IT contractors and their freelance comrades were hailed yesterday - National Freelancers Day – for their courage and modelling the way the future economy will run. At a special conference, futurologist James Bellini, declared the UK is embracing skilled freelancers and that the permanent job represents a mere 200-year blip in history.
The art of 'gigging'
Contractors play a dual role in the new world order of ‘giganomics’, where business is conducted by buying and selling specialist skills – or gigs. Whether a C++, programmer a project manager or a database administrator, they know the art of gigging and delivering to set timeframes and budgets. Second, they design build and deliver the communications and web technology that enable giganomics.
The arrival of V6 of Internet Protocol (IP) will hasten the era of the freelancer as much greater Internet capacity will pave the way for more and better online collaboration. "It’s a bit like comparing an A road to a superhighway", reckons Bellini, and will create an anywhere economy where geography is no constraint and the office redundant.
The new economy places demands on workers that are quite different from outcomes that their permanent peers are used to. By contrast, says Bellini, gig workers such as contractors, are highly adept in this environment. “They have to be highly organised, they have to know the value of the service they offer and they have to deliver value”.
In response to changing economic imperatives, freelancer numbers have doubled in the UK since 1980 and are predicted to rise again. Across the pond in the US, which often anticipates UK trends by a couple of years, one third of the country’s workforce is freelance.
A new IT co-operative launched in January is riding the crest of the giganomics wave. Synogis is a network of freelance IT consultants and their peers from other functions who collaborate to deliver specific projects. “No one is employed at Synogis and we only want sufficient members to be able to service the clients”, explains Richard Ilsley, founder of the co-op.
The Synogis model is funded by each member making a monthly contribution of £25, which funds the web site and administration. Skills required at any time are driven by the specific projects and clients for IT work to date include Teach First, Toyota and T-Mobile.
Reasons to be cheerful
• 4.6 million – hours spent every day by wage slaves commuting to their place of work.
• £250 billion – annual turnover generated by the UK freelance sector. This equates to the GDP of Austria, the 24th biggest economy on the planet.
• 80% – percentage of the UK workforce that will be ‘teleworkers’ not based in a ‘traditional’ workplace, by 2020, according to the Future Foundation.
• 4 million – number of workers, according to the latest BERR assessment, who are ‘neither employers nor employees ‘in other words a freelancer. This accounts for one in seven workers in the UK.
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