Soft skills help US freelancers thrive in a gig economy

SOURCE: Ethan Miller/Getty Images/AFP
Many Americans are turning to freelance work.

By U2B Staff 

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A recent study found that a significant number of Americans carried out freelance work, contributing $1.2 trillion to the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic which reveals a shift towards a gig economy.

The need for highly skilled freelance workers for services as computer programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting increased as much as 45% compared to 2019.

Additionally, more professionals are turning to freelance work to meet this growing demand with up to 58% of non-freelancers who are new to remote work due to the pandemic are now considering freelancing in the future.

A whopping majority, or 73% of freelancers surveyed in the study report that freelance work has made them more productive workers.

The research findings published in a report titled “Freelance Forward: 2020”, was carried out by Upwork, a leading online talent solution.

The study surveyed more than 6,000 working Americans over the age of 18 and found that 59 million performed freelance work in the past 12 months.

This number accounts for 36% of the American workforce which is an increase of 2 million compared to the previous year.

The report shows that he COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the composition and demographics of the freelance workforce and has remained an essential pillar of the American economy.

President and CEO of Upwork Hayden Brown said, “It’s no surprise that freelancing is on the rise, especially now that we have fully disentangled ‘where’ we work from ‘what’ we work on,”

Brown added, “Amid all of the uncertainty brought about by COVID-19, the data shows that independent professionals are benefiting from income diversification, schedule flexibility, and increased productivity.”


Skills training remains a priority for a large majority of freelancers to thrive in a gig economy

More than half of the freelancers who participated in the study completed skills training programmes in the past six months and more than half of this cohort report that developing soft skills like communication and people skills are an essential part of their work.

While a large majority or 81% of those surveyed say their “college education is useful to the work they do now, of those with a four-year college education, 65% wish they had instead obtained a two-year degree and supplemented their education with online training.

The findings indicate that organisations are realising that freelance professionals can introduce new skills and capabilities into the business and strategically expand capacity to efficiently support changes in demand and workloads.

This trend is expected to continue as businesses are shown to increasingly rely on freelancers as an essential part of their operations.

Freelancers also reportedly enjoy higher earnings amid a bleak economic outlook – the research found that 75% of freelancers reported an increase in income compared to their earnings during full-time employment.

More and more young adults are also turning to freelance work for economic opportunities amid a growing gig economy – the report found that half of the Gen Z workforce has carried out freelance work in the past year, and of those, more than a third started since the onset of COVID-19.

A large number of freelancers report that freelancing has prepared them to cope with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic better than those in traditional jobs.

The report states that 48% of freelancers see it as both full time and long-term career opportunity while 60% say that there is no amount of money that would convince them to take a traditional job.