Going freelance will become inevitable for most but is a perfect opportunity for HR to make the most of our skills.
Today I was coworking at Lab by Capacity, which is a lovely coworking space for businesses and start ups in Liverpool, with the rest of the Jelly Liverpool team. Jelly meet weekly at various venues around Liverpool and provide informal networking for remote and freelance workers (check out their website for dates). It’s the perfect setting to get out of the house and connect with other like-minded people – being self-employed can be lonely and isolating if you have no support network.
Today was a bit special as we were interviewed by BBC Radio 4 about why coworking spaces are beneficial to people who are self-employed or work on a freelance basis. According to People Management magazine, half of the workforce will be freelance by 2030. Ian Brinkley, the CIPD’S chief economist, claims that the gig economy has changed the nature of self-employment, and that the sole trader freelancer is becoming more common than the small business owner, and most are doing so out of choice.
I was made redundant from my role as HR manager 3 years ago and decided to use my redundancy as an opportunity to set up my own business.
Becoming self-employed was extremely daunting (and frightening) but it felt exciting and made sense for me. Offering a bespoke HR service for start-ups and small businesses would not only allow me to make full use of the skills I have acquired over the past 15 years but would also be beneficial to the ever-growing pool of entrepreneurs and SMEs who require regular assistance with HR tasks but aren’t able to – or simply don’t want to – take on a full-time employee. I had found a niche and was able to target my skills appropriately.
I don’t feel that the service that I offer is a threat to traditional HR departments, or even HR consultants who have been in this space for a number of years, but I do think that the fact that there is a market for these services is indicative of forthcoming employment trends. Research by Michael Osborne and Carl Frey, from Oxford University’s Martin School, suggests around 24 per cent of HR roles – especially administrative roles – are susceptible to automation.
Rather than feel threatened by this, I think HR professionals should embrace the growing opportunity to work on a freelance basis in future.
PWC’s ‘The Future of Work’ report suggests a scenario in which companies will break down into collaborative networks of smaller organisations, with specialists (such as HR professionals) working as satellites communicating with a slimmed-down workforce. Organisations will have fewer employees but engage with a greater number of associates, thus leading to the re-emergence of professional guilds and trade networks. This will provide a challenge for HR professionals working in traditional HR departments, as they will need to attract and engage employees on an ad-hoc basis. For those professionals who work on a freelance basis, they will need to take responsibility for their own long-term financial security and learning.
With the rise of social media, it has never been easier as a freelancer to identify and engage with potential clients. I rely on Twitter, LinkedIn and word of mouth to connect with potential new clients and have been amazed by the demand that I have identified for services such as mine.
I’m not advocating that every HR professional quit their jobs today and enter the freelance world, but I want to reassure every HR professional that there is life after the traditional office role and our skills are highly transferable in the future of work. In the highly volatile environment that we are in, being self-employed also allows you to take control of your future. And through organisations like Jelly, you can connect with lots of like-minded people, broaden your network, and create a supportive community around you.