Past, present and future of freelancing

by Guest
Past, Present and Future of Freelancing

Gone are the days when getting a good job was the only dream of average working class.

Now we dream about a job that does not have any restrictions of working hours, work location and still pays handsomely. Freelancing gives us this opportunity to work from anywhere anytime and without having a boss. Apart from a good pay, it also gives you a unique and strong network worldwide and a capability to make your own brand or product successful. These advantages are countless, but the matter of the fact is, freelancing is being more popular than ever.

In a survey, 70% of freelancers accepted the fact that the best days are still to come in next five years. Some quick facts about freelancing:

  • Countries with highest number of freelancers (Decreasing order): USA, India, Pakistan, UK, Italy, Philippines.
  • 65% of freelancers have their full time jobs too. They freelance for 2-5 hours every day.
  • Designing is the most popular niche having highest number of freelancers.
  • Total number of projects outsourced to freelancers is increasing by 20% every quarter.
  • Total money earned by freelancers in 2016 is $1 Trillion.
  • Total number of freelancers is increasing by 9% every quarter.
  • IT and programming experts are 41% of total hires.
  • 25% of today’s freelance jobs did not exist 10 years ago.

Freelancing is a hot topic of discussions nowadays. A decade ago, it has a limited reach to very few, top of the class experts. But as the web technologies emerged, it is now getting new heights every day. Anyone with an internet connection and a pc can become a freelancer. There are hundreds of reasons people are attracted to freelancing, few of them are below:

location independent

  • Location independent: You can work from any corner of the world. It gives you the freedom to work from your home. Needless to mention you can work from anywhere provided you have a pc and internet. This is the major factor people prefer freelancing over a traditional full time job.
  • Time independent: You are not bound to work in a specific time window. You just need to complete your project within the timelines. You can work anytime morning, evening, night whenever you are comfortable.
  • Be your own boss: Being a freelancer means you are your own boss. You can maximize or minimize your work on your own wish.
  • Make good money: As a freelancer you can decide your own rates and working hours. You can also select the work you actually want to take. Also, you earn in international currency. You will earn much more than a full time job while doing the same work.
  • Good network: In some time, you can easily make a good network of top experts round the globe. This network will eventually help you to setup a base for offline freelancing in future.
  • Skills you learn: A freelancer is said to be a one man army. Despite of being a lone wolf, you act as a whole organization. Marketing, networking, time management, finance are some additional skills you learn as a freelancer over the time.

There are hundreds of other reasons that freelancing is preferred in comparison with a full time job. Most of us have heard this term ‘freelancing’ many times but don’t really know what is freelancing.

Freelancing and freelancer: Freelancer is a self-employed person who offers his services to several small, mid-size businesses. A freelancer can work with multiple clients on multiple projects at the same time. USA individually has more than 55 million freelancers and the total money they made in 2016 is $1 trillion.

Few years ago freelancing was not so common and popular as it is now. The reason is internet and IT was not as efficient as they are right now. Freelancers still managed to get regular work in that time but their reach was limited to their cities. They had to make a network to get ongoing work and it was the biggest challenge in freelancing. Hence the number of freelancers and freelancing jobs was very limited.

But now offline freelancing became less popular. Several online websites started to provide a platform for freelancers and clients. It is actually quite simple to become freelancer nowadays. You still need to be an expert in your skills but finding and applying for jobs is easier in comparison to the olden days. To help make it even easier, while applying, follow these simple tips to get freelancer jobs.

So, here is how it works:

How online freelancing works now

Freelancing is basically done online nowadays. 80% of total freelance jobs are outsourced on freelance websites. Below is a short overview of the process:

Find a platform: To start online freelancing, you need to find some good freelancing platforms. There are thousands of websites offering projects. They work on commission basis, depending on the website, x% of total project’s money will be website’s commission that needs to be paid by freelancer. It is after completion and successful delivery of the work, when client pays the project money to website, website keeps its commission and forwards the rest of the money to freelancer who worked. This x could be 5-25% depending on the website’s policies.

Make a profile: Once you found a couple of good websites, make a strong profile on them that shows your skills and expertise in a clear and concise way. You should also attach a portfolio in your profile. This profile is the way to make a good impression on your clients. Initially it might take a week to create a good profile.

Search the work: Once you are done making profile, you can start searching the project you want to work on. There are two ways to search the project: one is to browse all the projects and shortlist some good projects which you can do immediately, other way is using filters, enter the categories and skills you want to work in and it will give you the results in your specified filters, then shortlist the projects you are interested in.

