This second blog of a two-part series, Marc reviews the impact of the freelance shift, and what it might mean for employment brands and branders.

I cited some US based trends in the last post (link) link the first post in this series!. Let’s take a look at Australia, while remembering there’s always semantics regarding definitions and sources when striving for international comparison. The Australian Bureau of Statistics defines ‘freelance’ differently from the US equivalent, and it appears broader. For example, second job ‘moonlighting’ is considered ‘freelance’ – so there is some noise here (not in the study, but in the classifications).

I’ve extracted this from an Elance-ODesk [1] survey available on SlideShare, which is interesting reading. The survey estimates 30% of the Australian workforce engages in a freelance activity. Interestingly, 58% of that group claim to operate as freelancers out of choice rather than necessity.

The survey cites the top drivers for becoming freelance are:

  1. Earning extra money
  2. Having a flexible schedule
  3. Having the freedom to choose which projects to work on

The drivers are incredibly desirable to many and match well with some of the millennial traits I have discussed in a previous blog.

In Australia, reduced rates of home-ownership and poor levels of first home affordability are just some of the many casual reasons as to why the permanency and security of tenured employment is not as attractive or necessary as it used to be.

If the shift toward the freelancing trend continues (as it may well if the US trend is a reliable signifier), it will require organisations to change. Functionally, company’s will need to develop the management, technology and compliance systems that enable freelance hiring. Ideologically, they will have to appraise how freelancers fit within the employment branding ecosystem.

Consider the ‘freelancers’ skills discussed in the last blog post. Not only are they a valuable source of plug and play niche skills, they are also typically active and savvy communicators. The micro-level experience of Freelancer engagement at the ‘portfolio level’ will need to be consistent with the promises made by the master brand. The upside is you create incredibly active advocates – the downside is the motivation of incredibly active critics. I know what I’d prefer.

One alternative tactic might be to create a freelance charter – adopting a facsimile of the employment brand ‘portfolio approach’ I alluded to previously. A charter structure could be either departmental or hierarchical. Charter’s enable a disperate company to have a cohesively managed employment brand. They also create good engagement platforms around targeted social media – which is key for the niche inhabiting freelance community.

At least in this business cycle, as vacancy numbers rise in unison with quit rates, employer branders are going to have their work cut-out marketing to a more confident and assured freelance community, and they will earn their money. Some of those employer branders might actually be freelance themselves.

[1] Elance-ODesk survey from a commissioned Edelman Berland study, October, 2014.


Comments? Thoughts?