Smart Company: Rise of the freelancer: How the gig economy is set to boom in a post-COVID world

Is anyone sick of hearing the words pivot, disruption, innovation and transformation? These are undoubtedly the buzzwords of today’s new business landscape.

To win in this new world of coexisting with COVID-19, business leaders need to pre-empt change in their sectors and get on the front foot. Rather than a last-minute scramble to turn a bricks-and-mortar store into an e-commerce site, or switch from brewing gin to hand sanitiser, my hope is that company leaders will look for opportunities through people.

And, those people could live anywhere.

I agree with some recent media commentary that regional areas are set to win as a result of COVID-19 as businesses become more open to remote working. If the right person for the job happens to live in regional Australia, why wouldn’t you engage with them? Businesses could also work with specialists living anywhere in the world.

I look forward to the day we talk about ‘working from anywhere’ as opposed to ‘working from home’.

The end of ageism

Another winner, I predict, will be older professionals who until now have been victims of ageism — an issue that is rife in the marketing and advertising sector. I always encourage business owners and startup founders to focus on a person’s suitability, knowledge and sector understanding rather than their date of birth. With age, comes years of honing a specific talent, the ability to interpret a brief and the speed and agility to deliver actual results.

With JobKeeper set to finish in September, companies are grappling with how to efficiently resource their organisations in the knowledge the wage subsidy tap isn’t likely to be turned on again — even though the coronavirus isn’t likely to disappear any time soon.

When speaking to business leaders about the rollercoaster of 2020, there are emotional scars from having to stand down and make team members redundant. Hiring and investing in staff again can seem daunting.  Yes, there’s reluctance to commit to the cost of employees. But, more interesting is the fear of having to deal with more redundancies in the future (a very uncertain future at that).

More freelance opportunities

I’d encourage businesses to seek out skills rather than focus on headcounts — at least in the short to medium term. And freelancers who are hired for their specialism are likely to be more motivated and productive.

The way we compete will change and a return to ‘business as usual’ is not what organisations and employees will need. Leaner structures are what we’ll see with organisations turning to freelance professionals as their go-to resource for services including brand, creative and digital marketing.

As we move into a new world of work, it’s time to reframe and appreciate what opportunities can come out of crisis.  Historically, the gig economy has been a dirty word associated solely with food delivery and the lack of perks that come with permanent employment like sick leave, on-the-job training and paid holidays. But in the context of a recession, it will mean something quite different.

Let this ‘new normal’ not be one of concern or preconceptions, but rather an opportunity to embrace a new way of thinking, the gig economy and the exceptional talent we have within it.

By Tash Menon, 16 July 2020

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Image source: SmartCompany, LaunchVic

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