“Freelancing is becoming a more prevalent, viable option for workers—a trend that spans across borders, industries, and occupations.” That’s according to Freelancing in America: 2015, a study commissioned by the Freelancers Union and Upwork.
The study shows that 54 million Americans—34 percent of US workers—are currently working as freelancers. That’s up 700,000 from the previous year.
And according to research from Field Nation, 60 percent of companies plan to hire more freelancers than full-time employees by 2020.
If these statistics are anything to go by, it looks like the freelance economy is growing from strength to strength.
Rapid developments in technology—in terms of Internet bandwidth, hardware, software, and apps—have made it very easy for people to work remotely and to set up and run businesses at a low cost. And platforms such as Uber, TaskRabbit, and Upwork have provided the mechanism by which freelancers can find work.
These trends are also shaping corporate learning. According to industry analyst Technavio, the corporate eLearning market will be worth $31 billion by 2020. This growth will be driven by organizations promoting self-paced learning among employees.
These developments look like great news for eLearning professionals, but they are only one part of the story. Many organizations have used eLearning to cut training costs and to scale learning. For this reason, compliance training has been a huge success story.
But cost cutting and a shift toward more agile ways of delivering learning have seen organizations reduce the size of learning and development (L&D) teams. Bringing in resources at the point of need is becoming a business imperative. This means eLearning becomes more of an outsourced function. In recent years, eLearning and learning technology teams have been hit particularly hard across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.
So what does this mean for freelance eLearning professionals?
First, the number of freelance eLearning professionals is growing. Those who are moving into eLearning and learning-technology freelancing have typically held permanent roles such as instructional design (eLearning), eLearning designers, eLearning team leaders, or design leads.
Second, these professionals are bringing with them a wide variety of skills, such as:
- Defining learning and performance needs
- High-level design skills
- Deep understanding of authoring tools
- Product development including storyboarding, building, graphics, voice-over, and assessment
- Project management skills
- Evaluation skills
Third, clients are looking to fulfill discrete learning projects. These reflect organizations’ need to respond quickly to business needs and the fact that they are increasingly looking to outsource their eLearning development. The days of designing and implementing an eLearning program over 12 months are long gone, and so is the need to employ an in-house team to deliver it.
Data from my platform, Jam Pan eLearning Services, shows that organizations are often looking for alternatives to traditional eLearning, so freelancers must stay on top of their game and ensure they develop their skill sets accordingly. Emerging skills include animation, video, and games.
The good news for freelancers is that there is an increased demand for freelance eLearning skills. And for organizations, a wealth of eLearning skills is now easier to access than ever before.
The gig economy puts the onus on organizations to understand when to use a freelancer and why. It also puts the onus on freelancers to continually develop their skills.
The eLearning freelancing market is only going to get bigger, so make sure you are well placed to take advantage of it.
Field Nation and Future Workplace. The
Gig Economy Study.
WorkplaceTrends.com. 3 May 2016.
Freelancers Union and Upwork. Freelancing
in America: 2015.