Whether you’re a small business looking to hire help, or an entrepreneur seeking freelance work, there are plenty of resources to choose from. Sites like Fiverr are great for outsourcing on a budget, while a tool like LinkedIn ProFinder provides a marketplace for entrepreneurs in the gig economy.
In fact, according to LinkedIn, the gig economy currently makes up 35 percent of today’s workforce, something that entrepreneurs especially gravitate toward.
StartupNation talked with LinkedIn ProFinder senior product manager, Thogori Karago, to find out how entrepreneurs can take advantage of the gig economy, career coaching and more. The following conversation has been edited for clarity.
StartupNation: The number of freelancers on LinkedIn has grown by nearly 50 percent in just five years. What does this say about the current state of the gig economy and entrepreneurship?
Karago: Our data continues to evidence the rapid growth of the freelance economy. Not only has the number of freelancers on LinkedIn grown by nearly 50 percent in just five years, but, in that same time period, the number of professionals that freelance in addition to their full-time jobs has more than doubled.
Whether in a full-time or part-time capacity, the freelance career path has given professionals the opportunity to be their own boss, earn supplementary income and pursue work they’re passionate about.
With nearly half of our LinkedIn ProFinder professionals confirming they will never return to more traditional, full-time employment, it’s clear the gig economy is here to stay.
How can aspiring entrepreneurs break away from the corporate world and into the gig economy?
Our data shows millennials and Gen Z’ers are typically drawn to freelancing in a part-time capacity. Recent graduates are likely to look to freelancing as a way to build in-demand professional skills to make them more competitive candidates, create a personal brand by widening their exposure to different companies and people, make powerful connections, and secure some supplementary income as they enter the professional world.
Part-time freelancing is a great way for younger professionals to dip their toes into the entrepreneurial waters.
Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers, on the other hand, make up a substantial portion of the full-time freelance workforce. In fact, our data has shown a whopping 75 percent of our freelancers to be age 41 or older. These professionals are breaking away from the corporate world by leveraging their extensive professional networks to launch their solo careers and successfully land business leads.
These more senior professionals have not only accumulated a plethora of connections, but their networks tend to be comprised of more senior professionals who wield more decision-making power within their organizations to bring freelancers aboard.
Related: Gig Economy is the Future of Work
Career coaching and mentorship allows new entrepreneurs to learn and grow from those who have experience in their field. Do you think this something newbies should take advantage of?
Career coaching is one of the most in-demand categories on LinkedIn ProFinder with the platform seeing a nearly 16X growth in career coaching requests over the last year alone.
With the world of work changing at an unprecedented rate due to technological advancements and professionals tending to stay in roles for shorter stints, it’s no wonder the demand for career coaching and mentorship continues to soar. Employees today are navigating ever more complex career paths and, as such, turn to career coaches and mentors to assist them along the way. Areas like resume writing, interview prep and leadership training are particularly popular.
How can startups tap into the freelance workforce to grow their businesses?
For small businesses of all sizes, ranging from rapidly growing startups to well-established small businesses, finding and hiring talent can be a challenge.
Tapping into the freelance workforce enables you to hire for specific projects in specified timeframes, and to outsource the tasks that may be taking time away from your priority work.
Marketing and Branding, Design and Software are the leading freelance hires among small businesses, according to our ProFinder data.
How can small businesses embrace the freelance gig economy?
Small businesses are definitely recognizing the benefits of hiring freelancers, evidenced by the fact that 50 to 70 percent of ProFinder usage of business verticals is from small businesses.
For example, finding a marketing consultant who can work with your team to create a strategy with tactics, an implementation timeline and budgets needed for content and tools is critical as a small business. This new freelance talent pool provides a wealth of expert, highly-motivated and flexible workers whom small businesses can look to for specialized projects, trial hires and, overall, cost and time-saving solutions.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges facing freelance and gig economy workers today?
While the freelance lifestyle is immensely rewarding to many, it can come with challenges.
In our recent survey of ProFinder professionals, the majority (76 percent) of freelancers said they’ve encountered difficulties in collecting payments from their clients and, for some, this actually happens regularly.
Ninety two percent of freelancers also said clients typically do not provide access to any benefits. However, 2017 did mark the debut of several key pieces of legislation for freelancers (take the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, for example), so freelancers confirm they’re feeling confident in the future of their careers.
With technology like artificial intelligence and automation taking over, where do you see the future of freelance work and the gig economy heading?
While many foresee automation having a negative impact on the U.S. workforce, 80 percent of freelancers do not actually have any concern about their freelance work being replaced by such technology in the next 10 to 20 years.
In fact, the gig economy is expected to continue its rapid growth and represent 43 percent of the workforce by 2020.
As our LinkedIn co-founder, Reid Hoffman, recently shared, workforce automation may be less top of mind to freelancers as their jobs are intrinsically network and connection driven.
Freelancers must be constantly hustling to secure new business leads and then land those gigs by forming connections with the potential client and being able to understand and deliver the project at hand. AI as a massive threat to these kinds of jobs is still a ways off.
What’s a piece of career advice you can share with an aspiring entrepreneur that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
First, remain focused on the north star. As an entrepreneur, you will continuously see new or additional opportunities and will also receive a lot of external input on alternative directions you can take. It can be tempting to change course, add scope or be constantly reacting to competition, however, remaining laser focused on delivering an excellent core experience for your users will help steer the company toward delivering true value.
Second, I recommend you actively speak to fellow entrepreneurs in your space. A lot of founders will be hesitant to do so, wary that the competition will steal their ideas. However, it’s typically very beneficial to share general learnings with peer companies. Both parties will benefit if teams come in with a reciprocal mindset.
Thogori Karago is the senior product manager of LinkedIn ProFinder, LinkedIn’s marketplace dedicated to connecting consumers and small businesses with top quality freelance professionals. She previously led the LinkedIn Premium Jobs team.