Freelancers come in all shapes and sizes, and from all walks of life. According to a 2015 study by Edelman, women represent 40% of the US freelance workforce. Most are young adults, but nearly one-fifth are 55 or more years of age. Freelancers are even somewhat more ethnically diverse than non-freelancers.
With the rise of the gig economy, pretty much every type of business is now on the hunt to retain independent workers for a huge variety of roles. Today, you can find an available freelance window washer to service your home office nearly as quickly as you can find an outsourced CFO to service your multinational consumer brand.
Despite this diversity, there is one industry that offers more freelance action than the rest. Indeed, high-tech companies are hiring more freelancers, and paying out higher wages to freelancers, than other types of companies. Driving the lion’s share of this demand for freelance tech talent are some especially booming sub-industries: security, cloud tools, mobile app development, internet of things, media and fintech.
It’s not only the high demand for these positions that makes their freelance pay rates so high. It’s also the nature of how the work is done. Let’s take a look at some of the parameters at play.
Organized for Quick Bursts of Activity
When it comes to project management in the tech world, there’s a lot of effort put into bundling tasks. Spec documents delineate finite scopes on projects, along with lists of resources needed for execution, division of labor and timetables. Sound familiar? This is a freelancer’s dream. The way projects are handled in tech is a perfect match for how freelancers work.
The Talent Holds the Cards
Tech pays better than other industries in general, so it’s a space where the workers have choices. Increasingly, people prefer freelancing in general, so it makes sense that this sector would see a lot of freelancing. As soon as freelancers learn new tech skills (coding languages and beyond), we gain the upper hand and can quickly find our talents in demand. By learning the latest skills as they come into existence, freelancers can be worth so much more to employers and earn increasingly high rates.
Fleeting and in Flux
In tech, the skills that are needed most are constantly changing, which means that tech workers are motivated to jump from gig to gig, so they can keep their skills fresh, diversifying and growing. As Chief Technology Officer for AOL Platforms Seth Demsey notes, coding is by its very nature a “disposable” discipline. Products are constantly being updated, and open source development is incessantly yielding new compatibility issues and improvement opportunities. According to Demsey’s estimates, information expires at a rate of 30% per year, which means that nearly a third of this year’s tech knowhow is going to be irrelevant in 2017. As a result, for tech companies it makes the most sense sense to hire people independently for short-term projects, because within a few months, they’re likely to need an entirely different skill-set, which usually requires new blood.
Remote Access Is Standard
Outside of tech, the workforce is expected to perform tasks that are sometimes virtual, sometimes physical. In general, telecommuting isn’t necessarily a freelance thing, but it often is, since employees are usually expected to be located on premises. With tech, the work can almost always be performed remotely, which makes it a natural match for freelancing.
Back Door to Retirement Funds
Tech companies are often startups, and it’s not uncommon for early-stage startups to offer equity to contributors as part of their compensation packages. Because freelancers are responsible for our own retirement plans and other social benefits, acquiring partial ownership in a tech company is a major attraction, as it represents a long-term investment that can help support the freelancer after retirement.
New tech is making the hunt for gigs increasingly easier for all types of freelancers. In fact, 73% of freelancers recently told Upwork that technology simplifies their project hunting, some 4% more than the previous year. With so much activity on web-based job boards, it just makes good intuitive sense that those finding success as freelancers would have the most tech-savvy.
Better than a Steady Paycheck
In the gig economy, the concept of “career stability” has been turned on its head. With a perpetually advancing field of innovation, new discoveries are forever being made and perfected, and those involved in production are well rewarded. To freelance in tech is to prosper, with hired coders often earning more and learning more than their day job peers.
It’s been said that the hardest part of freelancing is making sure that you have steady work. For tech freelancers, demand is so high that it almost negates this challenge, leaving many to wonder if salaried techies are chumps.