Freelancing is getting a ton of attention these days. One recent study predicted that by 2020, over 50% of the American workforce will be doing freelance work in some fashion. Welcome to the era of local and onshore skilled freelancers.
More and more companies are finding that local or onshore skilled freelancers allow them to staff up faster, provide a more diverse set of services, and, save money at the same time. These companies need freelancers who can onboard fast and integrate seamlessly with their full-time staff on their top projects. That takes not only a high level of skill, but also similar time zones, culture and the experience working in the same type of teams and industries as the companies who hire them.
And trust? If they are just a city away, and you know their real name and reputation, it’s much easier to feel comfortable that they are trustworthy than someone you hire halfway around the world. Having the freelancer local brings even larger advantage in overall trust, team cohesion and in-person communications. Granted, a full-time local team member generally integrates far better into big teams on complicated projects.
The New Breed
In the past few years, many top professionals realized they could make much more money if they quit their full-time job, and hired back out to the same, or similar companies, on a contract basis. Combine that with the rise of SaaS business communication tools like Skype and Slack, and suddenly the top pros could do cutting-edge sub-contract work for local and remote clients at the same time. If you were good and efficient, you could often double and triple bill at higher rates and make more money in 6 months than your previous full year of full time work. And if you incorporated, the tax benefits also helped you take home more income.
Now throw the Millennials into this mix as well. These kids grew up with the Internet. Often their design, development and social marketing skills are incredibly sophisticated right out of the box. Many of them don’t want a full-time job for more than a year or three tops, and would rather be making more money with the freedom the freelance lifestyle provides. It’s a trend that companies cannot afford to ignore.
It used to be that freelancing was local and specialized. But then the Internet in the early days exploded the local freelancer’s ability to reach more clients. Websites, print, apps, branding, videos, you name it, small biz wanted it. Business was booming.
Then came the bane of the local freelancer’s existence, the offshore freelance army. Millions of independent workers from developing countries like India, Philippines and Pakistan soon had instant access to western clients through platform like Upwork and Freelancer.com. But for the local small business freelancer, this development was unwelcome. Now their clients had access to someone willing to do the same job for a fraction of what the onshore freelancer needed to charge to make a living.
At the same time, companies started to realize that these offshore individuals, and even offshore outsourcing in general, have some serious disadvantages. Low quality work, communication issues, lack of control and even confidentiality problems are all issues you face when you fully outsource work, and these issues are compounded when the outsourced company or individual is offshore.
The Evolving Landscape
On the flip side of the talent landscape, the best and brightest local knowledge workers in marketing, design and software development generally stuck to full time jobs with companies and agencies. They worked in teams, they pushed the boundaries, and did the best work for top corporate clients with deep pockets. Even today, main senior roles companies need to fill on complicated projects are still better filled by onsite full time professionals. The issue is full-time hires aren’t always easy to find, and projects need to start quickly, so local or onshore freelancers are the next, best option.
Combine this scenario with the problems that offshore outsourcing often brings, and it’s easy to see why local and onshore freelancers are becoming an integral part of the modern business team. More and more, companies are cultivating a deep bench of highly skilled freelance talent they can call in as needed.
Originally published in The Staffing Stream