Freelancing and Gig Economy in India
The internet penetration, digital boom and the advent of new and disruptive technology (e.g. cloud technology) are influencing a shift in the way we work. The meaning of the word “job” is clearly evolving. One of such new trends in the job market has been evolution and adaptation of freelancing and gig economy in India. So, what exactly these terms mean, and what are the relevance and future of freelancing and gig economy in India?
Freelancing and Gig Economy in India
Earlier, only startups were used to hire gig workers or freelancers. But, nowadays, large MNCs and corporations are also following the trend. Both organizations and individuals are now realizing that the gig economy is as relevant as any other type of employment.
The primary reasons include professionals (and millennials) now seek more flexible models of working. Besides, it also saves money for the businesses.
What is Freelancing and Gig Economy?
A freelancer is someone who is basically self-employed. A freelancer offers services to clients, and often to multiple clients at a time. Freelancing services can be offered in any kind of business – strategy, consulting, marketing, publicity, advertising, business development, operations, web development, mobile app development, graphic design, content writing, digital marketing, and financial activities (auditing, bookkeeping) etc.
The proliferation of such part-time and freelance work has people talking about a new kind of labor market, known as gig economy. Freelancing offers a lot of freedom and flexibility that a regular desk job can’t. Mostly you get to choose the type of work you do, who you collaborate with, what time of the day you work and for how long at a time, the location you work from and the volume of work you take on, you’re able to make choices that suit your individual strengths and needs.
The Gig Economy, or the freelance movement, is founded on the premise that knowledge is now global and more accessible than ever before. Companies are more frequently tapping niche talent and working with individual freelancers who have a better understanding of the latest technology. Today, this on-demand economy is sprouting behavioral trends and shifting market dynamics.
In a gig economy, the job market is characterized by the dominance of limited-period contracts rather than permanent jobs. So, instead of a regular wage, workers get paid for “gigs”. Though proponents of the gig economy claim people can benefit from flexible hours, it has its fair share of detractors, who consider it a form of exploitation, with very little workplace protection.
How Big is the Gig Economy?
In the US, around 55 million Americans were working as freelancers in 2016. As per CareerBuilder’ 2017 forecast, more than half of employers were seeking contract workers, a 47% increase from last year. More people seem likely to embrace freelancing than have already, in order to meet that demand. Intuit estimates that by 2020, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance.
In Asia, the concept of the open-talent or gig economy is in its infancy, though it has definitely become part of a changing cultural and business environment.
Freelancers earn an average of₹20 lakh annually, says PayPal study (Source: The Hindu)
Reasons for the Rise of Freelancing and Gig Economy
A slowdown in both regional and global economies, organizational downsizing and cost-cutting have contributed to the rise of professionals opting for freelancing. Besides, a sluggish job market and worrying job scenario in India, the gig economy does hold a promise.
However, there are other reasons people are seeking flexible-job options. One is the scarcity of jobs matching their skill sets in the fixed job scenario. Additionally, after the initial, and sometimes irrational, exuberance, even startups are hiring more cautiously.
The bright side to this is that the gig economy is helping to stimulate entrepreneurship and more people are moving towards freelancing, attracted by the prospect of being their own boss.
The Indian Scenario of Freelancing and Gig Economy
In India, while start-ups were the early adopters, multinational companies, consulting firms, and large enterprises are embracing the concept. Research indicates that over a third of the 500-plus organizations surveyed expect to rely up to 50% on flexible talent in the next five years.
Indian companies are gradually realizing the brilliance of the gig economy. “Freelancing has become a new trend and it has its own benefits — no additional workspace, no investment in training or recruitment and the freelancers are themselves responsible for their medical bills, provident fund, gratuity, retirement benefits etc. The freelancing model and gig economy allow large organizations to tap multiple talents for the price of a single employee.
The gig economy has allowed Indians to explore opportunities across the world. Indians are now being sourced by some of the world’s 350 million businesses through various platforms, using their expertise to execute tasks that could not be matched by the local workforce in the buyer’s country. Finding extra work, sometimes leading to give up full-time jobs, has never been easier. India is expected to be one of the leading gig economies, as reports estimate the global market to be valued at $335 billion by 2025.
According to a recent report from PayPal, India contributes about 50% of global freelancers seeking jobs in software. This increase in popularity can be attributed to the increase in the working population, which itself is undergoing a paradigm shift.
In India, a report by job search portal Indeed found that workers are ready to swap the standard benefits of a permanent job (employee provident fund, insurance, gratuity, etc.) for better flexibility that allows them a work-life balance where they can pursue more than one interest or specialization. The report found that New Delhi and the adjoining National Capital Region accounted for 27.2% of all freelance/consultant workers in the country, followed by Bengaluru (12.%) and Mumbai (12.%).
Advantages of Freelancing
You get to choose your own working hours. So, you can work whenever you want. So, whether you’re an early riser or a late night person, as a freelancer, you can work during your most productive (and convenient) hours.
As a freelancer, you can choose with whom you work. If you don’t mesh well with a client’s personality or business or payment policies, you can pass on the opportunity. More importantly, you can work with more than one business (multiple clients).
If there is something that you don’t enjoy doing – you can just simply skip that. It’s as easy as that.
In freelancing, you are not geographically confined. You can work from home, local coffee shop, co-working space, and even if you are on vacation (on a beach or mountain), provided you have got access to a laptop and/or internet.
Freelancing allows you to set your own price for your services, which is often higher than what you’d make as an employee doing the same work.
Better Personal Life
If you are feeling done with the stress of the long working hours, feeling like your talent is being wasted, or poor work-life balance, freelancing is a great option.
You no longer have to answer to anyone but your clients and yourself. No one is hanging over you or micromanaging you.
You are the only one to control the workload. If you have too many clients and can’t handle the stress, you can drop one.
Disadvantages of Freelancing
No Stead Workload and Income
In freelancing, your income and your workload are unstable and inconsistent, especially at the beginning.
Hard to draw the line between Work and Personal Time
At times, it can be difficult to distinguish between your work time and your personal life. This means that you can work long hours and never make time for your personal interests. So, if you are not really pursuing that makes you happy and pays well, don’t get into freelancing.
Since you are working on your own, you are bound to feel socially isolated. It also limits your networking and peer-learning opportunities.
You have to wear the Entrepreneur’s Hat
When you worked a traditional job, your projects were probably handed to you. But now, you’re the sole person responsible. You are now in charge of finding all your own clients and projects.
Prepare to Grind
The gig economy is competitive. So, finding projects that pay well will not be easy. If you are a fresh college graduate (with no freelancing experience), don’t enter the freelancing career right away. Take up a full-time job, and try to get a few small side gigs.
Another disadvantage is that not all the organizations will pay on time. So, be prepared to grind.
Future of Freelancing and Gig Economy in India
The gig economy consists of markets where independent consultants, contractors, and freelancers put up their portfolios and work with companies on short-term contracts. The Gig Economy is on the path of a rapid explosion, echoing the desire of the population for independence and the ability to work on their own terms.
The gig economy is still in its nascent stage in India. But, the gig economy is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future thanks to increasing automation, the wider adoption of technology, increasing internet penetration and mobile consumption, among other factors. It is buoyed by the rise of startups and incubation programmes, combined with microcredit support, government endeavors and schemes in the startup space and programmes like Skill India, Digital India, among others. Redefining job-roles is not the way forward.
Related Article: How to be a Part of the Gig Economy
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & Admission Counselor at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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