The New Freelancers – @BCG

The BCG Henderson Institute has an interesting report into the gig economy; The New Freelancers: Tapping Talent in the Gig Economy.

The freelancer / sovereign professional perspective

Looking at both low-paid and high-paid freelancers in 11 countries, the report throws up some important findings, including:

  • Freelancing, solopreneurship etc is overwhelmingly a positive choice, rather than a last resort. Across the world, 45% prefer to stay independent vs. 20% who would prefer a full-time, salaried position.
  • Platforms are still a small part of the overall freelance market in mature economies. In US, Germany, Sweden, UK and Spain, just 1%-4% cited platforms as their primary work source.
  • Uptake of platforms is higher in emerging economies, rising to 12% of workers in China.
  • As a secondary source of income platforms are more popular (as we suggested here): an additional 3%-10% in mature markets; more than 30% in some emerging markets.
  • Freelancing is popular across all industries (not just low-paid sectors like Transportation) In fact, the biggest sector is Information work, followed by Finance and Insurance.
  • Many freelancers use platforms to find high-skilled work (again, rather than simply Uber/Deliveroo-type work). In many markets, “High-skill work: for example, software design, management” is the biggest segment: 32% of respondents in the UK, 22% in the US, 42% in India.

The research proposes (wouldn’t you know) a 2 x 2 matrix which actually offers a very useful way to consider the entire freelance / sovereign professional world.

This covers everything from highly paid, independent consultants and interims to low-skill/low-pay piece-workers.

The employer perspective

The report also looks at the employer side and how firms can adapt for a freelance future. Interestingly, it chimes with a report I wrote for a multinational client last year: the need for a different approach to management, appealing to the preferences of New Freelancers while ensuring the are properly embedded into existing organisational structures. How do you ensure a strong team of “permanent” and freelance talent?

It also highlights the need to approach Human Resources from a skills perspective: what skills and talents already exist in the organisation? hat will you need in the future? For how long (it may be an important but transitional requirement)? How can you tap talent in the marketplace? Platforms are one answer. As we saw in Jeff Wald’s predictions on Forbes, the alumni network will become an increasingly important asset, bringing the on-demand skills you need with a hit-the-ground-running familiarity with corporate culture and structure.

Emerging government legislation in all states will be an important subject. Can we rely on legislators not to misunderstand and mess with the market?

All in all, a useful resource. You can read the full report –
The New Freelancers: Tapping Talent in the Gig Economy – on the Boston Consulting Group site, here