Add another layer to your #Business literacy. We at Serebral360° would love to know if the Forbes – Entrepreneurs article was helpful, leave a comment, like and share. Let’s dive in and discuss the information and put it to use to grow your business. #BusinessStrategy #ContentMarketing #WebDevelopment #BrandStrategy
Info@serebral360.com 762.333.1807 www.serebral360.com
Grap a copy of our NEW Business Stratgety Books #FFSS VOL1 and #FFSS VOL2
A corner of the internet had a mild hissy fit after reading a recent article by Stephane Kasriel in Fast Company. His article was a summary of five years of survey research on the state of freelancing by Upwork in partnership with NYC based Freelancers Union. Upwork is, of course, the online talent marketplace that Kasriel leads, and the first of the marketplace startups to successfully transition to a publicly U.S. traded company. Upwork is the largest marketplace, with a valuation close to $2 billion dollars, operating in 180 countries, and including millions of freelancers on the site.
Kasriel is no stranger to hi tech; in fact, he’s one of the luminaries. Stephane was a leader of PayPal, the early tech unicorn that produced an extraordinary bounty of future internet stars including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Max Levchin.
Given the positive publicity generally surrounding freelancing, and the attraction of freelancing to millenials and Gen Z’s, the negative reaction of some readers was surprising. More than one comment described freelancing as less than utopian. One individual wrote: “People who don’t have to freelance love to romanticize freelancing — the actual truth is that making a living as a freelancer is harder than hard and sucks a ton of the time.”
In just a few words, this individual captured the unique opportunity, and also the dilemma, created by freelancing and the online marketplaces. On the one hand, millions of individuals have embraced freelancing and would seek (or return to) big company full-time employment only reluctantly. But, significant economic success as a freelancing is not easy, and the entrepreneurial life is clearly not for everyone.
I had the chance to speak with Kasriel about both the appeal and challenge of freelancing. Here’s what he had to say about the freelance life: “The people who choose freelancing are looking for flexibility, quality of life, meaning and choice in their careers. Every year, we ask freelance participants in our annual survey: ‘What amount of money would you need to leave freelancing and take a full time job?’ This year 42% said ‘no amount of money’.”
But freelancing isn’t free as Kasriel points out. Sustainable career success as a freelancer requires competitive excellence and a commitment to continuous improvement: “We have twelve million freelancers on our site representing more than 5,000 skill sets in 70 categories. That’s a big number, but of that number only about 400,000 of our individuals earned money last year. Like any business to be successful, specific competencies are required, and our most successful freelancers are painstakingly aware of what they need to do to remain successful. That means having and investing in the right technical skills. But, it also means having the right entrepreneurial skills, the ability to sell, deliver, evolve your skills and keep improving over time.”
Just as freelancing isn’t free, the tech supporting online talent marketplaces isn’t standing still. Kasriel talked with me about a newer service, what they call Upwork Enterprise. In a recent post, I described how firms like Microsoft, PwC, EY, and Accenture are creating a cloud based talent ecosystem working with companies like MBO Partners, Kalo, and Talon FMS to create internal talent platforms that intersect with online marketplaces. Kasriel sees Upwork as an important actor in this development, and is working closely with Microsoft experts to create a freelance toolkit that supports the ecosystem. Kasriel described the initiative this way: ”Private talent clouds are part of a realization that companies need to be smarter about total talent management. But, it only makes sense when connected to a larger ecosystem. Remember, the power of the marketplace is the ability to identify talent that was unfamiliar to you, but who met a critical need.”
Kasriel goes on to say: “When you think about it, full-time, part-time and freelance talent are all part of one talent continuum, and both organizations and individuals are recognizing that flexibility in moving along the continuum is part of the future. You may be a full-time employee at one point in your career, a freelancer when that makes sense, and perhaps shift again to a portfolio that combines permanent part-time and freelancing.”
I enjoyed hearing Kasriel talk about the larger purpose of Upwork, a thought reflected in its tag line: ‘Work without limits’. Here’s what he said about the larger context of the freelance revolution: “Traditional employment is all about limits: limits of time, geography, schedule and role. Freelancing blows these up. Remote work allows you to work in San Francisco or London but live in Mumbai. More and more work can be done on a flexible schedule instead of the traditional but nonsensical 9 to 5. Freelancing allows a portfolio of opportunity rather than a single role or job. And, its possible to live where you want to live, or where you must live, but earn a good living despite local economic limitations. (See my Forbes.com posts: How freelancing and other remote work will help save rural life and How freelancing and remote work can save our legacy cities.)
I also asked Kasriel to consider the larger social contribution that he believes Upwork has and will continue to make. Here’s what he said:
“Data from the Freelancing in America 2017 study estimated that by 2027, half of the workforce is likely to freelance. We know that more and more millenials and gen Z’s recognize the benefits of freelancing, and also have grown up learning that it’s unwise to rely on an employer to take care of them. And while freelancing represents a big change in how organizations manage talent, it’s inevitable that companies will look for more efficient ways to get the talent they need. It’s also inevitable that, as technologies advance, the half-life of skill is shrinking fast. Freelancers, because they are entrepreneurial, more deeply recognize the need to stay up to date and invest more in ongoing development. For all of these reasons, there’s no doubt that a network based approach to talent makes sense, and that freelance will continue to grow as an attractive option for companies.”
I asked Stephane to share his perspective on how ready organizations are to embrace the freelance revolution. Revisiting the frustrated comment of his Fast Company reader, are organizations prepared conceptually and operationally for the blended workforce? Here’s how he described the state of readiness:
“No company has it down pat, we’re still at the front end of a revolution in work at so many levels. But, no company is as far away as they might think they are. We’re not hoping for quick wins, we’ve worked with some companies for over a decade and seen good progress. If you think about it, the change management challenge is letting go of old assumptions about talent management. The most important skill is inclusivity; how to engage with people who are not regularly on site. Leaders these days are placing more emphasis on employees’ experience. That’s really what freelancers are looking for as well: flexibility, fair pay, interesting work, and be treated with respect”
It’s an exciting time for the freelance revolution, for the millions of freelancers working around the world, for the companies that rely on freelancers, and the tech entrepreneurs who are creating the next generation of online marketplaces. Undeniably, Kasriel and his team at Upwork play a leading role – commercially and from a research perspective – in creating the path forward. And, as Stephane pointed out in the closing seconds of our interview, “The freelance revolution, and here at Upwork, we’re just getting started.”
January 9, 2019 at 09:22AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs