Could freelancing be the next big career opportunity for IT professionals?

According to the Freelancers Union, 42 million Americans are now working as freelancers, and more are expected to join their ranks as more jobs become automated and mobile. MBO Partners predicts that 65 million Americans will be working as freelancers by 2020 if present trends continue. With online technology, more people can work remotely and collaborate with colleagues all over the country and all over the world - the only limiting factor is your skill set.

 

If IT professionals are looking to make some extra money on the side by moonlighting as solo consultants, or perhaps even pursue their own full-time business as IT consultants/web designers/developers, the opportunities are out there to connect with clients online.

 

With the rise of the online “sharing economy” and other emerging trends in online freelance work, there are many exciting implications for IT professionals. Your next career move might be to your home office.

 

Here are a few of the big trends in freelance work for IT professionals:

 

Online freelance work has hit the tipping point

 

Just a few years ago, many business owners would have been reluctant to hire people online to do freelance projects – there would have been concerns about technology, trust issues or confidentiality of sensitive information. But just in the past few years, many more business managers and entrepreneurs have become more comfortable with the concept of hiring freelancers online. Nikki Parker, North American regional manager of freelance marketplace Freelancer.com, was quoted as saying on Fox Business that “The online work environment is changing dramatically as it becomes more mainstream…Businesses around the world – whether it be a restaurant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; a multinational business in Paris, or a startup in Buenos Aires – are recognizing that as more people gain access to broadband, they are able to connect, collaborate and get work done online like never before.”

 

Has online freelance work reached the tipping point to mainstream acceptance? Think back to the early days of Amazon.com or eBay – many consumers were reluctant to buy retail good online, or were reluctant to trust strangers in other countries to ship them the items that were promised – but now both of these sites are part of the mainstream. Perhaps soon, more American businesses will see hiring freelancers online as a similarly mainstream practice.

 

Who is embracing freelance work? Generation Y and women

 

According to a Forbes interview with Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of FlexJobs, one group of people who are more likely to turn to freelance work are Gen-Y (“Millennial”) workers, who are often drawn to freelancing because they are struggling to find full-time jobs. (Recent college graduates have a higher rate of unemployment in the current economic climate than other older professionals who are better established in their careers.) Another group that seems to be having success in the freelance world are working mothers – according to stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited in Forbes, 1 in 3 working mothers of young children (under six years old) are employed part time, and women who work part time earn more than male part-timers.

 

Where to find freelance work

 

There are several online freelance work platforms like ElanceFreelancer.com, and Guru that offer freelance projects for IT professionals such as web development and programming. Another site being developed, called Avbl, is being described as “Airbnb for skills.” Just as Airbnb has made it possible for people to make extra money by renting extra space in their homes, Avbl will make it possible for skilled workers to “rent” space in their work schedule (part-time or full-time) by selling their time and talents to clients on a scheduled basis. Avbl founder Ryan Hooks was quoted as saying that “Airbnb has liberated apartments, and we can liberate people from their 9 to 5…We believe that most of us can freelance, most of us can Airbnb our place, most of us can take a day off to hang out with friends. That kind of shared economy is a visionary idea that is happening now.”

 

Whether you’re looking to make some extra money with your IT skills, or perhaps build a new full-time career as an independent IT consultant or freelance developer, there are many opportunities to work online and connect with clients and colleagues. Online freelance work gives people all over the world the opportunity to make extra money and empower themselves to take control of their careers in a new sense of freedom and collaboration.

 

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