Future Of Freelancing In Developing Countries Like India

By Gaurav Nanda

If ‘freelancing’ had to be defined a couple of years back, it would clearly be a source of income earned apart from a full-time job. It was an ideal means of income for students who would look forward to earn pocket money or home makers who earned for savings. As freelancing takes a jump to disrupt the world of business, it can be clearly seen reshaping the mode of work, too!

Where does Freelancing stand currently?

According to a survey by Intuit, self-employed workers in the US pegged at 35.5 million in 2015 and are expected to reach 60 million by 2020- that’s about 40% of the total workforce in the US.

A research firm Edelman Berland, carried out a survey in 2015, the conclusions of which are as follows…

– 60% of Americans work as freelancers, and now earn more than what they used to when they were in traditional jobs.

– 50% of freelancers are so satisfied with freelancing that they wouldn’t like to switch back even if paid more

– 80% believed that freelancing as a career has good scope for growth

The numbers above clearly suggest how freelancing has placed itself as a full-time job in the US. But is the situation the same in developing countries like India? Let’s dive in.

Key Focus Areas

Consultancy started off as a freelancing methodology. However, things have changed now. Web and mobile development, Web designing, Internet research, Data entry, Graphic Designing, and Digital Marketing and Writing services are the most worked upon profiles for freelancers in India. Accounting and Legal Advisories also engage a small percentage.

The gig economy has been able to “employ” a wide range of industries which hadn’t been heard of until lately. For example, a freelance web developer or freelance graphic designer can be looked up for easily, but not too often do we get to hear of a freelance journalist or a freelance HR professional. 

If a study is to be believed, most Indian freelancers are under the age of 40, and are predominantly men.

Freelancing in Developing Countries like India

Internet penetration, digital boom, and the advent of new and disruptive technologies have influenced the mode of work in India. One of the major reasons for a rise in freelance industry in India could be the low pay scale for regular jobs. Matt Barrie, from Freelancer.com mentions that India stands second in terms of freelancing marketplace, after the US.

While projects come mostly from developed countries like the US, UK, Australia and Germany, the freelancers belong to developing countries like India, the Philippines, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Barrie also mentions that a large proportion of people who started off small as a freelancer have now established their own firms by hiring local people.

City-wise change in pay scales has led to a competition with one another and can be seen when a large enterprise announces its willingness to outsource projects for a new office or a major hub. Digitization has led to large enterprises branching off in Tier 2 cities, leading to a growth in employment and freelancing. Since more and more enterprises are embracing the concept, the time is not far when corporates will compete to provide the best work environment for freelancers.

Why Freelancing?

A popular job search portal in India conducted a study on why are Indians switching to Freelancing from their traditional jobs that provide other benefits apart from monetary (like EPF, Insurance cover, Gratuity). Major percentage of answer that followed was expected and simple- work-life balance. They want to work, but at the same time wish to pursue other specializations and want recognition for the work they have put their efforts into.

Upon asking to elaborate Freelancers (who’d switched from traditional jobs) gave a few insights into advantages of freelancing.

– Flexible working hours

– Choose your own project

– Work from any location

– Get paid for your work

– Better personal life

Freelancing opens up a world of opportunities for people. The key benefit of freelancing in the digital economy is that anyone who’s well educated and good at work can earn his bit, irrespective of gender, age, location or other bias, unlike in the physical economy.

Most Indian freelancers are hired from countries like the US, UK, Australia, and Canada. Majority if these freelancers belong to Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai, New Delhi and Mumbai, a few from Tier 2 cities have started showing up on the map. At par with the growth of India’s start-up ecosystem, freelancing industry has seen a boost and is expected to rise even further owing to the difference in quality of work noted by the hirers.

The scenario, however, seems to be changing, as government authorities have come to see the voids within a talented population contributing towards the economy. It can be expected that in the decade to come, freelancers will continue to press their legal advisors for improved status of their workforce.

What does the future hold for Freelancing in India

With a good percentage of young professionals moving from a nine to five desk job to freelancing, it comes as no wonder that the gig economy has seen a decent growth in the recent years. Gig, also known as free agency, is any type of work where you are paid for a discreet task or project for a certain period of time. A Gig may include one or more sources of income depending on the number of projects one opts to work on, simultaneously.

With the government having engaged gig workers in the past for its flagship projects like Digital India, Swachh Bharat, and Smart City campaigns, it is evident that the freelance economy is a shared, on-demand model where freelancers can take up multiple gigs at the same time. What was once thought off a refuge for the unemployed, is now a go-to option for many.

Downsizing of companies is another reason why people prefer freelancing over full-time jobs. Faizal Khan, a 55-year-old freelance journalist based in Delhi started freelancing out of unemployment. However, soon he started liking the way things worked for him. The ability to say ‘no’ to assignments and take vacations as per his will proved to be a boon in disguise. “I am my own organisation and it allows me the flexibility in functioning. I might have earned more if I were working full time, but I love the way I do things now,” says Khan.

The CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), a company for business and economic database research conducted a survey which showed there are 31 million unemployed Indians looking for a job of their choice. In such a scenario, while gigs offer them flexibility, employers are keen on giving out projects to the experienced lot.

Speaking of the demand-supply graph, employers often complain that there are not enough skilled workers and those looking for employment don’t find something appropriate. For a case similar to this, hiring a gig worker on a short-term basis for a project or fixed term not only provides better return on investment, but also work opportunities to seekers filling up the supply-demand gap.

Hiring freelancers benefit bigger companies a great deal, as they can outsource some of the activities. When Jubliant Foodworks, the franchise which runs Domino’s Pizza in the Indian subcontinent wanted to make its mobile app more user-friendly it contacted Indiez, an online portal that specializes in providing IT solutions. Indiez does not only work on its client’s project but also provides a member/team to its client.

A few disadvantages of freelancing as observed globally include the gap in pay, and isolation. The scope of work is increased without a room for price negotiation, considering Freelancers have no legal or other support as compared to full-timers. And because you work from home, you have no interaction with a management or staff. Your workload can vary every day and can be difficult to predict, particularly when you have just started to set up.

Give or take a few things on the negative side, freelancing in the Indian economy is here to stay and grow, and is on its way to become the new normal for how businesses work, globally.

This article was originally posted on successwithfreelancing.com

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