When Divya Singh left her full-time job in February to explore freelancing opportunities, little did she imagine that the pandemic would wreak havoc on businesses across the country.
A corporate communications specialist from Mumbai, Singh was perturbed about the future of her new journey. Much to her surprise, her concerns about corporates implementing sweeping cost-cutting measures itself turned out to be a fortune in her new profession.
“I personally witnessed a lot of change in the attitude of many companies, particularly after they started exploring work from home models,” said Singh, adding: “Earlier, many companies said they were not looking for freelancers, but now they have specifically started to look for it.”
Adds new clients
Between February and July, while she lost 2 to 3 clients, she was able to add five new clients during this period.
Even as the pandemic left many full-time employees without jobs and pay cuts and furloughs, the demand for freelancers continued to surge due to their low-cost advantage and inherent model of remote working.
“The outsourcing industry generally grows post each slowdown as companies require to balance the workforce essential to run operations while keeping cost relatively low,” said Lohit Bhatia, President- Workforce Management at Quess Corp, a leading business service provider and the largest private sector employer in India.
Bhatia added that non-permanent employment such as flexi staffing, part-time temp staffing, and freelancers will see a surge in the pos-Covid world.
Neeti Sharma, Senior Vice-President of staffing firm TeamLease Services, also said that while the demand for freelancers has fallen by 32 per cent in the month of May, studies show that there will be a surge in the demand for freelancers post-Covid, which is expected to increase by 53 per cent.
Demand for freelancers
The uptick in demand for freelancers reflects a shift in the post pandemic global job landscape as more and more employers have begun to re-evaluate their budgets and opt for more flexible workforce.
“This is not purely due to cost perspective. Sometimes, even when employees are not willing to work beyond their standard working hours, freelancers are willing to give best of the best value in terms of time and cost,” said Tushar Mittal, India Partner of Workplace Trends, a UK-based brand that examines up-coming trends and best practices that enable people and their places of work to be happy, healthy, and productive.
Mittal, who is also the CEO of Studiokon Ventures – a turn key interior design solutions provider – said that he plans to on-board 20 to 25 freelancers once the business picks up, from the current engagement level of 13 to 14 people.
“Companies such as Upwork and Freelancers.com are providing a very good network of freelancers, which was not available earlier,” Mittal added.
Payoneer, a company that facilitates seamless cross-border payments to millions of businesses and professionals from over 200 countries, also said it has witnessed a 10 to 25 per cent month-on-month growth in services, including freelancing, from India since March.
“India has the biggest freelancing community in the world with an estimate of more than two crore freelancers. If I include IT/ ITes, almost 55 per cent of the global cross border volumes comes from India,” said Rohit Kulkarni, Vice-President of Payoneer, adding: “For every five freelancer jobs, two are won by Indians.”
“Indian freelancers are preferred globally on account of knowledge and domain expertise as well as cost arbitrage,” said Kulkarni, adding “if Indian freelancers charge $22 per hour, the same work in the developed market like the US would cost about $40, wich is almost double.”
Experts believe digital marketing, content writing, financial advisors, analytics and logistics, education and training are some of the sectors that will witness a massive influx of freelancers in the future.
However, all is not hunky-dory within the freelancing sector and the ubiquitous cost-cutting measures have not spared the community as well.
“Ever since the lockdown I have completely ran out of work,” said Ekta Marwaha, a Delhi-based freelance content marketer and food & beverage (F&B) curator.
A former journalist and lifestyle writer with over 11 years of experience, she said the freelancing market is intensively competitive and the cost-cutting phenomena applies to this market as well.
“If companies can spend Rs. 20,000 on a fresh content writer. Why would they pay three times that amount to an experienced freelancer?” she asked.
Marwaha, who worked as a freelance mixologist and bartender in Delhi, said one or two Zoom workshop offers on cocktails is currently keeping her afloat.
While flexibility, cost competitiveness, diversified talent pool and creativity are seen as some of the major highlights of freelancers, the absence of organisational culture, confidentiality issues, reliability and inconsistency of work are seen as some of the disadvantages in freelance outsourcing.
“While remote working and freelancing are becoming a norm in almost all the sectors due to the pandemic lockdown, 25 to 30 per cent of the regular jobs are expected to be converted into freelancing opportunities.,” said TeamLease Services’ Sharma.