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The Freelance Revolution Reboot: What's In It For Businesses (And Freelancers Too) While freelancers had often been a last resort resource for employers, they have now become a much sought-after necessity.

By Alice Weightman Edited by Aby Sam Thomas

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

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The freelance revolution has been talked about for a decade or more. Since the early days of the internet job boards, organisations could source niche talent or short-term human resources to support their business goals, while freelancers could choose their projects selectively, and structure their work life to fit their personal preferences. This ideal equation became an accelerating trend when the COVID-19 pandemic set in.

The status quo of working life was transformed in an instant. Traditional concerns surrounding employee trust dissolved as productivity increased dramatically, despite all work being conducted remotely. The balance of power shifted, and a war on talent began. While freelancers had often been a last resort resource for employers, they have now become a much sought-after necessity. The digitization of business has brought about new skill demands that are most effectively and efficiently sourced in the freelance marketplace.

The go-to resource

As organizations move into recovery mode, data shows that businesses are increasingly tapping into freelancer talent to fill knowledge gaps in niche disciplines. The freelance economy provides access to skills that may not be required full-time or cannot be sourced in-house, enabling employers to avoid lengthy recruitment processes and bring products to market quicker.

What's more, this trend is set to grow. A 2020 global survey conducted by McKinsey found that 71% of executives expect to use more freelancers in the future. Contrary to the perception that freelance workers are largely for startups and SMEs, it's multinationals that are leading the way; more than 50% of Google's current global labor force are independent workers.

The career of choice

The pandemic also served as an awakening for many employees who saw the benefits remote working had upon their personal lives and professional productivity. Employees were able to take more control over how, when, and where they worked, and this brought an irreversible shift in mindset.

The issues of work-life balance and mental health and wellbeing have come to the fore; people are now thinking differently about what they want from their professional lives. A pre-pandemic study by McKinsey found that 50% of the workforce would be operating independently by 2027. The events of 2020 have only served to accelerate that trend.

Freelancing in the Middle East

The demise of presenteeism, the growing demand for niche skillsets, and the policy changes around visa regulations have all combined to create the perfect environment for freelance working in the Middle East. The UAE is already one of the fastest-growing freelance economies in the world, and the recent introduction of the freelance visa is set to boost the market further.

Related: Collaboration Is Redefining The Future Of Healthcare

What's in it for businesses?

If you're a business owner, what can freelancers bring to your organization? Here are the top five benefits for employers:

1. Talent on-demand You can source skilled professionals to deliver one-off projects quickly and easily.

2. Specialist skills Freelancers can provide you with the vast array of niche skillsets required in modern business, which can rarely be housed under one roof.

3. Flexibility You can pay for the skills as and when you need them in line with the flow of business, rather than taking on an employee long-term.

4. Cost-effectiveness Freelancers take care of their own visas, housing, medical and other expenses, making it a cost-effective hiring option for business owners.

5. Fresh energy and ideas New people bring new ideas and freelancers have a wealth of experience to draw upon from their exposure to varied industries.

What should freelancers consider?

If you're thinking of becoming a freelancer in the region, here are the top five things to consider before making the move:

1. Visa and legalities First and foremost, make sure you have the right visa and meet all the other legal requirements to live and work in the region.

2. Skill demand Think about the skills you have to offer and whether there is a strong demand in a freelance context.

3. Marketing yourself Think about how you will market yourself and secure a constant flow of work, whether through freelancer platforms, networking or client pitches.

4. Financial planning Make sure you're financially secure before you dive in and consider building your freelance portfolio while you still have an employee income.

5. Collaboration and professional development Continue your professional development to keep your skills up to date and to build professional collaborations.

While the pandemic forced the acceleration of workforce re-structuring, the resulting change in mindset has emerged as a win-win situation for employers and employees alike. The freelance revolution has firmly rebooted, and it is now on course to be the backbone of our future workforce.

Related: The Gig Economy Can Be A Win-Win Situation For Both Workers And The Job Market

Alice Weightman

Founder and CEO, The Work Crowd and Hanson Search

Alice Weightman is the founder and CEO of The Work Crowd and Hanson Search. While The Work Crowd is an online platform that helps businesses automate the sourcing and management of their freelance workforce, Hanson Search is an international search consultancy that specializes in marketing and communications recruitment. 
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