A woman in an orange shirt is working on a laptop in a brightly lit space, representing the flexibility of freelancers.
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Is Covid the right time to become a freelancer?

28 Oct 2020

Shahar Erez, co-founder and CEO of Stoke Talent, believes that the pandemic has opened up more opportunities for freelancers.

Covid-19 has caused massive shifts in how we work in recent months, and freelancers haven’t been left behind. According to Shahar Erez, co-founder and CEO of Stoke Talent, there has never been a better time to think about joining the freelance community.

Erez set up Stoke as an on-demand flexible workforce platform, allowing companies to hire, manage and pay freelancers or changing workforces. He has 15 years of experience in engineering, product and marketing, and has worked at companies such as HP and VMware.

Here, he explains why freelancers may have an advantage over other types of workers as the pandemic continues.

Shahar Erez is sitting in a modern office and smiling into the camera.

Shahar Erez. Image: Stoke Talent

Is today’s market tough for freelancers? How has it been impacted by Covid?

Today’s job market is tough for everyone. In terms of freelancers, it is a bit more than a ‘yes or no’. When the pandemic started, freelancers and independent contractors were the first ones to be let go, but were also the first to get back on their feet and land their next job. According to Deloitte, the pandemic will have a positive structural effect on the demand for freelancers. Gartner is reporting that 32pc of employers are replacing full-time employees with a flexible workforce and CNBC reported a 25pc increase in demand for freelancers.

Those who were freelancing before the pandemic – who were running their own business or building their own reputation and network – were trained for a quick onboard and to kick-start value creation for their clients. They are accustomed to the move between employers every several months or even weeks.

However, when traditional employees who have spent three to five years in the same place were out of a job, it became much tougher for them to adapt to finding a quick gig. Overall, the opportunity to land a freelancing career and build a portfolio of employers and projects is growing as companies are continually working remote and are having difficulties forecasting future needs and skills requirements.

What are some of the biggest opportunities for freelancers right now?

Change is constantly occurring and the need for new skills in organisations is increasing. Plus, with everyone working remotely and companies struggling to predict how things will be economically in the next couple of months, there are many opportunities for people to leverage their skills and provide genuine value to a company in a short timeframe.

Another important element is that it is very easy for people to acquire new knowledge-based skills. With online platforms such as Coursera, MasterClass, Udemy, Pluralsight and more, anyone can decide to pick up a trade, create value and generate income.

Change will always exist, but skill requirements will change every few years. The skills that will remain a requirement are adaptability, curiosity and learning. These are core virtues of knowledge workers and what freelancers need in order to succeed.

Now that we have moved almost everything online, how can freelancers network effectively?

The first and foremost question is: how do freelancers build their brand? If you have the right brand, you do not need to worry so much about the network. Although there are almost 700 online marketplaces for freelancers, virtually all research shows that the most popular way for freelancers to get great jobs is through references and word of mouth.

If a freelancer wants to build a network, they should focus on building a great brand for themselves. In order to build a great brand, you need to focus on supplying great value and experience for those you work with; the more you provide value and a positive experience, the more references and recommendations you will get.

Of course, it is always helpful to get public recognitions on relevant platforms – such as online marketplaces, LinkedIn and dedicated platforms like GitHub, Dribbble, Behance etc – but the core remains the same: quick time-to-value, stick to your principles and commitment and provide great service. The rest will come in naturally.

Should more people consider going freelance in the newly remote world, do you think?

Most people should start operating and thinking as freelancers, even if they have a full-time job with a single employer. It is important to constantly build up your network and your personal brand, behave as if you need to constantly obtain new skills, continually improve on your existing skills and learn how to quickly provide value to the companies that you work with. Following these freelancing habits will help people maintain a future-proof and ‘pandemic-proof’ career.

More to the point, many indicators are pointing to the fact that freelancing is on the rise with increasing demand. This has further accelerated amid the pandemic; we saw similar behaviour during the 2008 crisis and it is happening even more so now.

Right now, it is a lot harder to land a full-time job along with a remote job in a company you want to work with. Freelancing [can] give you the freedom and flexibility to land a job quickly, try a few organisations and boost your career.

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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