benefit hugely from outsourcing to skilled freelancers. They get all the benefits of working on a more targeted basis with experts in their field, but without huge overheads and setup time.”

PPH themselves have seen an increase of 433% in the number of British freelancers since 2012, with 1.5m users now patrolling the site looking to buy and sell skills.

Now, we all know the nascent “gig” economy had an up and down year in 2016 (along with everyone else!) with fears crystallising about the rights of Uber drivers, for example, to work as freelancers and not employees, the implications of this for tax and accounting purposes, and the effect on the economy as a whole.

Not everyone is convinced by the gig or freelancing economy, but the reality is that it’s here, it works, and it is testing the theory that modern offices will survive the digital age.

Will firms beat it or join it in 2017? We suspect the number of Brits opting to freelance will continue to rise, and it will be the cult of the office that will undergo a transformation.

Freelancing sites can be frustrating, promising the earth and delivering little in the way of desirable projects, but if you can get through the first few tricky months, the chances are you will end up working with like-minded folk who understand that not all of us want to spend one month of every year on a sweaty Northern Line carriage, reading a copy of the person in front’s Metro. It just ain’t a great millennial look.


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