You Need Skills for the “Eat What you Kill” Economy

small__8202631999Formerly the purview of brand ambassadors, artists, and creatives, the contract/gig/freelance — or “eat what you kill” — economy is coming for you.

Actually, it may already be here. According to the Intuit study “Twenty Trends that will Shape the Next Decade”, 40% of jobs will be freelance by 2020. Some feel contract work will simply supplement part-time or full-time employment, and others feel the tradition of the 40-hour work week is fading to oblivion. (Slightly necessary disclaimer:  I’ve personally done/do freelance work.)

Deloitte’s “The Open Talent Economy” report stated “freelancing will become a part of the new talent model for companies, which will also include shared employment and open source employment”. With companies holding back on hiring,  low prospects for “traditional” employment and a more easily (and cheaply) connected personal and business world, the opportunity to work for a “company of one” is more attractive and easily attainable than ever.  This shift in the employment paradigm will also require more knowledge and skills than before from workers, institutions, and government officials alike.

Implications for the Economy

Well, as happens with most new things, the freelance surge means the way “we define ’employed’, ‘underemployed’, and ‘unemployed’ may need to be changed“.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers are either defined as employed, unemployed, or “not in the labor force” (discouraged workers no longer searching for a job).  A more fluid mode of employment will require more discrete measures of workforce participation to better inform worker decisions and economic  policy. Nor is the US the only player in the free-agent league;  freelance “matching” sites have been started in other countries as well, including the Middle East-focused site Nabbesh, which features the additional social-entrepreneurship focus of helping expand work opportunities for women in that region.

Implications for the workforce

Why should you care about any or all of this?  Because YOU are the workforce, and the day may yet come whe you may want to/need to to participate in the “freelance economy”. Nearly every industry is participating in either recruiting freelancers or outsourcing work to contractors.

The concern is always that employers will source out jobs to the lowest bidder (the increased supply of any commodity, even workers, lowers the price of the commodity). Elance.com’s Skills On Demand survey showed workers were paid a range from $13/hr for office work (BLS average is $12-17) to $31/hr for Ruby on Rails programming (BLS average for computer/software programmers is $35-40). As in most industries, what you are paid will depend on the skill. (After conducting my own “informal survey” of administrative jobs offered on Elance.com, however, I have to note that most of the recently posted jobs in that category bid at around $10/hour.)

Skills to Pay the Bills

According to Elance.com’s  Talent Report , a wide variety of skills will make you a marketable freelancer.  Creative writing skills and programming skills are the most offered, although online marketing (especially SEO/SMO) were requested as well.   To be an effective “CEO of one”, the following are necessary:

  • Sales/Marketing- Promoting yourself will be essential.  Feel a bit like a wallflower?  Check out Sales101
  • Customer Service- Clients are your bread-and-butter (or veggies as appropriate). Brush up with CUST105
  • Communication- Working with diverse teams requires tact, poise and the power of persuasion. Bolster these with BUS210

For more work-ready resources, check out this career-ready source list.

Freelance Resources

To find freelance work, freelancers, or support/resources, check out these sites (also, feel free to suggest additional ones in the comments):

Enough about us. What about you?

  • Have you/Do you currently work as a freelancer? Is it your sole source of income?
  • What skills have helped you manage your freelance work?
  • If you live outside the US, what laws affect your freelance status?
  • Is your government supportive of a “free agent” economy?

Photo Credit CedimNews_Flickr Via PhotoPin CC BY NC 2.0

One thought on “You Need Skills for the “Eat What you Kill” Economy

  1. September 17, 2013

    Jacqueline Arnold Reply

    I also found an interesting article on Harvard Business Review(HBR) about implications for the “New Permanent Temp Worker”. Check it out here: http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/07/prepare-for-the-new-permanent/

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