Technology Is Driving The Gig Economy – the rise of the freelance economy in 2019!

By Colin Don Schouw

If ever you’ve wondered when the right time to promote yourself as a freelancer would be… The time is, now!

Gone are the days of looking at freelance consultants through a narrow scope; they shouldn’t be portrayed as outsiders to organizations any longer. Now more than ever, companies need flexible talent to “jump in” and take the reins on projects when a need for their skills arises.We often hear our family members and peers talking about the importance of ‘diversifying our investments’ as a means of secondary income, but diversifying your income streams should be the primary objective, especially during this difficult economic climate in which we find ourselves.

Along with that, we have seen a clear boom surrounding the Freelance industry in South Africa. Many of us allude to the idea that, because it’s a struggle to find permanent employment in this country, people are forced to venture into freelancing. But, what if you were told that more and more South Africans are choosing the freelance lifestyle on their own accord? Managing your own time, being your own boss and being in control of your own schedule, sounds like a very attractive way of life – and people are doing it!

Online recruiters are starting to pick up on this trend and big tech companies like have even developed complete departments purely dedicated to freelancers and side-hustlers. Just like securing permanent employment is not easy, getting a freelance contract can be even harder. That is why it is important to seek out platforms on which you can promote yourself as a freelancer – and where you know employers and recruiters will visit, specifically to seek freelance talent.

Freelancers are usually experts/skilled professionals in a niched area. You can find them in every area of expertise, from HR managers and lawyers, to creatives like graphic designers, photographers, PR and social media specialists, to copywriters and bloggers/influencers/brand ambassadors or journalists.

Other freelancers are referred to as ‘side-hustlers’, a term which is self-explanatory; people who run side hustles, apart from their full-time job as a secondary income stream. Some of which you would never believe could, in fact, be lucrative such as, dog walkers, karate instructors, babysitters and piano tuners, to name a few.

According to Forbes, by 2020, the majority of millennials will no longer be in an office job. Instead, they’ll choose the life of a freelancer, because this lifestyle allows them to have multiple income streams/secondary income, within a culture that they’ve created for themselves… to put that into perspective, that is next year!

And even though millennials prefer to make a decent amount of money, best believe they will leave their full-time jobs if they’re unhappy with the company culture and start promoting themselves as freelancers. It is time that employers jump on this.

So why are South Africans turning to freelance jobs?

I think it’s important to take a look at why Freelancing is becoming so popular. It is predicted that by 2020 freelancers are expected to make up 50 per cent of the full time work force. But why are more and more South Africans choosing to break away from the nine-to-five?

Firstly, opportunities for freelancers are increasing thick and fast.

If you were thinking about making that break for freedom but were not convinced, signs from economic experts say now is the time to do it. Businesses now more than ever are looking to outsource work to remote independent workers rather than hiring in-house staff. But what has brought about this shift? In the last few years alone, the average earnings for freelancers have increased by 50 per cent.

Not only are more people willing to hire freelancers, they are willing to pay them the right price for their work as well. People who employ freelancers are starting to realize that cheaper is not always better. I’m hearing that a ton lately. You could do it cheap or you could do it well.

It seems that amongst these workers, Baby Boomers and Generation X are the largest age groups, a finding that may reflect trends in the media industry such as downsizing and lay- offs. Nearly 80 per cent of freelance media professionals are women. This puts South Africa in line with international trends that indicate female freelancers dominate the media industry.

There is no doubt that freelancers are highly skilled with over 60 per cent of freelancers holding postgraduate degrees. My prediction is that with the weak job market and low youth employment in the country, we can expect to see an increase in freelance workers in 2019 and beyond. To sustain that growth, it advocates for fair standards and practices in the industry. This is why joining freelance online platforms where contracts are regulated is important. These platforms provide resources, tools, training and networking to strengthen freelance careers.

The author is a Cape Town based content producer/radio and TV producer and global business trend analyst.