Technology 'reducing friction' in freelancer job searches

Tuesday 3 November 2015

Improvements in technology have delivered a significant boost to freelancers' finances and professional development by "reducing friction" in job searches, according to Upwork, an online marketplace for businesses and independent professionals.

The company discussed the current environment for solo workers following the release of the Q3 2015 Freelancer Confidence Index, which was produced by the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE) in association with Upwork. 

According to the research, there has been a reduction in the amount of time between contracts for freelancers.

The findings showed an average of 2.2 weeks without work in the three-month period from July to September this year, down from 2.6 weeks in the second quarter.

Respondents revealed that they were on assignment for 83 per cent of the time during Q3, up from 80 per cent in Q2.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of the various sole traders, contract workers and independent professionals participating in the research predicted an increase in their business costs in the coming year.

Rich Pearson, senior vice president of marketing and categories at Upwork, said rising expenses are clearly a "key concern" for freelancers in the UK, but this portion of the workforce is benefiting from an unprecedented array of hi-tech services to aid their career progression.

"Technology is reducing friction in the job search process and making it easier for these professionals to find projects quickly and ultimately earn more money," he said.

Upwork recently released the results of a survey conducted in collaboration with the Freelancers Union in the US, where almost 54 million people have made the decision to go into independent work.

The report painted a bright picture for this career path, with 83 per cent of respondents saying the best days are ahead for freelancing, up from 77 per cent last year.

Positive trends in the UK have included high capacity utilisation within the independent workforce, which was highlighted by Professor Andrew Burke, dean of Trinity Business School at Trinity College Dublin and co-author of the Freelancer Confidence Index.
"What is impressive is that against an increasingly tough external business environment, freelancers have been able to achieve business performance through their own efforts in brand building, innovation and collaborating with other freelancers on contracts," added Professor Burke.

Nearly three out of ten independent workers (28 per cent) surveyed in Q3 were confident that their business performance would improve in the coming year, down from 41 per cent in the second quarter.

IPSE said one of the factors in this slight decline in confidence related to public policy in the UK, specifically the government's attitude towards the freelance workforce and regulation.

The membership association said it continued to have concerns about proposed changes to travel and subsistence tax relief and increased taxation on dividends. It also highlighted the potential tightening of IR35 tax legislation, which could lead to accountancy services becoming increasingly important for the self-employed.

IPSE chief executive Chris Bryce said IR35 is operating under an outdated format and warned that more forceful implementation of the regulations could dent confidence among freelancers.

By Victoria McDonnell

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