Freelancing has strengthened its position in the US labour market. New research by freelancing platform Upwork and the Freelancers Union shows that 60% of full-time freelancers have deliberately chosen freelancing over a traditional job. It is a 7% increase since 2014. Over one third or 53.7 million of US workers are freelancers, 700,000 more than last year. 50% of the survey participants also admitted that they would rather work independently than take a better-paid regular job. For many, however, freelancing has turned out to be a better option: 60% of them earn more than when they used to have ordinary employment contracts.
What is the situation in Central Eastern Europe? Try googling freelancing or freelance work in Poland and you will get the same impression as Marcin Gieracz, CEO and Strategy Director at Rubikom Strategy Consultants: freelancing does not exist there. The same is true for Lithuania: there is very little information available on how the local freelance market is developing. Let’s take a look at some search results.
GoWork.pl observes that freelancing is becoming more popular in Poland. It is estimated that every fifth Pole is a freelancer. Freelancing is especially common in trade and sales. It is predicted that soon it can also overtake the construction sector.
There are some significant wage contrasts: In Warsaw, a freelancer earns over 100% above the average salary. In other bigger Polish cities, (s)he can earn 70% above the average. These figures will be increasing further because more and more companies are using outsourcing services to reduce costs and increase service quality. It is forecast that this year the number of freelance projects can increase by up to 50%.
Hanna Jaroszewicz, a representative of Oferia.pl, one of the biggest Polish freelance platforms, also confirms that the local freelance market is developing well. She adds that in contrast to Western markets there is still a lot of potential left. For illustration, she mentions that every day over 300 new jobs are posted on Oferia.pl.
Gosia Zimniak, a freelance illustrator and infographic designer, also believes that it is a good time for Polish freelancers: “From my own experience, I see that not only people running small businesses […] but also large companies with an established position contact freelancers. And the latter choose freelance services not because they do not want to bear the costs of hiring an extra person, but because they are looking for specific skills.”
Gitanas Nausėda, Chief Economist at SEB Bank Lithuania, predicts that the freelance economy will be developing successfully in the country. However, the development pace will be quite slow. “In 2020, freelancers will not be a big part of the economy and labour market. Many businessmen and company leaders still tend to rely on full-time employees,” he observes. There is also an age gap factor: the older generation prefers the traditional work model. Freelancing is a more attractive option for young people. They would rather choose more freedom and lower pay than an assembly-line kind of work, Nausėda explains.
Asked to describe how actively Lithuanians use online freelancing platform Elance–oDesk (now operating as Upwork), its then Vice President, Kjetil J. Olsen, gave some figures: In 2013, 500 Lithuanian companies signed up, up 43% since 2012. They posted 1700 job offers and employed 1000 freelancers. The freelancer activity rate was even higher: there were 3000 signups, mainly of IT specialists. 1300 of them were hired. In addition, the wages increased by 110% within one year.
Olsen also shared an observation: “Lithuania’s market is not big but it is developing very fast. I think that the country is very suitable for online work because, in contrast to other small markets, it is characterized by quick absorption in high-tech.”
Eurodesk Lithuania, a support organization to the Erasmus+ programme, considers freelancing as a young but fast-developing market in the country. The case of LingJob, a Lithuanian platform for freelance writers and translators, proves it: In 2013, the first year of its activity, there were over 1400 active workers.
References:  Chad Brooks, Business News Daily /  Marcin Gieracz, nf.pl /  GoWork.pl /  Hubert Rabiega, GazetaPrawna.pl /  Gintaras Gimžauskas, DELFI /  ltzinios.lt /  Eurodesk Lithuania, zinauviska.lt