THE pandemic has boosted freelance work with most freelancers able to maintain their levels of work and income during these challenging times.

According to the fourth edition of the Freelance Income Report, a third of the 2,000 Payooner surveyed customers from 100 countries, experienced a growing demand and 40 percent of them even saw an uptick in rates during the pandemic.

The study showed that for many companies, freelancers served as a lifeline in filling essential functions in an unpredictable market that is in need of a more agile workforce. The work-from-home setup implemented anywhere in the globe has made businesses much better equipped to onboard freelancers than before.

“To a large extent, freelancers were better prepared for this new reality than most workers,” the study noted, adding that “freelancers in the global workforce will likely continue to grow.”

According to the results of the survey, 32 percent of respondents reported higher demand for their services since the Covid-19 pandemic began, with a further 45 percent saying demand stayed constant without slowing.

It also noted that the worldwide average hourly rate charged by freelancers is at US$28, significantly higher than the $21 average hourly rate two years ago.

Strong growth in demand

Programming, marketing and finance showed the strongest growth in demand.

Younger freelancers were the main beneficiaries in the surge in demand, while more seasoned freelancers saw a slight slowdown.

By region, younger groups make up an overwhelming majority of the freelancer market in Asia and Africa, and in almost all regions worldwide, the largest age group is the 25-34 bracket closely followed by the 19-24 age group. Younger freelancers were able to command higher rates.

Results of the survey also revealed that 40 percent reported hourly rates since the start of the pandemic. Only 12 percent saw a decrease in rates.

The fastest-growing specialties — finance, marketing and programming — are among the top-earning professions.

Close to 75 percent of respondents also believe demand will continue to grow and allow them to expand their businesses, while only three percent predict their business will slow down.

Moreover, 71 percent of respondents found freelance jobs in online marketplaces like Upwork while 10 percent said they found jobs through word-of-mouth or referrals.

LinkedIn Marketplace, Instagram and YouTube also continue to gain popularity among freelancers, inching closer to Facebook as the top platform for freelancers to promote their work.

Future of work

“Online freelancing is the future of work. Business is now discovering this as a sustainable way to operate a business,” said Mike Cubos, first nominee of the Cebu-based BPO Partylist during a virtual open forum hosted by Grace Locsin, chief executive officer of Surge Freelancing Marketplace.

“The beauty of online freelancing is that there’s a worldwide sharing of talents. The talent is not just limited to a certain area. For a certain business, they can have the best talents that the world can offer by just outsourcing. It is now a trend and it seems it will continue growing for years to come,” Cubos added.

Cubos, who was a former online freelancer, said the BPO Partylist pledged to prioritize the plight of the online freelancers in the country.

“We have so many things that we wanted to change, but I have to say it publicly that the number one priority of the BPO Partylist is the online freelancers,” said Cubos, who is also the founder of Performance 360 Call Center and BPO Services.

“I saw that the biggest answer to what our country is facing now is really online freelancing. Because of the pandemic, there are a lot of jobless people, a lot of displaced workers, a lot of new graduates who have difficulty in getting a job because there’s a big chunk of our population who lost their jobs and they are the ones being prioritized by the companies over those with no experience or new graduates.”

6-pronged agenda

Cubos and the BPO Partylist have come up with a six-pronged agenda for the good of online freelancers and the business process management.

These are the establishment of co-working hubs in cities and towns, which are very crucial during situations like power outages and access to financial assistance, particularly for startups. The partylist also vowed to make training and education free and accessible so more Filipinos could land jobs in freelancing.

The group also wants to push for Digital Services Entrepreneurs’ Advancement and Mentoring freelancer to entrepreneur program so freelancers can graduate to become their own boss. It is also looking at the establishment of digital workers center, a one-stop-shop for all freelancing needs and the creation of a special government agency for freelancers.

“I really believe that online freelancing is the only industry that can provide millions of jobs in the next three years. I’m very confident to say that if we will only have the training and marketing if we do those two things, we can have one million new freelancers each year. If we have so many freelancers already, it is really right and fair to have a government agency to look after our industry,” said Cubos.