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Upwork has released its annual Freelance Forward 2022 report about the current state of the U.S. freelance economy.
As usual, they used a super-wide definition of freelance work, counting anyone who has “engaged in supplemental, temporary, project- or contract-based work within the past 12 months” as a freelancer. Yes, including diversified workers with more jobs and full-time employees with tiny gigs. All of these categories combined made up 39% of the U.S. workforce. Other estimates focused on full-time freelancers and qualified independent professionals are way lower.
However, some reported findings are remarkable. Here are the highlights:
P.S. Find out more about the taxonomy of freelance work in last year’s talk European Freelancers & Where to Find Them.
Check out our new Star Member: Jan Romportl, PhD is a senior AI consultant who had been working in the research and development of artificial intelligence long before the current hype.
Jan has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, as well as 20 years of experience in AI as a researcher, entrepreneur, consultant, and executive — he led the renowned O2 AI Centre in Prague as its director and chief data scientist for 7 years up to 2022.
⭐ Are you a top freelance expert? Join us to let your star shine all over the EU!
This year’s AI revolution is not slowing down, quite the opposite. The AI research lab OpenAI, which caused a huge stir earlier with the DALL-E 2 image generator, has released another bombshell.
ChatGPT can answer any question of yours in a number of languages. It may even help you brainstorm ideas or write computer code.
The new tool has started a craze, which our member and leading AI expert Jan Romportl commented on by pointing out one important limitation, among other things:
“ChatGPT is in no way a substitute for googling! Not yet. You will see all sorts of cries on social media about how you can replace Google with it. Please, please, PLEASE! Don't believe them, and certainly don’t join them. Why? Because ChatGPT does not touch the internet anywhere on the actual state of factual matters. Its knowledge of the world is frozen in 2021. It probably doesn’t even know about the war in Ukraine or the death of Queen Elizabeth. Also because you can still fool it enough to convince it to start making up horrible, yet reasonable-sounding nonsense…”
Freelance translators are supposed to be out of business soon due to advancements in AI translation tools such as DeepL.
Not so fast. The Economist now predicts that The translator of the future is a human-machine hybrid and that this kind of work will become less repetitive, more specialized and engaging:
“Tales of artificial intelligence usually pit humans against encroaching machines, Terminator-style. But the translators of the future will be neither entirely human nor machine. They will be human beings with mechanical enhancements. Call them cyborgs.”
Many experts believe that the so-called creator economy will lessen the inequality of income from creative work, and they may be quite right.
The other, perhaps slightly more probable outcome is that it will become highly competitive and unequal in terms of revenues, just as the rest of the show business industry. It may even pit new superstars in direct competition against the old ones — American Gods style.
The Economist brought up this topic recently in an article about the other gig economy, titled If Ticketmaster is a greedy capitalist, so is Taylor Swift. One of its key insights is to focus on what the superstars actually do, rather than say: “For all their folksy or countercultural veneer, superstars tend to be capitalists.”
A quick tip, just in case you’ve never heard of it before: DocuSign enables verified online signing of documents such as contracts, agreements, and orders. It is more provable than email and thus especially useful for international freelancers. There are also alternatives such as Adobe’s Acrobat Sign. (Just make sure to ask for a substantial advance with your cross-border freelance gigs, as a good practice.)
Walking supports creativity. If you are a freelance creative or creativity is crucial to your work, it makes good sense to incorporate walks into your work routine.
“Walking opens up the free flow of ideas, and it is a simple and robust solution to the goals of increasing creativity,” explains the scientific paper Give Your Ideas Some Legs: The Positive Effect of Walking on Creative Thinking, recently re-published with useful comments by Fermat’s Library:
People have noted that walking seems to have a special relation to creativity. The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.” The current research puts such observations on solid footing. Four studies demonstrate that walking increases creative ideation. The effect is not simply due to the increased perceptual stimulation of moving through an environment, but rather it is due to walking. Whether one is outdoors or on a treadmill, walking improves the generation of novel-yet-appropriate ideas, and the effect even extends to when people sit down to do their creative work shortly after.
Personal time management is an area dominated by freelancers. As independent professionals, we are so highly motivated (and financially incentivized) to increase productivity that we come up with many inventive ways to do so.
Here’s just another example. Strawberry Nevill’s article How to Take Charge of Your Time in 4 Steps thinks of time in personal-energy units: “Most of us think of our workday in terms of time. But our raw material isn’t time, it’s energy.”
The author points out that once we think of our work in terms of energy, rather than time, we shift our focus to energy preservation and distribution rather than working a certain amount of time. It then leads to more realistic time estimates and improved overall balance.
Are freelancers recession-proof? Sarah Duran argues in her article that we are:
“When you work for other people, you put your life in their hands. When you lose your job, you lose your only source of income, your benefits, and your livelihood. Freelancers are naturally more resilient than the average 9–5 employee because we’ve built flexible, decentralized business models that mean we never rely on income from just one source; we have decreased our dependence on the opinions and control of others.”
The article also outlines some strategies related to Nassim Taleb’s concept of antifragility (hit up your network, diversify everything, don’t plan too long in advance), with a nod to companies seeking to hire more freelancers if the recession worsens.
UK has many likable traditions, one of which are the annual Freelance Awards presented by IPSE.
Winners are selected by a (rather small) 3-member jury from the finalists in 8 categories: Outstanding Freelancer, Young Freelancer, Freelancer Project, New Freelancer, Wellbeing, Self-Employed Supplier, Sustainable Freelancer, and Freelancer Community Award.
This year’s results will be announced on 23 November 2022 in London.