Freelance Trends 2021: Is This the Year of the Freelancer?

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We love keeping up with all the latest freelance trends here at HomeWorkingClub and it is safe to say that a lot has changed during the last year. So today we wanted to share what we think lies ahead for freelancing in 2021.

Judging by the surveys we reviewed, our own survey results, the experts we interviewed, and even the experience of the HomeWorkingClub team, there is plenty to upbeat about if you’re a freelancer.

What is Prompting the Changes?

There is no doubt whatsoever that Covid-19 has kicked off many changes. But it is also true that these changes have been coming for a long time.

Despite all the current hype, freelancing is far from being a new phenomenon. What is new is the way that the world is looking at it.

The forced move to remote working across the globe has made many people realize that having employees working in an office is not the only business model which works. Businesses are beginning to see the benefits of having access to a global talent market and the flexibility that freelancers can bring.

Many workers who once perceived freelancing as risky have learned recently that no job is truly secure.

Despite the fact that freelancers get few government benefits and the fact that some freelance sectors – such as film and tourism – were hit very hard by measures to control the spread of Covid, freelance platforms have been flooded by people seeking to gain more personal control over their finances.

Current State of Affairs

The freelance economy exploded in 2020 despite the global crisis. In the US freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion to the economy and the Philippines, as one example, saw a 208% growth in freelancing.

Younger people are truly alive to the potential of freelancing. Those between 18 and 22 make up 50% of US freelancers, with 36% seeing freelancing as a long-term career.

It’s not all about the kids though. Some good news for our older readers is that the over 55s are earning more than their younger peers due to their focus on skilled and project-based work.

The headline news is that freelancers, as a group, appear to be both happier and better paid than their office-bound counterparts.

Even though some freelancers were forced to reduce their rates last year, the worldwide average hourly rate charged by freelancers in 2020 was $21, up from $19 two years prior. This is significantly higher than the average hourly salary in most countries – but of course freelancers do have to cover their own costs from this.

PeoplePerHour’s recent survey suggests that 2021 will see even greater earnings, as 40% of their respondents felt that they could now increase their rates.

If you are a stats fan we have plenty of data for you to pore over in our ultimate list of remote work and freelancing statistics, but for now let’s get stuck in to the latest freelance trends.

1. Increased Acceptance of Freelancing

As we have already indicated, having to work remotely has played a significant role in changing the perception of freelancing. But this means so much more than no longer getting funny looks when you say you are a freelancer.

Businesses are becoming much more comfortable with the idea of working with freelancers and this means a wealth of new opportunities. Still, it will be important to tread carefully as a freelancer since businesses new to the freelance market may focus more on their bottom-line than on creating mutually beneficial long-term relationships with freelancers.

However, businesses are not the only ones to start seeing the benefits of freelancing. While it is true that some joined the ranks of freelancers in 2020 out of necessity, more and more people feel the need to take greater control of their finances and see freelancing as a good way to do so. Our survey revealed that even those who already worked remotely prior to Covid-19 showed a decided interest in going freelance.

Successful freelancing is all about turning skills into a product you can sell to clients.

In 2021 we foresee the continued explosive growth of freelancing and, perhaps more importantly, freelancing becoming a career choice that’s more widely perceived as desirable.

2. Growth in Freelance Platforms

To put this growth in perspective it is important to note that only 13% of freelancers depend on online talent marketplaces as their primary source of clients. Nevertheless, the number of freelancers on mainstream platforms like Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr has skyrocketed. Those with their ears to the ground will also be aware that new niche platforms are being created all the time.

It is to be expected that those new to freelancing will be drawn primarily to well-established platforms. However, those platforms are not ideal for everyone and oversubscription can lead to applicants being rejected.

What is really encouraging to see is growing recognition of the differing needs of freelancers. Mainstream platforms are adding new types of services, some new platforms are prioritizing freelancer needs for lower fees and quicker payment, others are focusing on highly specialized niches, and some are even trying to revolutionize the relationships between freelancers.

It is unlikely that all of the new services and platforms will survive long-term. Still, 2021 is offering freelancers unparalleled choice in terms of which platforms they choose to work on.

3. The Rise of Freelance Teams

The image of freelancers as individuals who want to work alone and see all other freelancers as a threat thankfully seems to have met its end.

The reality is that while freelancers like to be in control of their work, they have to be masters of communication, relationship building and negotiation in order to deal effectively with clients. Freelancers will often work together collaboratively in order to take on bigger jobs or to provide cover to their clients when they go on holiday.

Freelance teams are also being created by businesses that hire freelancers and have them work together with other freelancers and employees on projects. This has resulted in a growth of freelance management solutions as well as freelancing platforms offering project management services.

