Freelancers, contractors and the self-employed might feel like additions to your workforce - the people on the periphery, who aren't part of the company. But with an estimated 4.31million self-employed workers in the UK in June 2023, it's likely that these 'extras' are actually producing work, content and support for your 'real' teams.
Once upon a time, a freelancer was more of an under-the-radar skills provider, rather than a contracted official worker. In ancient civilisations, skilled individuals such as artisans, artists, and craftsmen often operated as freelancers. They would take on commissions or sell their goods independently, rather than being employed by a single entity. This trend continued into medieval times, where various skilled tradespeople operated as freelancers.
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The term "freelancer" is believed to have originated from "free lances," referring to medieval mercenaries who were available for hire. In the 20th century, the term was adopted to describe individuals who offered their services independently. With advances in communication and technology freelancers had increased opportunities to connect with clients and offer their skills remotely. The pandemic work from home rules showed that, in essence, everyone can work like a freelancer. While many have gone back to offices, freelancers remain 'at large' but that doesn't mean they're not still part of your team if you're using them.
The 21st century has seen an explosive growth in the freelancing industry, and the rise of gig economy platforms, such as Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr has made it easier for freelancers to find work and for clients to access specialised skills. Advances in communication tools, project management software, and online payment systems have further facilitated remote work and collaboration. It's also no longer limited to traditional creative fields. It spans various industries, including technology, marketing, consulting, healthcare, and more.