Although freelancing and taking on odd jobs is certainly nothing new, the growth of the so-called “on-demand” economy has been staggering. Around the world, companies are undoubtedly scaling down, and are increasingly looking to hire professionals on a more flexible basis. Simultaneous to this corporate shift to leaner working models, Millennials and younger professionals are demanding that employers take a more flexible approach – and enable, for example, remote working.
“The on-demand or gig economy is really nothing new, but the emergence of certain technology tools and platforms is really transforming the way we work,” explains Annette Muller, founder of Flexy, a South African digital platform that facilitates on-demand working for individuals and companies. “It’s a global phenomenon, with over one trillion dollars being spent on freelancers annually.”
In South Africa, companies are slowly beginning to hire more freelancers and contract workers, but the concept is less formalised than in the United States, for example, where freelancers now make up over 35% of the workforce.
“We are definitely seeing the rise of the ‘solopreneur’ in SA, with more and more people leveraging their own skills, networks and technology to make a living on their own terms,” says Muller. “However, they face many challenges at this early stage, including access to key financial services such as credit and home loans.”
She cites the burgeoning “death of the payslip”, whereby companies and professionals are moving away from traditional employment models and into a space of greater uncertainty.
“This is creating opportunities for savvy technology and financial services players,” adds Muller.
Indeed, there has been an influx of new apps and platforms that are looking to serve the on-demand workforce, with the more notable SA players including the likes of SweepSouth, Flexy and Kalido.
Brave new world
Looking ahead, Muller notes that the legal and tax implications of the global on-demand economy will have to be tackled by both policy makers and companies – as the lines are blurring within formal employment.
“What does it mean when you start working and earning across borders, for example? Who is regulating the finances?”
As the on-demand economy grows, Muller says that the professionals and companies who learn to leverage emerging technology – such as online learning, fintech payment solutions, and remote working tools – will undoubtedly succeed in the new world of work.
“As a freelance professional, you have to keep expanding your skills and staying current with trends in your industry,” she advises. “One always needs to be thinking about the supply and demand of skills today, wherever you are. ”