The majority of modern workers head to traditional, full-time jobs, but experts warn that the future of work will primarily involve freelancing and temporary jobs. Gene Zaino of MBO Partners recently surveyed independent workers and predicted that if existing trends continue, solo workers’ ranks will swell to some 70 million strong by 2020. That’s over half of all employees.
“These individuals — whether crowdsourced or providing tactical solutions or finding their first project on a marketplace or providing strategic advice to client[s] — these are the pioneers of the next era,” Zaino said during his presentation at the Net:Work conference by GigaOM in December 2011.
The future of work doesn’t just involve solo workers, though. Individual consultants might band together in teams or join a larger consulting firm that angles for work. “Employers want to foster a rich employee ecosystem that is strong on group loyalty but ecosystems of freelance teams who can step into an expansion opportunity and fill it out quickly are also important (and the reason why the big consulting companies will double in size by 2020),” wrote Haydn Shaughnessy in Forbes. “Today’s companies know they need to scale fast and increasingly want to hire a team, not a bunch of individuals.”
How can you prepare for the changing face of employment? Shaughnessy offers the following suggestions:
- Consider your client’s perspective. Employers want freelancers who can deliver, but they don’t necessarily know what they need, so there’s a great degree of trust and risk involved from the client perspective. Successful freelancers will build client relationships based on their integrity, honesty, cost-effectiveness and, above all, ability to deliver results.
- Bolster your public reputation. The future of work requires that individuals manage their brand as companies might, moving beyond well-crafted public profiles to active reputation management.
- Master the challenges, opportunities and success factors in your areas of proficiency. Freelancers with a keen understanding of what prospective clients need to achieve key business objectives will remain competitive in a crowded, rapidly changing field.
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