Make proposals: Once you have shortlisted the projects, it’s time to contact the project owners/clients. Go through their requirements in details, draft your approach, create your cover letter and send the proposals on these projects. Now wait for the client to contact you, use this wait time in searching and short listing more projects to apply. This entire process is called biding.

After proposals: Client will receive many proposals on same project. He will then shortlist all the freelancers by checking their past work, rates, profile, reviews and will give this project to the freelancer he liked most. When client awards this project to a freelancer, then the freelancer starts working on it.

Work and deliver: There are specific timelines for each project. Once you get it, start working on it and meet the timelines. The project is usually divided in some smaller parts and each part has some specific time to deliver. Some tools are used to manage the project and ensure timely deliver, called project management tools.

Get paid: All the projects are divided in two categories: fixed price and hourly price. Fixed price is a total predefined budget of a client and often does not exceed the fixed limit. Hourly basis is, client pays you for the total numbers of hours you worked; you have to define your hourly rate in this case. Once the project is completed and client approves your work, you will then receive payment. It can also be broken in parts and percentage i.e. a fixed percentage to be paid in advance and then you start working, once you achieve the other milestone you get paid for the next part. Once the project is complete, freelancer receives the complete payment after deduction of website’s commission.

Reviews and feedbacks: After delivering the work and getting paid, freelancer and client exchange their feedbacks about each other. These feedbacks/reviews will stay forever in your profiles and these are very critical in getting more projects. Good reviews will get you more work.

This was a basic workflow when you freelance on a website. This process may slightly differ on each website but this is how freelancers and clients connect usually. There is much more than above that you learn as you get more experience.

Skills you can freelance in: There is a common myth that freelancing is only for IT professionals or programmers. But it actually provides equal opportunities for all categories. Any skill can be used to get freelance work. There are also some unbelievable freelancing jobs that sound too weird to be true.

Here are some most popular (in no particular order) skills that can easily give you freelance work:

  • Designing: Designing is one of the most in demand skills in freelancing right now. Per a survey, designing has highest number of active freelancers right now. Most common designing projects are logo designing, graphics designing, banner, poster, t-shirt and much more.
  • Programming: Programming in C, C#, JAVA, Python, Ruby, JavaScript is and always will be in high demand. Programmer’s hourly rates are relatively higher than freelancers active in other skills.
  • Web Development: It is an era of websites. Web developers are highly in demand and this demand will go higher in near future. Web based development is earning the largest share of total money spent in freelancing.
  • Writing: As the number of websites is increasing every day, more writers are needed to make them content rich. Bloggers, content writers, copywriters, proof readers are highly in demand.
  • SEO/SMM: Search engines decide which results to show out of millions of websites. Experts providing SMM and SEO services are responsible to make the websites visible to search engines. Hence they are in high demand all the time.
  • Mobile app development: Mobile apps are a must for all online businesses. Majority of young population spend billions of dollars to sell and purchase using mobile apps. If you are an app developer, you are at top in demand.
  • Other in demand skills are data entry, photography, video\audio editing, Photoshop, server administration, customer support, virtual assistance, technical support, translation, online ticketing, music, art and painting and this list is endless. So anything you can do better than others can help you setting up a good freelancing career.

Current challenges in freelancing

 All freelancing marketplaces (websites) are providing good opportunities to clients and freelancers. But in last few years we have noticed several challenges while freelancing on these websites. Some of them are website specific and rests are industry specific. Several big issues have been fixed in recent past like payment protection, communication, currency conversion, tax calculation etc. But these are industry specific issues and are faced globally and we can’t run from them. But certain platform or website specific issues can be fixed by ongoing research and development if the concerned party is actually willing to fix them. These platform specific issues are below:

  • Unable to manage long term projects effectively.
  • Searching, short listing and bidding on projects is a time consuming process that takes around 60% time of a freelancer.
  • Number of spam projects is increasing.
  • High commission rates and currency conversion issues.
  • Good tools are not integrated with the websites.
  • Cannot depend on any single platform for ongoing work.
  • Need of better payment protection system.

These issues have been identified in last few years and most of the platforms are working to fix them. Some relatively new platforms have found and implemented the solutions.

Future of freelancing

When the best time is still to come, there has to be something which will make this time best. It is certain that we will see some major changes in the ways we freelance right now but the question is what changes we might see?

