KARACHI: The global pandemic has not only affected regular jobs across the world but has also hit freelance work, as most Pakistani freelancers believe that the demand for work has decreased significantly amid Covid-19.

The opinion of these 64 per cent Pakistani freelancers that came up during a recent survey also suggests that businesses and companies have cut freelancing costs and halted any new projects or contracts.

Freelancers from over 100 countries, including emerging markets such as Pakistan, shared their insights on the impact of Covid-19 on the economic outlook for freelance services with digital payment platform, Payoneer.

Payoneer’s report titled ‘Freelancing during Covid-19’, based on a survey of over 1,000 freelancers, showed that 64pc Pakistani freelancers — 33pc of them graphic designers — said demand for their services had greatly decreased. For 15pc freelancers, business had remained as usual, while 18pc reported that demand for their services had increased, according to the report.

Payoneer’s report finds post-pandemic market highly competitive with more workers turning to freelancing

In terms reducing team size, 24pc Pakistani freelancers said they would maintain the same team or grow it while 9pc said they were cutting down on team members.

Future is competitive

While demand for freelancers appears to have slowed in the short term, many believe that it is just a matter of time until businesses get back on their feet and turn to outsourcing in order to acquire quality talent.

In Pakistan, 82pc of freelancers said that demand would increase after Covid-19.

They predicted tighter competition ahead as more workers were making the switch to freelancing, with 64pc stating that their rates remained unchanged or even increased during this period, suggesting that they felt confident that their fees were fair and attractive even in the current climate. On the other hand, 35pc freelancers said they had lowered rates.

Many respondents said they believed self-employment could eventually become more stable than full-time jobs.

“Payoneer surveyed more than a thousand freelancers and found that 53pc believe demand for their services will increase once the pandemic is over. There’s already been rapid growth in new freelancers entering marketplaces,” said Scott Galit, Payoneer CEO.

Ayman Sarosh, Freelancer of the Year 2019 from Pakistan said: “Currently businesses are moving online and freelancers have tremendous opportunity, both in web/app development and digital marketing to help grow their businesses.”

“I have seen quite a few freelancers who have been very active not only on job portals but also other social media channels, extending their expertise to help and advertise their services. The current situation seems to be providing equal chance to opportunities and new online ventures that were never considered viable before,” he added.

Global landscape

According to the report, freelancers who work with international clients based in North America and Europe saw the highest slowdown in demand. Those with clients based in Asia and Australia – regions which first experienced the outbreak, saw less of a decrease in demand for freelancers.

Freelancers managing their own team (21pc of those surveyed) had shown resilience in protecting their employees and sub-contractors. Around 76pc said they had kept their team’s rates the same, while around 17pc said they had lowered the rates.

In addition, 74pc said they would either keep their team the same size or grow it while around 25pc said they were reducing the size of their team.

The report said larger companies were seeking remote workers via online marketplaces, specifically in the fields of customer service, software and IT, and e-commerce.

Globally, the report pointed out, freelancing rates remained stable despite the slowdown.

Demand for e-commerce

In March 2020, Payoneer said it experienced a 33pc month-over-month increase in SMBs in the US registering to the platform in order to pay their international freelancers.

Payoneer CEO said: “Companies will be looking to run leaner and to do this, they’ll need to fill skill gaps they weren’t expecting. Industries where we’re already seeing demand increase, include web and graphic design, content writing and marketing.”

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2020

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