Today, freelance professionals are highly valued, and they are well aware of this. They understand their importance, and it’s time for businesses to establish fresh engagement standards.

With more top-tier professionals, such as myself, opting for freelance roles instead of traditional in-house positions engaged in a nine-to-five schedule for networking purposes, businesses are finding it challenging to attract and keep the talent required to innovate their products, procedures, and systems.

A new approach to accomplishing tasks is emerging, combining in-house employees and freelance talent. Notably, the roles in organisations are evolving, requiring new skills to address these two groups’ distinct needs, objectives, and interests.

For instance, a local company is working on integrating advanced digital and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. However, their in-house team lacks the expertise and experience to overhaul the company’s services, processes, and data security infrastructure.

Professionals in AI and digital fields are more keen on exploring flexible, freelance work as opposed to conventional jobs

The recruitment team has also struggled to attract top professionals from tech companies, even with attractive offers. They lack the necessary in-house talent and cannot convince highly skilled professionals to join full-time. Consequently, the company is turning to freelance talent.

The owner has acknowledged that a significant change is happening in how work is accomplished. However, there are concerns. How can Pakistani organisations prepare and effectively equip the team to handle the challenges that this new integrated workforce will bring?

The latest skillset is required. So, it is safe to say that AI will not take your job. But those who know how to leverage it will.

And they won’t take your job; they will take your work, rendering those who don’t upgrade their skillset pointless. It is important to note that job and work are no longer synonymous. This is especially relevant for technology, communications and digital specialists. Individuals with the most in-demand skills are most likely to be freelancers.

Undoubtedly, there has been a major change. Professionals that organisations aim to attract in fields like technology, data science, machine learning, blockchain, and the Internet of Things (IoT) now have a different perspective. They seek more flexible work arrangements.

Talented Pakistani youths have long aspired to flexible work, but only recently have the typical drawbacks of freelancing been addressed. In the past, independent work was an unreliable income source heavily reliant on personal connections.

However, job-matching platforms like Upwork and Fiverr quickly connect skilled candidates with employer needs. Some platforms, such as A.team and People Analytics, cater specifically to engineers and data scientists. The technology now supports freelancers with virtual fractional accountants, tax apps, and AI tools for managing emails and calendars.

This shift in the way work is done has forced organisations to change their methods, systems, processes, recruitment strategies, and banking and transaction processing as well.

Many Pakistani banks have had to offer freelancer accounts, so people now have the option to create a specialised account tailored to their preferences. This allows them to receive their earnings directly into their personal bank accounts.

Freelancing has even presented itself as a viable work-visa option in certain countries, like Dubai, where individuals working in media and creative sectors like journalism, photography, and content creation can take advantage of it. Against this backdrop, the Pakistani freelancing sector stands as a beacon of economic dynamism, with recent reports from the information techonology ministry illuminating its substantial contributions.

With an estimated three million skilled individuals navigating the digital marketplace, Pakistanis are driving the country’s freelancing surge. Among these professionals, graphic design and web development reign supreme as the most sought-after talents, reflecting the evolving demands of the global digital economy.

As the freelancing landscape continues to evolve, so does the earning potential for Pakistani freelancers.

American technological research and consulting firm Gartner predicts that independent workers, freelancers, temporary workers, and gig workers will make up 35-40pc of the global workforce by 2025.

The writer is the head of content at a communications agency.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 27th, 2024

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