The positive effects of this change make it one of the most encouraging freelance trends in 2021.

4. Growing Emphasis on Community

Sometimes it takes a crisis to truly build a community. The impact of government measures and the lack of government support for freelancers has definitely helped create a greater sense of community. In 2020 freelancers rallied around each other to support those hardest hit, as well as to fight against harmful central policies.

Experienced freelancers, who know the value of networking with their peers, are increasingly taking the time to educate and mentor new freelancers. With the explosive growth of freelancing has come a real sense that freelancers need to step up if they want to shape the future of freelancing.

Organizations like the Freelancers Union have been around for a long time but freelancers are only now starting to feel like their collective voice needs to be heard.

Freelancers union

The good news is that at least the freelancing platforms seem to be listening. Efforts to increase loyalty and a sense of community include invitation-only platforms, training, shared initiatives, promotion of team work, and rewards programs like Fiverr Pro.

5. More Highly-Skilled Freelance Opportunities

Freelancing offers opportunities to people of all ages, backgrounds and skill levels, but things look set to get decidedly easier for highly-skilled individuals who want to go freelance.

With businesses more open to working with freelancers, especially to cover tech skill gaps, 2021 could be a gold-mine for those with the right skills. Instead of fighting to convince businesses to hire them or accepting lower-rates than they deserve, highly-skilled freelancers may find clients falling over themselves to secure their services.

The traditionally strong freelance areas of IT and cyber-security are going to continue to boom as businesses face staff shortages and the urgent need to accommodate more remote work. New areas are also opening up thanks to the remote work experiment of 2020.

The desire among profesionals to become their own bosses will further spur this trend. If a valuable employee quits in order to go freelance and there are no suitable candidates for the job, the logical choice is to bring your former employee back as a freelancer. We see this happen SO much “on the ground.”

Given that 52% of teams have had to delay or cancel projects due to lack of available talent, it seems safe to say that in 2021 businesses are going to be contracting a lot more skilled freelancers.

The freelance trends we have observed indicate that 2021 really could be a tipping point within the industry. It is an exciting time to be a freelancer but all the positive trends in the world won’t do you any good if you do not know how to make the most of them.

Experience and Commitment

Experience is a huge factor in earning more as a freelancer, which we mention time and again on HomeWorkingClub. You have to pay your dues and bide your time to be successful.

By the same token, commitment to a freelancing career also helps. Those who work exclusively as freelancers earn a higher hourly rate and are more satisfied with their lifestyle, compared to those who split their time with working for a company.

Standing Out From The Crowd

As freelancing grows in popularity, clients will have a wider choice and the ability to squeeze rates. This means that you will need to make sure you stand out from the crowd.

Freelancing trends require you to stand out

You could find work in areas that are less popular with freelancers but that really isn’t necessary. You would be surprised by how much of a difference little things like attention to detail, good customer service and solid communication skills can make.

Remember to be yourself and to focus on long-term relationships, and you will naturally start to find your unique niche.

Ongoing Learning

Freelancers are responsible for their ongoing education, and those who do not keep honing their skills lose their competitive edge.

With all of the free and cheap online training options available there really is no excuse not to keep learning. If you aren’t sure what to focus on we even have a list of the best online freelance courses to boost your skills.

It is important to remember that freelancing requires you to have a whole set of business skills aside from the skills you need for the services you are offering clients. If you are new to the world of freelancing I strongly recommend that you take Ben’s Freelance Kickstarter course to help you learn the basics of freelancing quickly so that you can start earning.

Social Media Use

Perhaps unsurprisingly, social media is now used by the vast majority of freelancers. Promoting yourself on social media is vital for many, and it’s a good idea to be aware of new channels. Instagram and Tik Tok might not be appropriate for you, but a strong social media game really can help.

Some sensible advice, when it comes to social media, is to try to truly master just a couple of platforms, rather than spreading yourself half-heartedly across all of them. 

Conclusion

This look at freelance trends is useful as a general health check for the world of freelancing, but there’s no guarantee you will see your own wages and happiness rise in tandem with the industry.

What it does tell us is that there are increasing opportunities, and if you are already a freelancer then there is a good chance more clients will be open to using your services.

For those considering a big career change, if you think you can demonstrate your skills and experience to a potential client, work comfortably from home and have a strong social media game, now is a good time to jump into freelancing.

The main takeaway is something that avid readers of this site will already know: there’s no substitute for hard graft.

Positive freelance trends will mean little for you unless you take action. Even if 2021 doesn’t end up being the Year of the Freelancer, you can still make it YOUR year.

There is plenty to check out in the freelancing section of the website but if you are new then you really should take a look at these:

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