Freelance Trends 2022: What Can We Expect?

All of our reviews and recommendations are completely impartial but some posts may include affiliate links that can earn us a commission. Click here for details.

If you want to turbocharge your chances of success, it makes sense to bring yourself up to speed with changes and evolutions in the working world.

With that in mind, this article breaks down some statistics and makes some predictions for the freelance trends you can expect to see in 2022 and beyond.

Inevitably, there’s some crystal ball gazing here. But at HomeWorkingClub, we work hard to stay ahead of the freelance game. Not only will you find our predictions here, we’ve also made some practical suggestions of things you could do to put yourself one step ahead.

Looking Back…And Looking Forward

It’s likely the anybody expecting 2021 to give them an easier ride than 2020 was sorely disappointed.

Many countries started the year in lockdown – and plenty are ending the year with new lockdowns and restrictions. There’s a lot of wisdom in the statement that “the pandemic isn’t over, just because you’re over it.”

All that said, the working world did settle onto a firmer footing in 2021. In fact, some countries experienced records in terms of job vacancies and low unemployment. Anecdotally, we can say that we heard from plenty of freelancers who had a very good year in 2021.

The statistics back that up. Upwork reported considerable growth in the freelance economy, alongside the fascinating statistic that 36% of the US “labour force” did some kind of freelance work during 2021. It’s with that statistic that we we begin our look at the latest freelance trends.

Freelancing Will Go (Even More) Mainstream

Over a third of working-age people in the US are now at least dabbling in freelancing – and similar figures are coming out of other countries. Nations such as India and Pakistan are seeing considerable increases in the number of people moving into freelancing and the amount of money they’re generating.

There’s some debate over how many of these emerging freelancers are moving into self-employment through choice, and how many are doing it due to a lack of conventional jobs.

Inevitably, some new freelancers fall into the latter camp. Freelancing always thrives in times of adversity and uncertainty. If you were running a business through a pandemic, would you prefer the expense of and commitment to full-time employees, or the flexibility of resources you could pick up, drop and scale at will?

But it would be wildly inaccurate to say that this entire new army of freelancers only choose the lifestyle because they’re unable to get traditional full-time jobs. The events of the past two years have caused many workers to reassess their priorities. Many people are no longer willing to let a single “boss” determine everything from their working hours to whether they have to cram on a busy commuter train in the mornings.

There’s also an increasing recognition that the “security of a permanent job” is something of a fallacy. Over the past couple of years, a great many people have learned that that security is an illusion. In fact, losing your one and only “secure, permanent job” can be more of a body blow than a freelancer losing three of ten clients.

Putting all of these factors together with the data suggests that the freelance market will continue to grow in 2022 and beyond. But is there going to be enough work for all of these freelancers?

There Will Be More Freelancers – But Also More Work for Them

Does this stratospheric rise in freelancers mean a saturated market, with everybody scrabbling for crumbs of work?

Perhaps to an extent, but the figures suggest that the rise in freelancers workers will be matched by a rise in gigs and opportunities. Upwork’s 100 largest clients increased their freelance spend by over 44% year-on-year between 2019 and 2020.

And, on a more anecdotal level, whenever we’ve reviewed job boards and listing sites recently, we’ve seen increases in the number of available roles, not decreases.

That’s not to say a new freelancer gets to just jump into the marketplace with a license to print money. Mediocre, lacklustre freelancers WILL struggle.

And that brings us neatly on to the next point:

Freelancers Will Need To Put More Thought Into Marketing Themselves

The 2022 freelance trends we’ve laid out so far paint a positive picture: more gigs, and more companies keen to use freelancers.

But companies will also have a rich pool of talent to choose from.

This means that average won’t do. It means that half-hearted freelance pitches, “phoned in” assignments and missed deadlines won’t lead to any level of success.

Some extremely skilled, experienced, dedicated and proactive people have joined the freelance world in recent years. They’re people willing to “out hustle” their competition, reply to emails in minutes rather than days, jump on a Zoom call to impress a new client, and to make full use of their LinkedIn profiles and contact lists to uncover good opportunities.

