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Will the Freelancer Own the Future of Work?

Updated: Oct 9


Hello there, I am a freelancer, and I am on vacation. Who am I kidding, my phone has notified me otherwise already. Nevertheless, until I open my e-mail, I’ll open a notepad and lay down some thoughts I’ve been having lately. Here we go! 


The freelancer came before the Internet. From the early 19th century Walter Scott Ivanhoe’s “free-lancer” to today’s “freelancer economy”, we have come a long way. If the medieval mercenary soldier of the old days offered his “free lance” to the highest bidder, then today’s free worker offers his talent, skill, and time to the company that needs it, and companies today might need freelancers more than they could ever know. 


From the military scene to the business scenario, the word “freelancer” is…still just a word. I am a strong believer in the idea that if you have a talent, a specific skillset, an internet connection, a laptop, and time on your hands you can become a freelancer, a free worker, Flexi-worker, self-employed, or whatever you want to call yourself. 


The desire, motivation, and specific factors that lead to breaking out of the traditional forms of work are not new. However, the COVID-19 accelerated some of the changes already happening on the global workforce scene, and most companies were caught offside. 


Freelancer or Not? What’s in a Name? 


The sky is the limit when it comes to putting one’s talent to good use, and as a professional who has been managing numerous freelance teams through the years, I’ve concluded that this way of work offers the most flexibility, and solutions when there seems to be none, especially in many COVID19 situations. 


Our way of work at BDD implies contracting, managing, and setting up teams of freelancers all over the world to solve some of the most urgent business needs of the day, from fixing disrupted business chains to nurturing business growth. 


However, some of the people I work with are not freelancers. They’re not employees either. They’re great talents who have found that they can be good at what they’re doing, and they can keep doing it, on their own terms, while also being part of a remote team stretched all over the globe. 


Who are they? They’re independent workers, moonlighters, project-oriented workers, but they could very well be temporary workers or well-established freelancers owning a small business. 


The beauty of freelancing is that you do not need a name and a piece of paper to tell you who you are and what your position is. Whether you want to be considered part of the labour market or not, as long as you can bring value to a project and a team, then you should be good. 


Of course, this sounds very idealistic and almost impossible, but it will happen. I am already building a network of freelancers, and remote workers who want to try this new way of work for various reasons and do not care about the boundaries.


Yes, there are boundaries, challenges, bumps in the road, call them how you want. 


The Challenges of Managing Teams of Freelancers


Language, for a start, is a challenge. The recruiting process is also a challenge the way it is now. Matching different personalities in the same team can prove a disaster in some situations, the same way that crossing cultural boundaries can prove impossible. 


Yes, setting up a well-oiled team is difficult because it also implies knitting on the social fabric of it, and how do you do team-building when you work with five people from Europe, another five from America, and 3 others from Asia? 


The future of work, however, is going to provide the means to do that, through an automated, dynamic, and agile work system. And this future is upon us. Companies should prepare for it. 


The Oldest Question in the Book: How Do You Ensure Productivity When Working Remotely? 


Most managers these days are having a hard time adapting to ever-changing working environments. A few days ago I’ve read the following sentence on bbc.com: “I monitor my staff with software that takes screenshots”. 


It seems that most “bosses” fear that their out-of-sight workers will slack off while working from home. This line of thought is like going backwards, to the coal mine, when the future of work is taking off to the stratosphere. 


The bottom line is, productivity can be an issue both in the office and at home, and I’m talking real productivity. If you keep nagging your employee and shouting at him to work, that might decrease the productivity, and only increase the amount of time he’ll stare at a screen angry at you. Productivity is not equal to the number of hours spent in front of a computer screen, it is a much more complicated fabric. 


Productivity starts with motivation. Motivation is an inner drive that can be influenced by various external factors, like teamwork, respect, bonding, success, the idea of building something worthwhile. 

You need to invest in productivity. Spending some money on a few more hours of chit-chat with your team of freelancers, maybe playing video games together, organising a LAN party, and so on, can bring about more productivity than any screen monitoring service ever will. 


Paying People to Work Less Could Bring Good Results


Social security paid vacations, job safety is something a freelancer does not experience. The “busy culture” has made both employees and freelancers alike feel like it’s ok to never stop working. Unfortunately, companies and managers seem to have encouraged this continuous “hustle” until productivity levels dropped. 


Looking to the future of work and the future of the freelancer, I’m determined to work for a more efficient and productive working environment, with well-deserved, paid vacations, and improved efficiency. Shouldn’t we all?

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