3 important Freelance trends in 2021 – Interview with Joe Siantonas, Head of Freelance Growth

3 important Freelance trends in 2021 – Interview with Joe Siantonas, Head of Freelance Growth

Interested in finding out more about freelance? Contact Joe

I’m extremely excited and honored to join the Movemeon team to spearhead the freelance offering after a highly successful period for the business, despite the broader challenging times. 

Having worked within the world of management consulting recruitment for coming up to ten years, I’ve never seen the demand for highly skilled independent consultants and freelancers as high as it currently is, with more businesses than ever opting for independent consultants to help support capacity constraints, plug skill gaps and drive forward business-critical initiatives. 

Over 2 million skilled professionals have moved into freelance work in the previous 2 years (Upwork, 2021) with an ever growing army of independent consultants in Europe regularly winning work off leading consulting firms (ConsultancyEU, 2021).

From the huge impact on global workplace trends caused by COVID-19, changing workforce demographics, the digitalisation of working practices, changing approaches to project pricing and the potential fallout from the impact of IR35 in the UK, there are undoubtedly a breadth of factors impacting the gig-based world.

This article will explore some of these key trends and aim to give an overview of the freelance economy in 2021.

1. The Consultancy sector is undergoing a time of significant workforce transformation

Despite the pandemic, the consultancy sector in the UK alone grew 2.5% in the year of 2020 (Consultancy UK, 2021), and is predicted to grow a further 10% in 2021 (MCA, 2021) with many large businesses investing heavily in advisory services from specialist businesses to help navigate the broader impacts of COVID-19. Additionally, the investment landscape remains buoyant (Nasdaq 2021), which has created a large amount of demand amongst due diligence specialist firms who remain particularly busy. 

The challenge for many consulting firms, evidently, has not been in generating demand – it has been meeting the demand with efficiency and flexibility whilst simultaneously ensuring that all of their permanent workforce remain utilised, not on ‘the bench’. Further to this, hiring and retaining top talent at the senior consultant to middle management level remains a big challenge, with consulting firms seeing an annual staff turnover rate of 15-18% (Consultancy UK, 2020), and often fighting for top permanent talent in a competitive market. 

How do consultants fit into startups?

All of these factors have forced many major consulting firms to really consider their workforce strategy, with one top consulting firm targeting a global FTE/Freelancer ratio of 70:30 within the next 5 years. 

When compared to the same time last year, during Q1 2021 at Movemeon, we’ve seen a spike of over 100% in demand amongst T1 consulting firms who are seeking freelance consultants to meet the following needs:

Capacity Constraints

Consulting firms, particularly within the world of due diligence, are regularly seeking the support of associates/interims who have a background from a top-tier consulting/boutique firm who can plug straight into their project team as a manager or consultant to help drive the project forward.

Skill/Industry Gaps

Where consulting projects require a specific, niche skillset or vertical know-how, our network of 50,000 consultants & commercial professionals globally are often tapped into for short term needs.

PMO Support

Where a strategic roadmap/target operating model has been created, the Movemeon team has been working with consulting firms through deploying interim transformation & change specialists to implement & execute.

2. Agile workforces have a genuine competitive advantage

Back in 2016/17, the FT and Accenture wrote two articles that at the time I found extremely powerful, centred around the notion that companies who could build a flexible, liquid workforce and scale up / ramp down depending on the needs of the day would be able to get from strategy to delivery quicker than others, and therefore create a real competitive advantage. 

5 years on, and having undergone a plethora of unforeseen macro trends including but not limited to a global pandemic, it is interesting to look back on those predictions and evaluate the extent to which those prophecies were fulfilled. 

A 2020 study by Upwork (Upwork, 2020) revealed that over two-thirds of CEOs consider agility in their working operating model is a top 3 priority with 90% of this group considering the utilisation of freelance support paramount to their business success. 

Now more than ever, organisations that can tap into a global network of interim resources that can be scaled up and ramped down quickly in order to meet strategic initiatives in a cost-effective manner will gain a true competitive advantage and likely come out of COVID-19 in better shape than their less flexible counterparts. As such, business leaders are developing more flexible structures than ever before in order to adapt to COVID-19’s impact to their company operating model, business strategy and the broader business landscape. It is imperative that organisations meet this ever-changing landscape whilst simultaneously ensuring that their project teams stay as lean and flexible as possible.

3. Shifting workforce preferences & demographics

Nearly 12 months into more or less total remote working amongst the majority of leading organisations, many now feel that remote working (or at least semi-remote working) is here to stay. 

Because the shift to remote working for many has been perceived as a highly successful endeavour, some feel that this will increasingly pave the way for remote freelancers who are able to work to fixed deliverables/outputs and balance their lives around remote projects.

Furthermore, as more and more millennials form part of the working population, there is an increased expectation that more skilled professionals will enter the gig-based world, forcing employers to dip into this marketplace in order to find highly skilled talent (Deloitte, 2018). Younger millennials appear to prioritise and value flexibility, autonomy and diversity of projects which seems to have shifted the working preferences of this generation from their predecessors.

Conclusion

This melting pot of theories, ideas and factors has given rise to a freelance economy that is in a constant state of flux – what is abundantly clear is that, globally, the supply and demand of freelance specialists is at an all-time high and that the future for gig-based professionals seems highly positive.

Interested in finding out more about freelance? Contact Joe

 References

https://in.sagepub.com/sites/default/files/upm-binaries/89762_Chapter_1_The_Gig_Economy.pdf

https://www.nasdaq.com/articles/the-freelance-revolution-is-here%3A-trends-to-watch-this-year-2021-01-12

https://www.upwork.com/i/future-workforce/fw/2020/

https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/at/Documents/human-capital/DI_Decoding-millennials.pdf

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jonyounger/2020/12/14/freelance-management-consulting-in-2021-optimism-abounds-after-a-tumultuous-year/?sh=356d72323c71

https://www.consultancy.eu/news/3714/uk-management-consulting-industry-grows-by-8

https://www.consultancy.uk/news/16722/one-fifth-of-uk-management-consulting-work-goes-to-independent-consultants

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