For knowledge workers like digital marketers the employment picture has changed radically and possibly for the better.
Digital marketing and its technology aren’t the only things that have been transformed in the past three and three-quarter years. Digital marketers are now in an employment environment radically different from what it was pre-pandemic. One that’s giving them more leverage in the workforce.
More than half (54%) of marketing leaders say they have more freelancers than ever on their teams, according to a survey by talent agency Fiverr Pro. There are two primary reasons for this: Layoffs and the clash between employees wanting to work from home (WFH) and employers’ return-to-office (RTO) policies.
“It started with the pandemic,” said Shai-Lee Spigelman, general manager of Fiverr Pro. “A lot of employees became remote workers or freelancers or found out that due to technology it’s possible for them to work remotely. Then came the macroeconomics and the downturn and the layoffs.”
Layoffs and loss of skills
Fiver Pro’s research found that 85% of marketing leaders have conducted layoffs in the past two years. This resulted in the loss of some critical skills — the top three being marketing manager (37%), digital marketing (31%) and market research (30%). Of the marketing leaders who conducted layoffs, 83% turned to freelancers to fill the newly created skill gaps.
“This is a trend that is not only happening in marketing but might be hitting marketing earlier,” said Spigelman. “Our research found that by 2027, four years from now, 50% of the workforce in the US will be freelancing in some capacity. We are going to a place where more and more top talent will become freelancers.”
Layoffs are only part of the reason for this. The other is the change in the dynamic between employer and employee. There are currently 9.6 million job openings in the US and 6 million unemployed people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That works out to roughly 1.3 jobs per job seeker. This is down from earlier in the year when there were 1.9 jobs per worker.
More jobs than workers
This imbalance isn’t likely to change soon. The U.S. birth rate has been declining for decades, so there are far fewer people entering the workforce. This all means that workers have more choice and more leverage when it comes to employment.
Despite this, many large corporations are now trying to force employees who have been working from home to return to the office. Nearly all (95%) of marketing leaders surveyed have RTO policies in place, 85% of them believe in the RTO policy they are enforcing and 62% say employee response to the policy has been positive.
“Now companies want employees to go back to work,” said Spigelman. “People are saying ‘Well, I can work remotely. I do not want to work four or five days from the office. I either got laid off or I may get laid off. My job security is not as it was before. I used to work for a very big company. I knew that I had job security, but that’s gone.”
A tectonic shift
Nearly two-thirds (61%) of marketing professionals have looked at freelance opportunities because of their current employer’s RTO policy. Also, 52% say they would not even consider applying for a job if it required them to be in the office full-time. Other surveys have found a third of remote workers are willing to take a pay cut if it means not having to commute to an office.
Why the disconnect?
“From my experience — and I work with many big corporations, including governments — corporations are slow to adapt,” said Spigelman. “They are more conservative and risk-averse and I think what they’re trying to do is go back to the way they know how to work. They have not fully integrated the tectonic move of what’s going on in the workforce.”
Steps to take. If you are considering going freelance, or just putting together a plan in case of downsizing, Spigelman suggests laying the groundwork now. Network with people at other companies, including clients. She also suggests using platforms like Jooble, Toptal and Fiverr Pro that connect freelancers and employers.
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