Working out how you’re going to stand out has always been something we’ve advised – but in 2022 and beyond, it will be even more important.

  • Have you added a new skill to your repertoire this year? People you’re competing with have.
  • Have you updated your resume recently? People you’re competing with have.
  • Have you ensured you have a portfolio that shows off your best work? People you’re competing with have.

Remote Working “Soft Skills” Will Be In Particular Demand

If 2021 was the year when remote work and collaboration went mainstream, 2022 will be the year it gets more refined.

2022 won’t just be about Zoom calls – it will be about short, effective, innovative and productive Zoom calls. It will be about more efficient ways for people to collaborate from a distance – asynchronously and across time zones.

Think shared Google Docs; Think interactive online whiteboards being used during video calls: Think Trello and Asana boards being effectively used by teams.

We predict that soft skills in these areas will become increasingly sought after in the years ahead. The best freelancers already know Teams and Zoom like the backs of their hands, and are ready to “jump on calls” with a moment’s notice. Those saying “can you hear me?” and “my webcam isn’t working!” already look like dinosaurs.

If your skills are lacking in these areas, it’s time to catch up. Our best apps for freelancers article could help.

Workers Will Be Able to Demand More Flexibility

It’s hard to find too many positives from a pandemic, but one is that many employers (and clients) have shifted their attitudes and expectations when it comes to flexibility.

These days, it’s far from unusual for young children, off school in isolation, to appear on their parents’ work video calls! Most progressive business people now appreciate that it really doesn’t matter if somebody does their work between 7 and 3, rather than 9 and 5.

Obviously, freelancers have always had way more freedom around this stuff than their employed counterparts. However, it seems feasible that all workers will be able to expect more understanding and realism from those they work with. Furthermore, freelancers will have the freedom to only work with clients who share that flexible outlook.

Employers with stringent rules around arbitrary hours, locations and dress codes are already coming across as behind the curve. It seems likely that such progress will continue in 2022.

Everyone Will Talk About The Metaverse and Web3 – But Not Much Will Happen – Yet

Ever since Facebook changed its name to “Meta,” people have been talking about the “metaverse” – but plenty still have no idea what it even means!

This is probably the boldest of the predictions in this freelance trends 2022 breakdown…but we believe that while there will be plenty of TALK about the metaverse and Web3, not much will actually happen in 2022.

So what IS the metaverse? Let’s turn to Wikipedia:

“The metaverse is a hypothesized iteration of the Internet, supporting persistent online 3-D virtual environments through conventional personal computing, as well as virtual and augmented reality headsets.”

We suspect that, for many, it will still seem as clear as mud! And to further compound the confusion, many of the ideas around Web3 technology involve decentralised networks, crypto tokens and blockchains.

It seems unlikely that 2022 will be the year we all start living in VR headsets and traversing a virtual world. However, it’s strongly rumoured that it will be the year that Apple finally launches its long awaited AR/VR glasses.

Cast your mind back to 2007. That’s when the iPhone was launched. Prior to that, we weren’t all permanently attached to smartphones – and look where we are now…

Apple’s product MIGHT be the “killer app” that makes all this metaverse business a reality. And at that point, things could start to move rather quickly. But it probably won’t go truly mainstream in 2022.

What relevance does this have to freelance trends? Well, plenty of people are already making a LOT of money from these emerging technologies.

If you’re a programmer, and are not already starting to learn about blockchains and programming languages used in Web3 development, you’re missing out on a lucrative opportunity.

As for the rest of us, it would certainly do no harm to begin to understand what this stuff is all about. When the technology does hit the mainstream, it seems likely there will be something of a gold-rush: Designers and marketers helping businesses establish their metaverse presence; Writers providing commentary on Web3 topics; Techies helping people grasp the new technology.

Doing some reading up on this, or perhaps even taking a course, could be a proactive thing to do right now.

Some suggestions:

So, those are the freelance trends we expect to see in 2022. What have we missed? What will YOU be doing to get ahead? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a comment