Freelancing has become an increasingly popular way of making a living, and it’s easy to see why. People can set their own hours, work from wherever they want, and have far more control over the projects that they take on than traditional employment can offer.
However, as the freelancing industry continues to grow and evolve, it’s interesting to ponder what the future of freelancing looks like.
Does Freelancing Have A Long Future Ahead Of It?
I’ve been a freelance writer since 2019, and I started while I was still at university. I’ve watched the career path evolve throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with many people turning to freelancing as mass layoffs ensued. However, freelancing was expected to grow into the future even without the pandemic’s help. Surveys from back in 2017 suggested half the American workforce would be freelancing by 2027.
Whether that ends up being true remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that freelancing has a long future ahead of it in some capacity. As more and more people look for alternative or additional income sources, people are trying their hand at offering things on a freelance basis.
Plus, brands and individuals are always looking for cheap ways to get things done, and hiring a freelancer on a contract basis can be a very cost-effective way to do this. But there are some big things happening in the world that will affect the future of freelancing.
The Emergence Of Powerful AI
AI is changing the freelancing landscape significantly. As a freelance writer, I am all too aware of the effects of platforms like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and the countless other chatbots and AI platforms. I’ll talk more about them soon (and I have another article on the future of freelance writing specifically), but for now it’s just worth pointing out that any discussion of the future of freelancing (or anything really!) must make mention of artificial intelligence.
Freelancing platforms like Fiverr and Upwork will continue to remain popular in the future despite these emerging technologies and cultural trends, but they will also evolve as people’s needs change. The market will be somewhat split between people that want low-quality for cheap and those that may be willing (or forced) to pay even more to ensure they get a human doing the standard of work they need.
I’ll talk more about how these will be affected shortly as well, but first, is freelancing going to continue growing, rather than just existing as a potential career path for some people?
Will Freelancing Continue To Grow?
With the rise of digitalization and the flexibility that freelance work offers, it is no surprise that the number of freelancers is still on the rise. According to a report by Upwork, the world’s largest freelance marketplace, the share of workers in the US that are freelancers is up at 39% as of 2022, an increase of 3% from the previous year.
One of the reasons for the growth in freelance work is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on traditional office jobs. As companies adapt to new ways of working, many have turned to freelancers as a means of getting work done without having to take on full-time staff.
This trend is expected to continue as companies embrace the benefits of the gig economy, such as the ability to hire workers on a project-by-project basis and the savings of not having to provide benefits or office space.
Freelancing Is Increasingly Easy To Pursue
Another factor contributing to the growth of freelancing is the advancement of technology. With the rise of AI and other digital tools, freelancers are better able to market themselves and work remotely from anywhere in the world. This means that more people are able to work as freelancers, regardless of where they live, as long as they have access to the internet.
Aside from the actual freelancing itself becoming easier, we also have more and easier access to information than ever before. This means people can gain knowledge and support about freelancing very easily, and so more and more people can become aware of it as a career path.
The Future Of Freelance Platforms
As the gig economy continues to flourish, freelance platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork have become increasingly popular among businesses and professionals alike. But what does the future hold for these platforms?
With the rise of automation and artificial intelligence, there has been some concern that freelance platforms may become obsolete, at least for some industries. However, these platforms are continuously evolving and adapting to stay relevant. Fiverr has entire sections of the website devoted to trending services, from NFT artistry to AI content editing.
One trend that is sure to continue is the demand for specialized skills. Platforms such as Toptal and YunoJuno have already established themselves as marketplaces for top-tier talent, with rigorous screening processes ensuring only the best candidates are accepted, regardless of industry.
But even if you’re using Fiverr or Upwork, I believe there will be continued demand for freelancers that can offer services at all levels, from basic to extremely advanced. AI might replace the need for some low-level work, impacting the likes of freelance writers and possibly graphic designers.
However, AI is still very much in its infancy in terms of its capabilities when it comes to producing very specific things. It might be able to write a generic article or produce a cool image, but it’s still very basic unless you devote a lot of time, money and resources to it. So, I think those with expertise and specialized skills will simply become more highly sought-after. Let’s consider this aspect specifically.
How Will AI Affect The Future Of Freelancing?
Firstly, it is essential to recognize that AI is already changing the way freelancers work, and it has been for a long time. In particular, writing is an area where AI is having a significant impact. AI tools are now being used to create content automatically, from news articles to social media posts.
While some may see this as a threat to the livelihoods of freelance writers, I believe that it is more accurate to view it as an opportunity.
AI-generated content is often formulaic and lacks the nuance and creativity that human writers can bring to their work. As a result, there will always be a demand for skilled writers who can produce high-quality content that engages and entertains readers. In other words, the rise of AI-generated content means that freelancers who can offer a unique perspective or expertise in a particular niche will become even more valuable.
It may also lead to new job opportunities for freelance editors and others who can optimize AI content to read more like a human wrote it (these gigs already exist on Fiverr, for example).
Matching Clients To Freelancers
Secondly, AI is also changing the way that freelancers find work. Platforms like Fiverr and Upwork have revolutionized the way that freelancers connect with clients, making it easier than ever to find new projects. However, as AI continues to improve, it is likely that these platforms will become more sophisticated, allowing clients to find the right freelancer for their needs automatically.
Most platforms already use some form of matchmaking system, but as AI improves, it will get better and better at matching clients with the right freelancers. This has the potential to further automate these platforms and help everyone get better results for their business.
I also believe that AI will lead to a split in the freelancing market. On the one hand, there will be clients who are happy to pay low rates for low-quality work produced by AI. There are already and have been for a long time many businesses and individuals that pay low rates for low-quality work, and then they upgrade it themselves or simply use it as is.
On the other hand, there will be clients who are willing to pay a premium for high-quality work produced by skilled human freelancers. This split will be particularly pronounced in industries where reputation and brand management are crucial, such as marketing and public relations, and for big brands that can’t afford to skimp on output quality in the hopes of saving some cash.
In these industries, the need for high-quality, original content will remain high, and clients will be willing to pay top dollar to ensure that they get the best possible result. This goes for writing and creative freelancing industries, as while AI is impressive, it cannot think like a human can, and that human touch is often what sets the biggest brands apart from the rest.
Plus, as I mentioned earlier, the AI revolution may result in new opportunities for freelancers in place of many of the old ones. AI content editors will become more sought-after, and brands might need someone who can prompt AI image generators effectively to produce the material they need. There will also be lots of opportunities that we’re simply not aware of yet!
AI is changing the freelancing industry in many ways, but I do not believe it will destroy it.
Freelancing has a long history, but with rapid advancements in technology and culture it’s understandable to wonder what the near future holds. I believe the future of freelancing is long and prosperous for everyone involved, but you will need to adapt to new technologies and cultural shifts if you want to succeed.
Chris is the creator of Freelance Ready. He originally started freelancing (on Fiverr) while at university, writing and editing website content. He created this website to share his freelancing experience and help others on their own self-employed journeys. He is now a freelance SEO consultant and content editor. You can learn more about Chris here.
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