Imagine traveling the world, exploring exotic locations, immersing yourself in extraordinary cultures, and meeting new exciting people, all while earning a living. Sounds like a dream, right? Fortunately, it’s one that can become your reality—even if you’re not a travel blogger or adventure photographer—with the help of Upwork, a web-based platform designed to connect freelancers with companies and the contract jobs they need to fill.
RewardExpert recently spoke with Katie Evans, Upwork’s Senior Communications Manager, about current trends in the American freelance marketplace and her tips for professionals who wish to combine the freedom of freelancing with the joys of world travel.
Connecting 12 Million Freelancers with 5 Million Companies
Relaunched in May of 2015 as Upwork, the company was formed as a merger between two popular freelancing platforms, Elance and oDesk. “Each of them had created really thriving communities and a strong base,” Evans said. “But as we moved towards a shared vision post-merger, we realized we could make an even greater impact by building them into one really great workplace.”
Since the relaunch, Upwork’s network has grown to more than 12 million registered freelancers and more than 5 million registered clients posting 3 million jobs annually.
This growth is not surprising according to the findings of Upwork’s Freelancing in America: 2016 report. “We found the freelance workforce is growing,” Evans explained. “It’s up 1 percentage point since we started the study in 2014. While that may not sound like a huge number in retrospect, it actually represents the addition of two million new freelancers to the economy.”
“What’s more,” Evans continued, “the amount of freelance work that these professionals are doing is increasing. The share of full-time freelancers actually increased from 17 percent in 2014 to 25 percent in 2016. We’re expecting a continued increase in both the number of freelancers that are entering the workforce and the amount of freelance work available itself.”
Employer Needs are Driving Marketplace Growth
Upwork’s Future Workforce Report also contains interesting insights into the freelance economy and its potential for expansion. The survey of more than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers found that 48 percent are utilizing flexible workers including freelancers. Fifty-five percent plan to increase their use of these professionals in 2017.
Why is this the case? The reasons are many, Evans said. “Over the past several years, the workforce has seen a lot of dramatic change that has been driven, in large part, by technological advancement. I think that with that comes an increased need for business agility and a shift in worker preferences.”
Basically, Evans postulated, innovative technologies such as cloud-based tools have made it easier and more efficient for professionals to work independently. As a result, companies are able to hire talent outside of their geographic communities and offices have become optional in some industries. As this has occurred, more professionals have elected to join the ranks of freelancers because of the freedom and flexibility the lifestyle provides.
“Additionally, companies are utilizing freelancers and flexible talent to increase capacity and scale up and down quickly to support project needs,” Evans said. “Fifty-six percent of hiring managers cited that as a reason. Also, 49 percent cited the ability to leverage skills that aren’t currently available in their local market or that they don’t have in-house.”
Opportunities for a Variety of Professionals
You can learn everything you need to know about creating an Upwork account, searching for jobs and working through the Upwork platform in the Online Course for New Freelancers.
Whether you’re a web or mobile developer, designer or other creative, writer or marketer, virtual assistant, accountant, consultant or customer service agent, you’re likely to find short-term positions and projects you can complete while traveling.
“We have over 3,500 active skills on our site across more than 90 categories,” Evans said. “We’re seeing particularly big jumps in roles within web/mobile/software development as well as design, advertising and translation.”Among hiring managers surveyed for the Future Workforce Report, 57 percent cited a need for creative/design professionals, while 53 percent were looking for web/mobile/software development workers and 47 percent were looking for writers.
Ready to Freelance and Travel? Consider These Tips:
- Invest in good tools. Evans pointed out that working on the road can be hectic, especially if you’re dealing with spotty wi-fi. She suggested purchasing a high-quality laptop, an unlocked phone and local sim card, USB adapters, and apps—like Trello, Dropbox and Google Hangouts—that can help you collaborate more productively.
- Do your research. Evans suggested asking about the quality of wi-fi connectivity as well as determining how you are going to get around, where you’ll work, and the hours of the day you’ll need to be productive. “Do your homework beforehand and you can really save yourself a lot of frustration once your trip begins,” she added.
- Choose inexpensive locations and digital hubs. “You can reduce fixed costs if you choose a digital nomad hub such as Chiang Mai in Thailand. Not only will your money go further, but you can learn additional skills and be part of a community of other digital nomads.”