Flexing It’s recent research on the professional or highly skilled gig economy in 2019–20 showed that COVID-19 had significantly accelerated demand for the best freelance talent across sectors. The overwhelming success of WFH has led to many organizations piloting new ways of working, including longer term planning to leverage distributed global teams and a mix of full-time, flexible and freelance talent. Further, as a result of COVID-19, over 80% of projects on the platform have been remote, with growing acceptance amongst blue chip corporations for remote freelance work, and sharply defined projects.
Alongside this, there has been an undeniable mindset shift amongst professionals — Flexing It has seen a 2x Increase in consultant registrations in Q2 over Q1 of 2020 — who are now looking at freelancing as a long-term strategy and a solid alternative in an uncertain job market.
LARGE ORGANIZATIONS DRIVING DEMAND
With large corporates clearly driving demand (a change from a few years ago when startups and development sector organizations were early adopters),we are seeing that companies are leveraging independent talent to drive growth — Strategy, Marketing & Technology, accounting for over 50% of assignments.
Overall, the top 3 industries using freelancers in 2019–20 were Professional Services/Consulting followed by FMCG and Pharmaceutical Industries (which have led the adoption of flexible talent amongst large corporates, showed strong growth in 2019–20 over 2018–19 (300% and 200% respectively). The Education Sector , a new entrant, and the Development sector organizations, accounted for 10% of the assignments posted on Flexing It’s platform.
A Partner at an international professional services firm said in a recent Flexing It survey that flexible/freelance talent is -
“Key to be competitive in the future… Clients are also becoming more accepting of the gig model — for some clients 65–70% of the staffing could be gig and floating resources.”
Leading consulting firms are hiring independent talent to add deep domain expertise and drive results. Flexing It saw a high demand for experts with Deep industry Experience (manufacturing, operations with Functional expertise e.g. supply chain, six sigma). 25% of projects on the platform required consultants with 15+ years of industry specific experience and 20% required those with between 10–15 years of experience.
While Top Tier, Strategy and Big 4 ex-consultants are being hired for flexible capacity during surge periods, Researchers (trained at knowledge centres of consulting firms and top market research players) are in demand for knowledge pieces and targeted research.
Pharmaceutical & Healthcare firms have embraced flexible talent as a core strategy to meet the increased demand for niche skills. For many large firms in this sector, Strategy & Manufacturing/Operations are the focus, with the majority of projects requiring Blend of Mid-Senior Consultants: 50% of the projects require ‘doers’.
We also see the growing demand for freelance talent to help meet the rapid adoption of digital technology including tele-health tools, advanced analytics, IoT, enhanced marketing capabilities and portfolio management. In this sector, part-time support in core functions is also being used during surge periods e.g. senior talent acquisition experts, project management for key strategic initiatives.
FMCG companies are utilizing consultants across high priority areas such as marketing and supply chain/logistics — for example marketing/brand consultants to support surge periods or new initiatives and launches, expertise in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, strategic sourcing, demand planning and category management, and advanced analytics support across functions. A representative from an FMC MNC in India says “projects offered for flexible talent are strategic, lucrative and thus attractive for any freelancer.”
In this sector there is higher demand for mid level consultants: 86% of the projects require consultants with <10 yrs of work ex signalling more execution focussed demand across core functions.
The education sector is increasingly leveraging independent talent with a focus on strategy, business bevelopment and marketing. There is also higher Demand for Junior to Mid-Level Consultants with Newer skills (65% of the projects require consultants). Large international firms as well leading ed-tech start-ups are utilizing freelance talent for strategy and business development to support growth and expansion plans, new business entry, process optimization, transition management, as well as content creation and technology skills to enable e-learning and the adoption of educational technology.