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The general perception when you tell someone you are a freelancer is that you wake up at noon, stay in your pajamas and avoid doing anything unless a deadline is looming up ahead. While the perks of avoiding rush hour commute and formal office wear everyday are unparalleled, the part-time way of life isn’t one of leisure.
Now with an ever growing number of women wanting to get back to work post maternity leaves or parenting breaks, it’s even more vital to understand and encourage them to start freelancing.
FREELANCE ISN’T FREE
A common practice in the West, freelancers are an essential part of forward thinking companies. In fact, in 2017, New York – which houses over 4 million freelancers – became the first city in the world to pass an acclaimed ‘Freelance Isn’t Free Act’. Voted unanimously by the NYC Council, it requires anyone hiring a freelance worker to agree in writing to a timeline and procedure for full payment, and sets up a system of recourse. In India, the story is different with freelancers having to contend with a lack of contracts, payment delays, and no legal aid if a client goes awry.
IT’S NOT ALL BLEAK
All said and done, freelance is a great way to explore multiple opportunities and conquer various fields. Women make up a chunk of the gig economy – a term often used to refer to the parallel freelance community – since work from home / part time options suit their schedule that often include juggling household chores and parenting duties. Multi-tasking just comes more naturally to the fairer sex, which is perhaps why females outrank their male counterparts in terms of flexibility and let’s face it – women have to cross more hurdles in a traditional setting, so being our own boss might just be the way ahead for us. Successful femme fatales have realised that working on your own terms means there is no glass ceiling to break, no promotions to contend over and you won’t be forced to act like “one of the boys”.
Globally, more than 60% of the freelance community is made up of women. The majority of them (roughly 32%) moonlight in network marketing, direct selling companies, and multi-level marketing jobs while healthcare, driving services, hospitality and food delivery make up the rest of the chunk. By contrast, 82% freelancers in India are said to be men, but almost 48% women are now considering becoming part of the gig economy – according to a recent report by PayPal. The same study highlights that a significant amount of work for Indian freelancers comes from Australia, the US and the UK with earning averaging Rs 20 lakh ($30,000) annually.
EYES WIDE OPEN
It’s essential to know what you’re getting into. Several professionals who’ve been part of the gig economy, including this writer, have had to follow up over months and sometimes years to get their dues after assignments have been completed and submitted. That’s partly because of our employee manuals and archaic processes, which don’t recognise non-contractual agreements. The bigger the organisation, the more people there are in the chain of command to approve one project and there’s bound to be somebody ready to throw a curveball. Most companies’ finance and legal departments still don’t have fixed guidelines for freelancers, so they might ask you to register as a vendor, adhere to a 3-month payment cycle or in the current scenario, might even expect you to have a GST number as well – not exactly conducive to creativity.
Freelance projects are a great way to make your mark, but the pay gap problem that haunts many industries is the one thing you need to watch out for. According to the Freelancer Income Report, that’s not the case in developed gig economies like American states including Washington, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York, and Los Angeles as well as countries like Venezuela, Romania, and Mexico. In Bolivia and Indonesia, female freelancers are actually earning more than men.
The next 5 years are vital and will change the tide for Indian women in freelancing. With part time gigs in media, design and digital marketing soaring – the gig economy is set to see a gradual rise. In fact, an extensive study by Flexing It revealed there will be considerable growth in flexible talent aka manager level workers engaged on a project by project basis over the next 5 years. Even a quick glance reveals a heartening trend with the right people taking note of the effectiveness of flexible talent. The study goes on to note that one third of the organisations surveyed will have 50% of their workforce as flexible talent in the future and nearly half will enroll about 30% of their workforce as freelancers.
Now with India fast emerging as the largest freelancer market in the world, things will only get better! If you’re new to the freelance way of life or are considering joining back after a hiatus, it’s best to be armed with all the info. Always stick to communication over email, ask for a contract and don’t be afraid to demand the money you are worth.