Empowering the Freelance Economy

Tech freelancers in high demand for their Zen appeal

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We look into why demand for freelancers’ skills is rising with the pressure at tech companies, and how independent workers can often bring calm into the chaos

The tech industry is often riddled with deadlines and stress, which causes workers to feel pressured and overwhelmed. Every year Q3 rears its head and the workload becomes a soul-crushing marathon for tech sector staff. Employee morale drops. To adapt to increasing demands from within organisations, tech executives have been turning to freelancers as an answer to these peak stress periods.

A recent report released by Fiverr revealed that up to 90% of tech executives are hiring freelancers in high-stress periods, with Q3 often the most stressful time of year and when most freelancers are hired.

This trend of integrating freelancers into the core workforce is on the rise, with over a quarter (28%) of companies using them daily. Regular freelance deployment is also becoming common, with over 40% of companies leveraging freelancers for several days a week (21% nearly every workday, 30% two to three days).

These freelancers are brought on board to decentralise the workload and relieve stress from certain departments or projects. They can also be engaged to provide different perspectives and ways of thinking while addressing compounding gaps in critical skills.

Why are freelancers the talent of choice in peak periods?

Freelancers are constantly faced with short deadlines, and this is why they are being favoured in peak-stress periods. They can withstand pressure from clients (freelancers recognise the stress levels as they’ve seen this type of behaviour at other organisations) and can adapt to different environments due to the nature of freelance work.

Hiring managers specifically look for freelancers with experience in “fast-paced and stressful environments” to ensure they will be able to cope with the workload. Freelancers may interpret this description as an unorganised or helicopter client situation and will be mentally prepared for this. Knowing how to appease the client as soon as possible about their concerns could help eliminate unnecessary stress for the freelancer and the rest of the team.

The ability to perform under pressure without letting it impact confidence or performance is an extremely valuable skill, that is necessary for successful freelancers. Knowing you won’t get paid unless you produce has that effect on a person.

One of the reasons freelancers appear to be so good at this is that they are constantly receiving pointers and criticism on their work.  This allows them to analyse what they have learned, but also their feelings towards the type of work they pitch for or even the work environment, providing them with data that can be used to make adjustments on future contracts and assignments. They are constantly learning with each new environment and assignment.

Tech executives are looking for alternative solutions to their problems and freelancers often can provide a non-biased and larger market view. Executives can also hand-pick freelancers for certain roles based on past experience or specific skills, without committing too much resources and time.

Freelancers may have tougher skins but they demand respect

Freelancers are more than just temporary fixes to an underlying problem. Establishing strong relationships with talented and reliable freelancers creates a pool of great candidates for future projects and operations. This is why it is important to treat freelancers with respect and not impose unrealistic expectations on them, which is a common problem in freelancing.

Know you’re walking into a stressful work environment?

Here are some ways to consider handling pressure and stress at work:

Identify pressure triggers– Discovering what makes you anxious and analysing why is an extremely useful tool when coping with pressure.

Learn coping strategies that work for you– When pressure is unavoidable, the only thing you can do is to process your feelings in a healthy way that makes sense for you.  Studies have shown that workers who use control-oriented coping strategies clearly acted as work stress buffers, whereas those who relied exclusively on avoidance coping strategies reported higher general levels of negative consequences even up to three months later.

Here are some examples of control-oriented strategies:

  1. Manage your time and priorities: In a chaotic workplace, feeling like you have some control over your workload can be a major stress reliever. By implementing strong time management techniques, you can create a schedule that allows you to tackle tasks efficiently and prioritise deadlines. This can involve techniques like creating daily to-do lists, setting realistic timeframes for tasks, and using tools like calendars and project management apps to stay organised.
  2. Set boundaries: A stressful workplace can often blur the lines between work life and personal life. A control-oriented strategy is to set clear boundaries between the two. This could involve things like sticking to work hours and not checking work emails outside of those hours, designating a specific workspace in your home office, and learning to say no to additional tasks when you’re already overloaded. Or communicate that you can help once you complete your priorities list based on the line manager’s request.
  3. Improve your skills: Feeling underprepared or like you lack the skills to handle your workload can be a significant source of stress. A proactive approach is to focus on improving your skill set. This could involve taking online courses, attending workshops or conferences related to your field, or requesting mentorship from a more experienced colleague. By taking steps to feel more confident and competent in your role, you’ll gain a greater sense of control over your work.

Don’t demonise pressure– Although pressure can be intimidating, how you deal with the pressure is what will ultimately affect what you take away from the situation. Every challenge is a learning experience, no matter how gruelling it may seem in the moment. Finishing tasks one-by-one instead of multitasking can boost your confidence and sense of accomplishment. Communicate with the line manager and the team what you are working on and that you will address any queries or tasks after you have completed your high-priority task. Often a freelancer will be too hard on themselves until the entire assignment is done and dusted, without appreciating what they have achieved in a single day for a client and the team.

Have a (daily) clear set of priorities– having a clear concrete set of ranked priorities will help increase focus and eliminate guesswork. Clarifying with line managers what is most important that day or week will help to ensure you are on track and not wasting your time.

Not just a quick fix

Freelancers are more than just temporary fixes to an underlying problem. Establishing strong relationships with talented and reliable freelancers creates a pool of great candidates for future projects and operations. This is why it is important to treat freelancers with respect and not impose unrealistic expectations on them.

The rise in freelance hiring signals a shift in the workforce, with all signs pointing towards flexibility being one of the most important qualities. Using skilled freelancers provides tech companies with a larger area of expertise and knowledge and extra manpower, which will relieve stress, creating a better work environment for everyone. Freelancers symbolise a change in the times. They also can be that added sense of calm any team needs in peak times.

Now while a company can’t put a price on their staff’s state of Zen, a successful freelancer could perhaps price in their “Zen appeal” come their next pitch. Just before Q3 comes around.

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