IT Freelancing: 11 Signs It's Hot Now - InformationWeek

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9/23/2015
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David Wagner
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IT Freelancing: 11 Signs It's Hot Now

Enterprise demand for specific skillsets, a war for talent, and constantly shifting tech priorities are contributing to a thriving IT freelance culture. Whether you're in the field already, considering a career shift, or responsible for hiring freelance IT talent at your organization, here's what you need to know.
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(Image: Squaredpixels/iStockphoto)

(Image: Squaredpixels/iStockphoto)

Two recent studies show that now is a good time to be a freelance IT professional. Enterprise demand for specific skillsets, a war for talent, and constantly shifting tech priorities are contributing to a thriving IT freelance culture.

There are pros and cons to choosing a freelance life over working fulltime. Among the plusses: As a freelancer, you can grow a broad base of interesting skills, pick your projects, and make good money -- if you know what you're doing. The minuses include: Balancing out your project workflow so that you're not overwhelmed by deadlines; not having a steady paycheck; constantly searching for your next project.

For the past 18 months, the plusses have appeared to outweigh the minuses, and there's little indication that this will change in the near future. in July, Freelance job search site Upwork (formerly known as Elance oDesk) surveyed 1,068 of its top-rated developers worldwide to learn more about why they got into freelancing, what they do, and how they do it. The respondents were selected because they have a job success rate on Upwork of 90% or higher, among other criteria. The Upwork survey provides insight into routines and motivations for freelance developers, and reveals how they go about getting work.

[ Stop! Don't take that new job until you get these questions answered. ]

To give you a snapshot of the current state of IT freelancing, we also looked at the Freelancing In America study, commissioned in 2014 by The Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk and conducted by independent research firm Edelman Berland. That study was based on a survey of 5,052 U.S. adults -- including but not limited to tech professionals -- who had done paid work (freelance or permanent) in the prior 12 months.

The Edelman Berland study finds that freelancers working in in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields are in greater demand than those working in other industries. In fact, 98% of respondents working in computing, computer peripherals, or other IT manufacturing said their skills are in demand, while 87% of respondents working in data science and analytics said their skills are in demand. Likewise, 81% of mobile/web programmers and 83% of those working in the broad "technology" field are seeing continued demand for their skill sets.

Do you hire or work with freelance developers or other IT service contractors in your organization? Are you an IT freelancer yourself? Let us know in the comments section below how your experiences stack up against the survey findings.

David has been writing on business and technology for over 10 years and was most recently Managing Editor at Enterpriseefficiency.com. Before that he was an Assistant Editor at MIT Sloan Management Review, where he covered a wide range of business topics including IT, ... View Full Bio

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Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 3:46:02 PM
Re: Elance / oDesk / Upwork
kstaron, you should never get to the day you're turning work away. If you do, you need to hire an assistant and turn your freelance gig into a business, with you as president/CEO! That is the leap I'd love to hear stories about: how someone took freelancing and transformed it into a full-fledged, growing business with employees, etc.
Broadway0474
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Broadway0474,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 3:43:26 PM
Re: Elance / oDesk / Upwork
Impactnow, I wish I could share your optimism that companies learn their lesson after using these freelance job boards to hire cheap labor. They may get burned with bad end results from faraway places, but I think they also can get satisfactory efforts --- satisfactory enough to warrant them hiring non-US freelancers at fractions of the cost of US freelancers.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 3:05:31 PM
Re: Different country different paygrade
@yalanand,

Interesting comment,

I know that in some countries this is true (and most of the time the lower price is because of desperation). At least here in the US is a common understanding that a Freelance consultant will be more expensive by the hour, but because it's short term project for a long term solution, the exppense is well worth and usually pays off on it's own.

 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 2:52:31 PM
Re: Different country different paygrade
@SunitaT0: Freelancing is good, you should definitely try it out. 
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 2:51:23 PM
Re: Different country different paygrade
Freelancing is good, no doubt about that, but you need to know when to stop. SachinEE is right, after a time in certain countries people see you like you are the one responsible for a depression in the market, because you are offering to do things at a cheaper price. 
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
9/30/2015 | 12:37:48 AM
Re: Different country different paygrade
@SachinEE: Nice of you to share your experiences. I haven't had a lot of freelancing but judging from your perspective, I think I should do some, because I need to understand the freedom in working alone.
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2015 | 11:24:09 PM
Re: Different country different paygrade
@SachinEE,

Thanks for the quote :)

This also leads to increasing your skill set, thus providing the abilithy to expand the gig pool
mejiac
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mejiac,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2015 | 11:22:06 PM
Re: Elance / oDesk / Upwork
@kstaron,

To add to your comment, even though the constant seeking of the next project doesn't stop, but the work obtained and the flexibility is more fulfilling. One aspect that I'm noticing is that companies are seeking very specific skill sets/needs, and many times are for specific projects, so this also fuels the need to have freelancers since it greatly fulfils company short term needs (that many times converst to long term relationships)
kstaron
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kstaron,
User Rank: Ninja
9/29/2015 | 1:09:44 PM
Re: Elance / oDesk / Upwork
It seems like many freelance sites did that for  a while, going real low ball/bid. Eventually it'll even back out as employers realize you get what you pay for. But if anyone is interested in getting the occasional gig to help out with the bills or practice a different skill set, it's certainly worth a look. I've gone back and forth between freelancing and regular employee work. They both have upsides and down sides. The biggest down side to freelancing, is until you get to the point you are turning work away, you are always looking for work. So it's like being on a job hunt 24/7 for years, but you do get to make your own hours.
impactnow
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impactnow,
User Rank: Author
9/28/2015 | 1:31:47 PM
Re: Elance / oDesk / Upwork

Broadway very true online freelancing today is largely driven by low cost providers in low operating cost countries. For US providers it's often very difficult to compete with these providers. However, many businesses in the US have been burned by these very low cost providers that in the end make mistakes miss deadlines and cost them more. The web has made freelancing a growing market but the infrastructure in place at many of the commercial sites makes it impractical for most US freelancers.

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