Freelancers are Industry’s Solution to the Knowledge Gap

Do you have what it takes to fill the gaps and thrive?


As deep knowledge gaps continue forming across today’s labour market, freelancers are becoming the best solution for businesses trying to keep pace with technology’s explosion.

This accelerating change comes with unforeseen challenges for both employers and employees. Whether it’s a company’s finances, marketing or overall growth, today’s businesses face new hurdles requiring workers with a broader set of specialized skills. Employees, on the other hand, are often expected to pick up the slack — and that means there’s opportunity around every corner for experts with the right skills.


As talent requirements grow more niche by the day, it’s freelancers who will usher in an era of experts in which businesses must outsource key roles to thrive.


Industry can quickly fall behind in today’s labour landscape

Technology’s explosion, society’s ubiquitous digitization and the market’s increasingly global nature have transformed all aspects of work.


Workers, meanwhile, are stuck in a constant battle with time. While technology is opening the door to new skills, the average learned skill typically loses half its value every five years. In only half a decade, more than 1/3 of the skills needed across industries has changed in some way.

Our changing world — what with the rise of Big Data, AI, AR, VR and machine learning — is opening doors for all businesses. But a company’s ambition to capitalize on change is only as tangible as the skills of its workers, and each new advancement in technology widens the gap a bit further.


Keeping up with the rate of change means bringing on niche experts

For most businesses, hiring full-time staff to keep up with today’s ever-changing, cutting-edge and widely diverse talent requirements is implausible.


Instead, keeping up with what’s next means businesses will rely on outsourced experts. With freelancers at their disposal, companies can ensure they have the right people on the job on an ongoing basis — whenever the need arises.


The same things widening the knowledge gap are what’s catapulting freelance demand to the next level. After all, freelancers bring a lot to the table. Not only ambitious, agile and broadly experienced, they’re more likely to have the cutting-edge skills a business craves. That’s because nearly 75% of full-time freelancers recently participated in skills training compared to less than 1/2 of full-time non-freelancers.


Tomorrow’s working world will see employers turn increasingly toward freelancers to move their business forward. Within this reality, freelancers are already more in demand — and in control — than ever before.


The most in-demand skills right now

Because technology moves so fast, it’s impossible to tell what skills a freelancer might need in a year, let alone several years.


This change of pace is a skill-killer for freelancers — your touted assets are expiring faster than ever, and that means life-long learning is essential. The ability to learn is itself a significant trait with great gap-shortening capabilities.


There’s no shortage of skills to learn, but the trend is definitely heading towards advanced tech skills in AI and data science.


Artificial neural networks — think self-driving cars and facial recognition — mimic how the human brain processes, stores and responds to information. With machine-learning, these networks are already used in many industries thanks to new technology like TensorFlow, an open-source software library for developers that just had its stable release earlier this year.

Blockchain, cited as the top in-demand skill globally for 2020, is also a “transformational technology” making waves in the world of shared ledgers. Its most famous example is cryptocurrency, but blockchain is also being used in shipping, healthcare, farming, food safety, entertainment and gaming.


While there’s a massive appetite for skills in AI, data science, web development, cloud computing and other IT certifications, these are only some of the ways the future working world will rest on the backs of freelance specialists.


Frequently requested alongside one another in job postings — especially in finance but also in marketing and sales — are Microsoft Excel and SQL (Structured Query Language), a database querying software. Knowing both will undoubtedly open doors for freelancers, but SQL alone was highlighted in more than 1/5 of tech-related job postings from 2014–19.


Other commonly outsourced skills include .NET Core, TypeScript and Android (Internet and software services), Sketch and motion design (design) and event photography, lead generation and behavioural design (marketing).


But the most in-demand digital skills across the Canadian economy right now are not highly technical programming languages — they’re everyday digital skills like proficiency using the Microsoft Office Suite.


As new technologies spread, they’re changing and even displacing roles and functions across the workforce. Regardless of what’s to come, creativity, collaboration and communication will always be sought-after skills — even as AI and machine learning take centre stage.


What this means for freelancers

  1. Know what skills are in demand — All industries are suffering from knowledge gaps that need filling. If you understand what niche skills your industry is lacking, you’ll be better able to fill those needs and close those gaps. Some of the most in-demand skills right now include expertise in AI and data science, but it also doesn’t hurt to know your way around the Microsoft Office Suite.

  2. Keep your skills sharp — The best freelancers keep their skills sharp and expertise current. In the new working world, learning is a life-long pursuit — and one that will serve freelancers well. Investing in training is more important now than ever.

  3. Promote your skills — Up-to-date websites, portfolios and online profiles are a freelancer’s loudspeaker. As you upskill, update everything to include your most current training, and when you’re learning, share what you’re doing on LinkedIn.

  4. Know your worth — Understanding your market value and varying your costs according to your skillset are the basis for your earnings. It’s a delicate balance, but if you have the skills, you can average about $8,000 more a year than the average Canadian salary.

Today’s ever-changing working world will increasingly turn to freelancers’ expertise to move businesses into the future. With this reality, freelancers will be more in demand and in control than ever before.


1: Canadian Chamber of Commerce, 2019 2: Business Development Bank of Canada, 2019 3: World Economic Forum, 2017 4: World Economic Forum, 2019 5: CNBC, 2018 6: Udemy, 2020 7: LinkedIn, 2020 8: Indeed, 2019 9: Upwork, 2019 10: Dribbble, 2019 11: Forbes, 2019 12: Brookfield Institute, 2019 13: Statistics Canada, 2019


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