Why agile freelancers on top-tier rates are the future of work

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There was a time when the engagement of a freelancer by an organisation was seen as a Hail Mary pass into the unknown. Either something in the business or a project had gone horribly wrong, or the most suitable permanent employee was not available.

Fast-forward a decade and the environment today in 2022 for freelancers, and how they are perceived, engaged, and utilised, has dramatically changed, writes Shib Mathew (pictured), executive board chairman and founder of Yuno Juno, the leading network and platform for premium freelancers.

What is freelancers' USP?

In fact, freelancers across the UK, and across almost every sector of the economy, are fast-becoming the preferred choice, because they bring with them specialist skills, low to non-existent overheads and often, vast experience honed from a variety of projects and organisations they’ve engaged with in the past. As a result, these on-demand, in-demand, professionals are commanding record compensation for their skills and time.

We know this thanks to our 2022 Freelancer Rates report, released last month, and based on bookings exceeding 80,000 across the last three years, with 30,000-plus bookings in 2021 alone.

Four fundamentals from our probe into the freelance workforce

The key highlights from the report which we think all self-employed freelancers regardless of sector or specialism need to know about,are:

1. Project lengths for freelancers are increasing

The average project length across all work disciplines was 48 working days (9+ weeks).

This is validation that the future of work is freelance. It might even constitute food for thought for the new Future of Work review, freshly announced by the UK government, here.

So, more organisations are using experienced freelancers for long-term projects and not just as a stop gap. If you’re a freelancer within the Data sector, or with data skills for data-related projects, the average project length is a whopping 76 days!

2. The average freelancer day rate across all disciplines is trending upwards -- £368 per day

As well as this average day rate for freelancers of £368, which is 5% up on 2020, the average top 10% band across all disciplines is a staggering £710 a day.

Organisations are not only willing to pay for premium quality and experience -- these top-tiers of rates have become the norm when delivering critical work on a freelance basis.

Day rates in fields such as Quality Assurance/Testing are up by 25% from the pre-pandemic year of 2019, and Data Scientists have pocketed an increase of 31% over the same period.

3. The broad range of day rates indicates the breadth of choice available to hirers

The lowest freelancer day rate we found is £150--- and the highest came in at just under £1,500 a day! Almost as impressive as the latter, we know one social media freelancer who commanded an impressive £1,220. Not bad for a day’s work!

4. A global pandemic, plus significant tax reform, did not slow the desire to hire freelancers

2021 saw a noticeable bounce back from the effects of covid-19 within many industries, and this, in turn, drove demand for experienced talent tactically within corresponding businesses.

With the potential to be equally as disruptive as the pandemic, the government implementation changes to IR35.

This long-awaited tax reform for self-employed individuals was introduced mid-pandemic (April 2021), but it’s still contentious today. It’s fair to say that there definitely was a readjustment that occurred due to the off-payroll framework, regarding what organisations viewed as appropriate classifications and compliance. But in a sign of the times, perhaps, as to where the labour market has already moved to (and not just still moving to), demand across our platform for contingent labour regained momentum in just a matter of months.

Finally, here’s what you could have had…

At the time of writing, news reports are emerging that many organisations that saw a bit of a boom during coronavirus are now undergoing post-pandemic ‘readjustments’ and even unfortunately, making layoffs. At the same time however, we’re picking up on a growing understanding that freelancing could have been a better way for these companies to grow during the boom – and more crucially, immediately after the pandemic intensity subsided. The ability to deliver company objectives while maintaining strategic and commercial agility -- because freelancers can be picked up and put down as demand dictates, is a strategy that these UK enterprises will be hard-pushed to turn down again.

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