Thanks to AI, we’re in the golden age of freelancing

May 03, 2024

Thanks to AI, we’re in the golden age of freelancing

AI doesn’t help everyone, but it is turning elite tech workers into super builders.

BY Raphael Ouzan

As white-collar work gets increasingly automated, you might assume that freelancers would be the first to feel the impact. Indeed, researchers found a 21% decrease in the number of freelance job postings for automation-prone jobs after the rollout of ChatGPT. But there are two sides to this story. We’re witnessing a class stratification in modern freelancing. And, according to our latest research, highly-skilled freelancers are thriving. 

We surveyed 214 builders in the A.Team network between December 2023 and January 2024. These are engineers, developers, product managers, designers, data scientists, and marketers who have gone through a rigorous vetting process that places them amongst the top 2% in their respective fields. Many are ex-FAANG (Facebook/Meta, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Alphabet/Google). Nearly half have already built a generative AI solution for a startup or enterprise. They are, in other words, the top tier of freelance workers, and for them, the emergence of generative AI presents a massive opportunity. 

Sixty-eight percent of the respondents in our survey said that generative AI makes them more likely to pursue an independent career working for multiple companies. Ninety-two percent said that generative AI tools increased their productivity. And 80% said that generative AI increases their earning potential. A smaller portion, 16%, said they had already raised their hourly rates.

This, then, is the counter-narrative: Thanks to AI, the most highly-skilled freelance product builders are becoming super builders—boosting their productivity and earnings. 

Massive adoption of Gen AI among the highly-skilled freelancers

Among the most highly-skilled cohort, Gen AI adoption is strong. Freelancers are embracing this new technology and upskilling more than twice as fast as the rest of the workforce. Fifty-four percent of our respondents said they used generative AI either multiple times a day or constantly. Forty-five percent reported saving six or more hours per week, giving back nearly an entire work day. The vast majority of the highly-skilled product builders in our network anticipate using generative AI more in the year ahead.

The wonderful thing about generative AI models is that you can discover new use cases daily. We asked our respondents for their top use cases where generative AI made them more productive: The answers range from hard coding tasks to soft skills—everything from test generation and code refactoring to marketing and launching a product. 

The question follows: How do they reinvest the time saved with AI? Taking on additional projects was the obvious answer, but even more respondents said strategic thinking and upskilling. This has the potential to create a virtuous cycle in which Gen AI saves you time, which you then reinvest in getting better at Gen AI.

Now entering the golden age of freelancing

There’s no doubt that the threat of AI replacing jobs is real, and requires serious investments in rethinking everything from reskilling, to education, to the nature of jobs, and the work week itself. AI poses a serious risk to many freelancers whose jobs focus on easily automatable tasks: writing formulaic SEO articles, data analysis, and basic graphic design.

Conversely, however, there appears to be a huge upside for the most highly-skilled independent workers. We may be entering an era in which these workers leverage this new technology to grow—personally and professionally. Ninety-one percent of respondents believe that having generative AI experience will make them more attractive to future employers.

But it’s not automatic. Independent workers must cultivate these new capabilities. Our survey respondents confirmed this, with 86% saying that every knowledge worker needs to learn how to use generative AI to remain relevant.

One thing is clear in the age of the $900,000 AI job— and that is the personal ROI of AI. Having these skills makes freelancers more productive, more attractive to clients, and increases their earning potential. Already, 16% of those surveyed have increased their hourly rate to reflect their generative AI skills.

Call it the rise of the AI-powered freelancer. It starts with widespread adoption among freelancers, ahead of the curve of the rest of the workforce. It’s sustained by the undeniable productivity gains. And it sketches out a future in which AI opens up space to learn, earn more, and innovate. 

Raphael Ouzan is founder and CEO of A.Team.

Thanks to AI, we’re in the golden age of freelancing


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