The world has seen some rapid changes in over the last year, with the tech industry in particular seeing extreme highs and lows in terms of job security, economy, and demand.
2021 saw more than 47 million Americans quit their jobs in what has been named the Great Resignation. This saw organizations around the globe fighting to recruit skilled people to in-demand posts, with prospects flourishing for those looking for a career in IT. However, the end of 2022 brought shock to the industry as nearly 200,000 staff were laid off, with Amazon leading the charge. Despite this shock end to 2023, according to Motion Recruitment’s IT Tech Salary Guide, IT economy remained resilient and IT unemployment was still significantly lower than the national rate. With so much uncertainty alongside a wealth of opportunity, it isn’t surprising that many IT professionals are deciding to go it alone, shedding the uncertainty of permanent employment for the autonomy of contracting and freelancing.
Opportunities in tech for freelancers and contractors
The world of technology is, by nature, volatile. Opportunities can pop up from nowhere and in order to seize them, it is necessary to be agile and adaptable. Freelancers can choose to work where and when they want, and for whom. This could mean spreading workload across a range of contracts for added security and variety and presents the opportunity to be involved in ground-breaking projects for global organizations, or to be at the heart of the development of cutting-edge initiatives from hot new start-ups.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) have become one of the leading trends in the hiring process, which is very beneficial for many freelancers.
A desire for diversity
A skilled IT professional needs to possess technical skills and a range of soft skills to ensure that messages are communicated effectively, and problems identified – and solved- in a time efficient manner. As a freelancer in tech, it is possible to work simultaneously on a range of projects, from cybersecurity to product development, data analysis to app creation. This versatility means that freelancers can pick from a vast range of freelance or contracting opportunities. It also allows freelancers to develop their skills across a range of jobs and specialties; an incredibly valuable tool in the fast-paced world of tech.
The pros and cons of the gig economy in tech
The pros of freelancing and contracting are clear: greater earning potential, higher wages, increased ability to develop across a range of tech roles. However, there are some downsides too.
Irregular pay - If you are a freelancer in tech, you don’t have a guaranteed income; your earnings could vary from month to month and unless you have a good plan to “pay” yourself a regular salary, you could find yourself in a tough situation financially. If finances are a concern but you want to try going it alone, take some time to save in your current job; once you have a financial landing pad that you think is enough to cover you if you have a month – or more – without earning, you are ready to take the leap.
Other benefits – As a freelancer or contractor you won’t get the health benefits and retirement plans that you would most likely get as an employee. This is partly why you get paid more, so when you are working out finances, factor in insurance and retirement at the very least into your plans.
Job security – One of the perks of being a freelancer is that you can pick and choose when you work, and you can take advantage of short-term opportunities. This will include exciting new opportunities that a company may want to try out before committing to creating a permanent contract. However, there is a flip side. If things get tough for an organization, you are likely to be the first to go, and if there is an industry-wide crisis, you may find it difficult to pick up other gigs.
Getting the right gigs
Gigging amid a tech talent shortage is much easier than doing the same in a financial crisis; the fact that there are fewer skilled IT professionals than there are IT roles means that freelancers and contractors can take their pick. During tougher times, it can be harder to find roles. IT recruitment specialists can help you to thrive in both scenarios by helping you to choose the right jobs from a wide choice while using their insight into the industry to help you to navigate more challenging job markets.
They will also be able to advise you on how to market yourself as a freelancer and the best skills to develop. For example, a skills matrix is a useful concept to understand as a freelancer and to use it to your advantage.
When considering whether to use an agency or look for gigs alone, it is important to consider your current network; if you have connections at major businesses who can help you to get into temporary roles, then you may be able to leverage them, but most larger organizations will use at least one recruiter to help them to find appropriate talent from a global pool.
Through freelancing or contracting you can experience a range of different roles at different levels for different organizations; even as a short-term measure it can help to boost your future career opportunities. If you have a desire to reach manager or director level, a little time freelancing could help to boost your opportunities, giving you a broader understanding of different roles and organizations; this insight will make you better equipped to manage several teams. The best bit? Your contractual commitment to an organization will be short, meaning that you can continue to move until you find a space that you are comfortable in.