Possibly the most significant change about to affect the world of work is the shift away from full-time employment to an economy based predominantly on freelance workers. For the past century, the white-collar workforce has been characterised by people swapping most of their weekday waking hours for a fixed monthly salary. This is about to change.

Freelance work will increasingly become the characteristic form of work in the next two decades. The reason this shift towards to the “on demand economy” will be so strong is that it is being driven by everyone involved. Workers have a desire for more control over their lives, and improved work-life integration. Many of them need to earn more, and have the time to be able to do extra work on the side. They also do not want to be subject to the whims of their employers. Those employers are looking to find new ways to improve productivity – most of what they’ve tried over the past decade has stalled now. New productivity gains are going to be found with artificial intelligence, automation and ensuring that people only get paid for the work they really need to do (rather than for just being there). And new performance analytics tools are going to finally help companies to know exactly how much (or how little) they’re actually getting out of their staff at the moment.

I realise this is a simplistic view of the current state of the world of work. But only somewhat simplistic.

Non-traditional, or contingent workers are not a new phenomenon. Part-time, temporary and contract workers have always existed within the economy, but what’s happening now is different. The technology platforms being developed today to connect with workers – from Uber to household chore matchmakers such as TaskRabbit – are much more efficient. And the nature of contract jobs is rapidly changing: with geography being less and less important.

Demographic changes are also spurring this shift on. People are living longer, and they want to work longer too, but not necessarily full-time or under the same conditions as they have been throughout their careers.

Most large companies are set up for regular full-time employees, supplemented by small cohorts of contingent and part-time workers. But if some of the top talent these companies might need in the future will be contingent, companies are going to have to adapt in order to secure their services. Companies will have to start thinking about employment in radical new ways.

Recently, LinkedIn quietly did something significant that will add even more impetus to this trend. They’ve launched a “ProFinder” service, which matches customers looking for a specific type of product or service with a qualified professional. In other words, LinkedIn has just become a platform for on demand workers to find work.

LinkedIn has 420 million members in over 200 countries, and is adding two new members every second. It is already one of the best places online to locate, engage and sell products and services to qualified clients. Now it is about to become a great place for employers to find talent and labour for an entire range of services. And LinkedIn does this for free, taking no commission (at this stage – they may do in the future).

A new world of work is gaining momentum. But they’re not the only ones involved.

On demand economyHere is a list of some of the more interesting freelance work sites currently gaining attention in the market:

  • Upwork: This site offers a wealth of short and long-term projects from entry to expert-level.
  • Fiverr: Similar to Upwork, often used for design and creative work.
  • Task Rabbit: Pay someone to do your chores for you. A personal concierge service (see also the ManpowerGroup).
  • Toptal: Higher-paying gigs for experienced freelancers with an established portfolio. Newbies need not apply.
  • Freelancer: Have a competitive spirit? This site allows you to participate in contests against other contract workers to prove your skills.
  • RentaRentner.ch – a Swiss company helping retired people to freelance.
  • Kaggle: A portal for data analytics – companies post their data analytic problems and pay for the solutions.
  • Guru: If a daily job-matching feature more your speed, check out Guru.
  • 99designs: Designers compete in contests with one another to secure clients via this site.
  • PeoplePerHour: Web developers, designers and SEO experts focused on web projects.
  • GetACoder: For programmers and web designers.
  • Freelance Writing Gigs: Writing, blogging, editing, proofreading.
  • Mechanical Turk: Amazon.com’s online freelance work portal.
  • College Recruiter: Developed specifically for current college students and recent graduates.
  • iFreelance: Like most of these other sites, iFreelance offers gigs for developers, writers, editors, and more, but it also features freelance marketers. Bonus: you keep 100 percent of your earnings.
  • Project4hire: Search for projects by category to narrow your options down to something that really works for you.
  • SimplyHired: Location-based searches and ample job categories make SimplyHired a valuable resource.

A full-time workforce, while still the norm right now, will soon change to look more like employment arrangements that are more familiar today to the working poor. Individuals will work multiple jobs simultaneously or on a project-to-project contract basis. This will cause huge changes not just to organisations but also to society. We’re going to have to rethink retirement, pension plans, unemployment insurance, benefits, working conditions and employment itself.

Is your company ready for this?

Are you?

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