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Freelance Trends in 2021 that are Shaping the Future of Work

By Brad Hughes

  • January 11, 2021
  • 4 min. read

Changes in technology and workplace expectations are leading professionals into uncharted territory. There is no longer one way to work; traditional employment models are now one of many options. In this time of professional exploration, freelancers are navigating a new world with an emerging set of trends.

1. The Rise of Flash Teams

In an ultra-connected world, companies no longer need to limit themselves to one permanent team of in-person employees. Imagine assembling a team quickly and efficiently each time you need to execute a project. With a quick internet search, organizations can get the ball rolling and access the exact professionals they need for the job. This is precisely why we’re seeing a surge in what Stanford’s computer science department has dubbed “flash teams.” By bringing together in-house talent and outside freelance talent with a variety of complementary skills, organizations are getting more done with less fuss.

For those who want to participate in more of these kinds of projects, networking and relationship-building activities are pivotal. As psychologist Marla Gottschalk suggests, businesses are wise to start building talent pipelines and map out the skills of professionals in that pipeline. Then once a project is mapped out, all team players can be deployed at a moment’s notice.

The productivity implications⁠—both for individual workers and larger organizations⁠—are significant. One company noted that a flash team model “helped deliver designs up to twice as fast and at about a tenth of the cost of many competitors with dedicated design teams.”

2. Freelancer Specialization

As freelancers usurp a higher percentage of the global workforce each year, current specializations may not be ‘niche’ enough. In other words, we’re entering a period of ‘deep niching’ where consultants are assessing their true strengths and stand-out skills beyond their typical niche. So how can freelancers better define their distinct specialization?

One clarifying exercise for freelancers is to review your last 5-10 clients that you’ve worked with, asking yourself the following questions:

  • What were you most praised for? What pleasantly surprised clients?
  • What was the easiest, most enjoyable, or most successful aspect of the project?
  • What about your firm or your background provides unique insight that can’t be found elsewhere and how does that specifically benefit clients?
  • For a freelancer, answering these questions provides a deeper insight into personal preferences and skills and helps to carve out a deliberate space in a particular niche. From there, the marketing strategy can become more focused and efficient.

3. A New Level of Marketing Expertise

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “employment of accountants is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028.”

The problem with a rapidly-changing digital marketing landscape is that success can never be assumed. What used to be eye-catching and authentic now seems cliche and ignorable. Remote workers are now taxed with the task of learning new ways to reach the right audience and make the best impression.

Investing in analytics or hiring a marketer who can glean insights from your particular target audience will help you better understand their needs. In addition, you can identify the channels that have been most successful in generating leads for your firm. This will help you refine and perfect your marketing strategy to maximize what works and stop budgeting for what doesn’t. Employing segmented email marketing, referral programs, or social media campaigns can help round out the effectiveness of your strategy.

4. Growing Freelance Networks

To say that freelance networking is shaping the future of work is a no-brainer. But the ongoing development of several unique platforms is making it easier than ever for remote professionals and firms to work confidently. One such platform, the Freelancers Union is helping to build more structure and safety so independent professionals don’t feel so lost in the abyss. Freelance work has long been viewed as unstable, but the Union is changing that with affordable health insurance plans, dental, life, disability, liability, and more. They also provide resources for freelancers including financial tools and help with client nonpayment.

There is also a rise in virtual networking organizations that allow professionals to connect meaningfully and skip the awkward in-person networking events. In addition, profession-specific networks (like for writers) are making it easier for freelancers to be matched with high-quality clients. These third-party platforms allow independent workers to form long-term connections with compatible clients. Beech Valley Solutions is one such network, connecting CPAs and consultants with clients who value their expertise and experience.

Looking into the future, it’s easy to see how the rise of remote work can be stressful for those who are comfortable with traditional business models. But such changes need not create instability for CPA firms and accountants. By understanding and preparing for these trends, both firms and freelancers are set up to be right on track to reap the benefits of them.

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