As per the current trends and statistics, we can expect below innovations and changes to come in freelancing in next five years:

Features to expect:

Online freelancing marketplaces are providing several features and functionalities on their websites. 70% of freelancers are actively doing online freelancing and getting several benefits in comparison to traditional offline freelancing. These sites are providing several features and tools to facilitate the entire process. They keep on changing the look and appearance of the websites while features and functionalities get improved less frequently. In last few years, we have seen some major changes in the features and below are some to expect in next few years:

  1. Platform Independence (Reputation and ratings to be universalized): When you freelance on a website, over the years your profile ratings go high and you become one of the top rated seller or buyer. But at some point, in order to spread your business, you have to start using any other website. On this new website you will again have to start from the scratch and create a reputation all over again. This process is repeated every time you start on a new platform.

In near future, this issue can be addressed by universalizing the profile and ratings. Means the ratings you have created on a website can be used on other website. It is possible by creating a third party tool that stores your ratings from all websites and integrates itself in your profiles everywhere. Some new freelancing websites might also offer this feature in upcoming days. As of now, we have seen a glimpse of this feature on in a relatively unknown freelancing website


  1. Automation in all processes: With the emergence of IoT and cloud technologies we will see several freelancing processes become automated in near future. Processes like short listing projects, bidding and proposal making have a good scope of being automated. This is a warm topic of debate if proposal submission should be automated or not but yes, manual proposals are time taking and decreases the productivity of a freelancer. Features like automated proposal submission might become a must have in near future.
  1. Search engine visibility: We have access to unlimited information on internet but without search engines this unlimited knowledge source is almost useless for most of the people. Freelancing and related keywords give freelancing site links at the top of search results. In near future, we might see some great gigs, projects, and freelancing profiles in these search results irrespective of the website they were actually posted on. So don’t be surprised if you google ‘web developer’ and see some high rated web development freelancers in the results.

Tools to expect:

Successful freelancers always use some good premium tools to manage their work effectively. When you are working on multiple projects, it is hard to manage them and deliver before timelines. To manage many projects at the same time you certainly need some good tools.

As of now there are many tools available in the market. All of these are good in their independent tasks but the main concern is having multiple tools is also a pain. So, in future we will definitely see some new tools that will manage all the tasks simultaneously and work like one independent freelancing manager. It is also possible that upcoming freelancing websites might provide some integrated tools to manage long term projects effectively. Below are the tools which might become a reality in near future:

  1. Multi login with single tool: After spending 2-3 years in freelancing, we often get so much occupied that we forget how many freelancing websites we are actually using. Sometimes you miss many good clients and projects just because you were not active on the website. There is a big need of a tool that makes you login on all websites you have your profile on. Let’s hope to see something like this in coming years.
  1. Single place to show projects of your interest: If we get a tool that shows the projects of your interests on all sites, imagine how much time and efforts it would save. Though lot of research and development will be needed on this one but it has a potential to become viral. The concept is making a new tool in which you can fill your requirements like budget, duration, and skills and then this tool shows you all the filtered projects posted on different websites, then you can directly make proposals.

Marketplace structures to expect:

There are thousands of freelancing websites active right now. Some of them are popular and used widely but rest are unknown to most of us. Freelancing is a competitive field; every day new ideas take the form of reality. Some new websites are now changing the concept of freelancing. In near future we might see some more website with different and new concepts. We might see some of the below changes in upcoming websites:

  1. Buyer-seller difference to be eliminated: Most of the sites are operating on the concept of different accounts for freelancers and clients. It is practical and successful at the time. But there is a trend that most buyers are successful freelancers, outsourcing their work to other freelancers. So basically you should be able to buy and sell with same account. Some websites started offering this feature.
  2. Commission to be minimized: Sometimes, it becomes hard to take a project because of high commission rates and after paying commission we still have to bear currency conversion charges, taxes and needless to mention the time spent in all these. There has to be something better than this. So it’s not bad to expect work in less commission rates. 10% should be enough when we already have some sites, started working on 7-10% commission.
  1. Commission less concept: It is hard to believe if any freelancing website would be actually commission free. But in last couple of years affiliate marketing concept became so developed that commission less marketplace could become a reality in near future.

These all are just predictions we might see in next five years. Some of these are offered in different websites. There is no second thought that the way we freelance will change soon and for good but the question is how?

Thoughts and suggestions are truly welcome in comments.

Dushyant Tyagi

About the Author:
Dushyant Tyagi is a seasoned freelance writer, developer and start-up enthusiast. Apart from front and backend development, his passion for writing makes him an expert in blogging, content writing and generating quality web traffic.

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