Empowering the Freelance Economy

The “look” that pays: why freelancers with glasses (and sometimes beards) get more gigs according to Harvard

Glasses? Check. Beard? Check. Laptop at the ready? Check. Read why this look is landing freelancers more gigs in certain industries.
0 513

In a digital age where resumes pile up in virtual inboxes, a new Harvard Business School study finds a surprising advantage for freelancers: wearing glasses

Researchers from Harvard Business School and the University of Southern California have revealed that online platforms, used increasingly by companies to find talent, favour freelancers with specs in their profile pictures.

The study, published in “HBS Working Knowledge,” analysed data from a popular freelance platform. Researchers tracked the success rates of thousands of freelancers, comparing those with and without glasses in their profile pictures. The results were clear: freelancers with glasses were more likely to land gigs compared to their non-specced counterparts.

For many small businesses and individual clients on these platforms, the final choice between freelancers with similar ratings appears to come down to a gut feeling influenced by photos, according to the study.

Having the right look was also comparable to a 0.3 per cent increase in the stars in a freelancer’s rating, significant given the heavy competition for work.

Why glasses?

Glasses are often associated with intelligence and professionalism, particularly in fields like technology and finance. This can conjure bias because people associate that people who wear glasses, especially in certain roles “look the part”. Glasses, can for example create a sense of focus and concentration, potentially making freelancers appear more dedicated and reliable.

However, the study also warns against perpetuating unfair biases. “While glasses may offer a temporary advantage, it’s important to remember that judging someone’s abilities based on their looks is discriminatory and ultimately harmful,” says Jones. “Platforms should focus on creating fairer algorithms that prioritize skills and experience over superficial factors.”

Specs appeal: is it for real?

The report said having particular characteristics is comparable to a 5 per cent boost in pay. “That is no small change given those gigging are often required to pay some 10 per cent of the work assignment or job to the online platform,” said the report.

Having the right look was also comparable to a 0.3 per cent increase in the stars in a freelancer’s rating, significant given the heavy competition for work.

The findings have sparked debate in the freelance community. Some freelancers are embracing the “specs appeal,” investing in stylish frames to boost their online profiles. Others are concerned about the implications of prioritising appearance over merit.

Freelancers may find this study a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s good to know that glasses can give someone an edge. But on the other hand, it’s frustrating to think that someone might be judged based on something so irrelevant to their skills.

The debate is likely to continue as online platforms become increasingly important for finding and hiring talent. While the “specs appeal” may offer a temporary advantage, the ultimate goal should be to create a system that values skills and experience above all else, ensuring that everyone has a fair chance to succeed in the digital gig economy.

But ask yourself. Have you placed a false sense of confidence in someone’s intelligence just because they wore glasses? Perhaps there is some truth in this bias.

A beard, laptop and professional photo can go far

While you may find this all frivolous, you may still be interested in learning that the report did reveal other findings or shall we say biases that have given platform freelancers higher success rates.

“For graphic designers, for instance, it is better to be female and to have a high-quality, professional-looking photo (with a small plus for glasses).

Other hacks for programmers: Grow a beard and keep a computer visible, suggests Isamar Troncoso, Assistant Professor of Business Administration and one of the report authors.

Can you claim glasses as a business expense?

  • Claiming glasses is possible, but with restrictions: You can claim the cost of prescription glasses as a business expense only if they’re solely used for work-related screen activities. This means they shouldn’t be worn for driving, general wear, or anything else, according to Raw Accounting.
  • Exclusivity is crucial: The key factor determining deductibility is the exclusivity of use for business purposes. Any personal use of the glasses disqualifies them as a business expense.
  • Evidence is essential: To claim the cost, you need proof of exclusivity. This could be an optician’s statement confirming the glasses are solely for screen work. Keeping receipts is also important.
  • Dual-use means no deduction: If your glasses serve both business and personal purposes, you cannot claim any portion of the cost. The “duality of purpose” principle prevents claiming expenses not wholly and exclusively for business.
  • Eye tests are claimable: Eye tests required for work-related screen use are generally claimable business expenses.

Get FREE news and views impacting freelancers by signing up to The Freelance Informer newsletter

Continue the conversation on social media

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.