Navigating the New Normal: Freelance and the Gig Economy

Navigating the New Normal: Freelance and the Gig Economy

  • Reading time:8 mins read

by Devesh Khatri

“Freelancing is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle. It’s a choice to be in control of your time, your income, and your future.” – Sara Horowitz, Founder of Freelancers Union

The gig economy, also known as the freelance economy, is on the rise. With the advent of technology and the internet, it has become easier than ever for individuals to find work outside of traditional 9-to-5 jobs. 

Freelancing and the gig economy are rapidly growing trends in the modern workforce, offering individuals the freedom and flexibility to work on their own terms. In the gig economy, short-term and flexible jobs are prevalent, with a focus on independent contracting and project-based work. Freelancers, also known as independent contractors, are self-employed individuals who offer their services to multiple clients on a project-by-project basis. The rise of technology and the internet has made it easier than ever for individuals to find and connect with clients, as well as to work remotely from anywhere in the world. The freelancing and gig economy have not only changed the way we work, but also the way we think about work and career opportunities.

As the world of work continues to evolve, more and more people are turning to freelance and gig opportunities to make money and have greater control over their careers. 

First, let’s define what we mean by freelancing and the gig economy. Freelancing refers to working for oneself, rather than for a traditional employer. Freelancing is the act of working independently and offering one’s skills and services to various clients on a project-by-project basis. It’s a dynamic and exhilarating way to take control of your career and build a portfolio of diverse and fulfilling work experiences. This can include working as a self-employed consultant, contractor, or freelancer.

The gig economy, on the other hand, is a labour market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs. It’s a vibrant and ever-evolving landscape that offers endless opportunities for those who are willing to embrace the freedom and flexibility it provides. It’s a place where you can unleash your full potential, explore different fields and industries, and forge your path to success.

Freelancing and the gig economy offer a range of benefits for those looking to take control of their careers. One of the most significant advantages is the flexibility it provides, allowing individuals to set their own schedules and choose projects that align with their interests and skills. It also allows for a greater sense of control over their career and a better work-life balance. Another advantage is the independence it offers, allowing individuals to work from their own homes or any other location, providing more autonomy and control over their work environment. The gig economy also offers a greater variety of work opportunities, allowing individuals to take on various projects and explore different fields and industries, keeping things exciting and challenging.

The gig economy in India is on the rise, with a projected expansion of the gig workforce to 23.5 million workers by 2029-30. This represents a significant portion of the overall workforce in India, with gig workers expected to make up 6.7% of the non-agricultural workforce and 4.1% of the total livelihood in the country.

Currently, the gig economy in India is dominated by medium-skilled jobs, with 47% of gig work falling into this category. However, there is a trend towards an increasing number of low and high-skilled jobs in the gig economy, as the concentration of workers in medium-skilled jobs declines.

In addition to the gig economy, the number of freelancers in India is also on the rise, with an estimated 15 million individuals currently working independently across a wide range of sectors. India is home to one in four freelancers worldwide, and this number is expected to grow to $20-30 billion by 2025.

The growth of the freelancing industry in India is driven by several factors, including the rising culture of start-ups and entrepreneurship in the country. Companies of all sizes, from start-ups to top-notch corporations, are increasingly turning to freelancers to meet their needs for specialised skills and expertise.

However, despite the growth of the freelancing industry in India, the income earned by freelancers in the country is still lower than that of their counterparts in other parts of the world. According to the 2020 Freelancer Income Report by Payoneer, Indian freelancers earn an average hourly rate of $18, compared to the global average of $21.

According to a report published in 2018 by digital payment company Paypal, freelancers in India earn 19 lakhs per annum on average. In the survey conducted by Paypal on 500 freelancers, it found that 23% of the freelancers earn up to Rs 60 lakh annually, 13 % earn 10-15 lakhs per annum, 8% earn 7.5-10 lakhs/per annum, while the rest 23% earn an annual income of Rs 5 lakh.

Despite this, freelancers are gaining prominence and the perception that they are an inferior crop of professionals is changing. More and more individuals with top educational and professional backgrounds are quitting full-time employment to provide their skills and services as independent consultants.

If you’re considering freelancing, there are a few steps you can take to get started.

1. Identify your skills and interests: The first step to freelancing is to figure out what skills and interests you have that you can offer to clients. This could be anything from writing and editing to graphic design and photography.

2. Create a portfolio: Once you know what skills and interests you have, it’s time to create a portfolio that showcases your work. This could be a website, a blog, or even a social media account. 

3. Find clients: Once you have a portfolio, the next step is to find clients who need your skills. One way to do this is to reach out to businesses or organizations you are interested in working with and offer your services.

4. Set your rates: Before you start working with clients, it’s important to set your rates. Research what other freelancers in your field are charging and set your rates accordingly. 

5. Sign contracts and agreements: Make sure you have a clear contract or agreement in place with your clients that outlines the scope of the project, payment terms, and other important details. 

6. Keep learning: As you continue to work as a freelancer, it’s important to keep learning and growing your skills. Attend workshops, take online courses and read books or articles on freelancing to stay on top of your game.

The rise of freelancing in India has been nothing short of astounding. According to Steven Reubenstone, Founder of Collaborizm, an online collaborative community-based in Miami, US, 75% of the 115,000 individuals on the platform are freelancing from India. This is a testament to the growing popularity of freelancing in the country, and the opportunities it presents for individuals to find new and exciting projects to work on and to enhance their credentials.

This trend is not limited to India alone. According to a PwC report, more and more organizations will prefer to have fewer in-house employees and more freelancers in their workforce. This is a clear indication that freelancing is here to stay, at least for the next few years.

However, freelancing and gig work also have their downsides.

The gig economy and freelancing can be beneficial, but it also poses several challenges for freelancers. One major challenge is the instability of income, which can make budgeting and saving for the future complex. Freelancers also face the challenge of finding new clients, which requires a lot of effort and can sometimes result in not getting paid. Job security is also an illusion, especially in difficult times, so it’s important to have a backup plan and diversify one’s income streams. Additionally, working from home can be a challenge as it can be difficult to stay motivated and focused amidst distractions and a lack of co-workers. Freelancers need to stay disciplined and set boundaries to remain productive.

The freelancing industry in India has seen growth, despite challenges such as limited foreign payment options and a lack of protections for freelancers. Research suggests that both businesses and freelancers will benefit if systems are developed to encourage freelancing. Freelancers must also adapt and acquire new skills to stay competitive in a market that sees new freelancers and technologies emerging regularly. The future of freelancing in India appears positive, but continued efforts are needed to address current challenges and maximize its potential.

In summary, freelancing is a fantastic way to gain experience, and flexibility and make money while you are a student. To begin freelancing, identify your skills, create a portfolio, find clients, set your rates, sign contracts and agreements and keep learning. The gig economy is a great thing, but it also creates challenges. We need to make sure that the government looks at ways of creating support programs for entrepreneurs and small businesses. Also, we need to look at ways of creating incentives for people who want to work from home or work as freelancers to keep things balanced between corporate jobs and solopreneurship. Overall, the gig economy and freelancing industry in India is poised for significant growth in the coming years, driven by a number of factors including the rising culture of startups and entrepreneurship in the country. As these industries continue to grow, they will provide new opportunities and challenges for workers and businesses alike.