New Work, a flexible work-model centred around purpose and meaning, is gaining prominence in our society. Among freelancers and the self-employed, this transformation is increasingly taking hold. Here are five emerging freelancing trends in 2024 that could prove crucial for freelancers.
Trend #1: The gig economy is on the rise
Digitalization, the advance of artificial intelligence, and the impacts of the 2020s’ crises have left lasting effects on the world of work. The trend is distinctly shifting towards the Gig Economy and freelancing.
Forbes reports a 59% increase in full-time working freelancers in the US last year. However, the demand seems unmet, with a whopping 79% of US companies planning to increasingly rely on freelance experts in the future.
The upward trend is driven not merely by companies seeking shorter-term and more flexible work arrangements but by the rising expectations of highly skilled professionals. Their frequent demands include more autonomy, a balanced work-life, and meaningful projects.
Trend #2: Finding niches and specialising
Given the acute shortage of skilled workers around the world, like in Germany, freelancers have become an integral part of workforce planning. Freelancers now contribute not only to filling temporary staffing gaps but also add value to companies through their expertise. As reported in the Freelancer Study 2023, the IT and software development sectors, followed by banking, finance, automotive, trade, medicine, chemistry, and pharmaceuticals to authorities and the energy sector, are benefiting from this trend.
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In 2024, the demand for IT developers and AI experts is expected to continue rising. Freelancers specialising in these areas will likely be rewarded with excellent opportunities. Ongoing development and specialisation in these sought-after niches will be crucial for success in 2024.
Trend #3: New professions due to the influence of AI
While artificial intelligence has rapidly spread and provides support in daily work or routine tasks, it’s clear that AI cannot replace humans. However, those who master working with AI efficiently can replace those who do not. AI experts such as Prompt or Machine Learning Engineers and Data Scientists are increasingly in demand.
The key skills for aspiring Data Scientists include Data Analysis (14.2%), Data Science (11.2%), and Machine Learning (10.3%). Proficiency in programming languages like Python, SQL, and Java is essential. Additionally, understanding the limits and legal frameworks for AI use will be advantageous in the future.
Trend #4: Growing importance of soft skills
In an era dominated by remote work, artificial intelligence, and new technologies, soft skills and interpersonal aspects are becoming as important as technical expertise. LinkedIn USA confirms this shift, with nearly half of 2000 surveyed employers lowering their requirements for hard skills while placing more emphasis on soft skills such as communication and teamwork.
A survey on freelancermap echoes this sentiment, with nearly a quarter emphasising the importance of soft skills in freelancer profiles. Freelancers themselves consider communication skills (73%), problem-solving abilities (62%), and self-motivation (55%) as the top three soft skills.
Trend #5: The four-day week as the new reality
While discussions about a four-day workweek for employees are widespread, freelancers have long practised this theoretically-viable reality. According to a freelancermap survey, 20% of respondents work only four or even fewer days a week, benefiting from flexible work structures, control over their working hours, and quicker adaptability. Freelancers can work more efficiently and achieve their revenue goals with less time invested.
This mirrors a broader shift in values: less working time and a better work-life balance. In an employment context, according to a Hans-Böckler-Stiftung study, 96.5% of employees express a desire for more time for themselves. This is followed by more time for family (88.9%). A small percentage (8.2%) would even be willing to trade more time for less income.
Conclusion: Freelancing in transformation
The increasing interest in freelancing aligns with the changing values and a desire for more autonomy in work and life. Consequently, freelancers face growing competition, emphasising the importance of finding their focus and continuing education or specialisation in their field.
The focus should also be on emerging developments, technological advances, and associated new professions. Success in the long-term will come to those who understand the importance of a mix of technical expertise and interpersonal competence.