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COVID Ruined Freelancing

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed the decline in freelancing platforms since the pandemic started?

It's not even because of the massive layoffs and influx of new talent. The problem, as I see it, is that companies now see work-from-home as such a normative thing that they do not understand the difference between an employee and a contractor. 90% of the jobs I see posted read more like something you would see on a typical job board, here's a few notable gems that I've come across in just the last 24 hours alone :

  • "The ideal candidate for this position is someone who... "
  • "Candidate should be able to work on remote computer"
  • "If selected, would you be comfortable working on your personal laptop?"
  • "Due to state laws, our employees must have proof of vaccination (for remote contractors in another country???)"
  • "...join me on becoming a founding member in my start-up."
  • "...join our dynamic team. As a lead developer..."

The other 10% simply want too much for too little return. There's no middle ground anymore. I used to bang out three to five small jobs per month in my specific niche (web component development). But now jobs like these are rarely even posted, and the ones I do find are either hammered with bids in the first hour, or my obvious expertise is ignored because the client thinks they know more than the guy who's been writing code for 30 years... Some of these posts just blow my mind, here are a few stand outs :

  • "Build my website ... Salary start from $550/Month ... Bachelor’s degree in computer science required"
  • "Continuous self-improvement and be aware of new technologies ... (tagged with WordPress)"
  • "This is not a job position, rather an idea I would like to discuss..."
  • "We are looking for someone interested in working with us long term and to become part of our team ... The first job you will get will be under a contract of 5$"
  • "I'm a developer ... build me a portfolio site ... I could do it myself but don't have time"
  • "What is a Full Stack Developer? (proceeds to describe my own career to me in layman's terms with no project goals...)"

There has always been a certain amount of cruft to sift through when looking for jobs to bid on, but this is getting ridiculous. How is a senior-level specialist supposed to survive in this ecosystem? I don't know... maybe I'm being too picky/critical/indignant... How do you folks feel about the current state of things?

Top comments (14)

besworks profile image
Besworks • Edited

Thanks for the comments guys, I appreciate the feedback.

I understand the surge in work from home culture, and I also believe the benefits are great on both sides of the coin. I just don't like how it's affected MY business. I've been freelancing for most of my adult life, and working remotely for the last ten years. I've also shared a home office with my wife while she worked remotely for a call center before the pandemic. The differences between our experiences as a contractor vs an employee were like night and day. And the differences between then and now are even more drastic.

Many companies were thrown into transitioning to work from home with no experience or guidance on how to do it effectively. I believe that a good percentage of them have gotten over the growing pains of that change and fine-tuned their standard operating procedures into something that works for both them and their employees.

But that's the key word here, employees. The most successful operations offer well defined roles within an organized structure and provide the necessary equipment to do the job. It's unreasonable for a business to expect someone to use their own equipment, yet demand full backdoor access into it enabling them to spy on personal data or usage.

Before freelancing, I used to manage IT assets for a living. I know how simple it can be to issue equipment to personnel on loan. And if they don't return it when their employment ends, just take it out of their last pay. Which brings up another point: employers are saving massive amounts of money by not maintaining infrastructure and equipment, but many are not passing these savings along to their staff in the form of higher wages, even though they now have higher bills to pay in the form of increased electricity consumption or internet bandwidth to cover the excessive amount of video conferences that have become the norm.

But all of this is secondary to my original point, that business who do not understand these concepts have invaded platforms which were meant to cater to short/mid term contract-based work. They have saturated my feed with posts that belong on their government sponsored job bank website.

I personally am not looking for a full-time position. I love freelancing and going from job to job with different clients on a regular basis. I highly value the flexibility this allows. I also believe my skills should be shared with as many clients as possible. I have high standards and a wealth of knowledge to offer.

The problem for me is that it's becoming harder to sustain this business model. The niche that I serve is getting smaller every day and it's becoming harder to make ends meet. It's always been hard enough to convince clients that a standards based approach is best, but now it's nigh impossible. Everyone has their pre-conceived notions of what they want because they heard some buzzwords being thrown around. They only just learned the basics but can't seem to grasp that not all of us are new to this.

This is especially troublesome for developers. It's one thing to hire remotely for a virtual assistant position and expect to dictate the requirements. However, when you're trying to solve a technical problem, it's best to let the experts tell you the best way. After all, we're the ones who designed and built the systems they use every day. Of course, not every developer is an expert at their craft, but someone who has been writing code since the dawn of the internet might just know a thing or two which you haven't even considered.

suchintan profile image

Very well written Besworks πŸ™‚, I totally understand your point. And I do feel the pain freelancers are facing due to this transition that the companies have taken πŸ₯².

As you shared that companies got their profit increased but are not ready to increase the wage. You really hit it in the pin point ❗

Let me share my experience which I face while working as a employee. As the work from home started companies found it tough to take the transition. During that time I used to look for internships. Here's one of the company that I had to work which told me they operate on remote basis . I was totally fine with the thing, they used to assign me work one in the morning and another on the evening. I considered this thing also as fine as I get to work remotely. But now here comes the twist, they told me as their company is still not established so they will not be able to provide me the offer letter. Things really turned little bit strange for me as I think offer letter is one of the first document that I signed between an employee and employer 😞.

Now here's what I learned about work from home from companies side. You get to work from home so they consider you to be working 24 hours. Like they will keep track of hours of a work, you do it slower they call you ❗Get done faster they track you ❗. As you got done , they assign you another and this goes till night 10pm or something. Earlier they used to have employees from 9-5 but as employee is working remotely they don't think there is any bound to assign them tasks βŒ›. They are like , you are working remotely and developers πŸ§‘β€πŸ’» are more productive in this mode . Let me know when you get done , we will assign you another task and you need to be in continuous zoom meets πŸŽ₯ and every hour we will monitor your progress. Isn't is harsh ?

Secondly if the employee would have been in office πŸ’Ό they would have worked for 5-6 hours out of 8 hours and would have been having time to take small breaks and some talks between each other. I had talked with many developers even from big mncs. They are not tracked by every hour and are not expected to work like a robot πŸ€– with just sitting in a chair and typing all along 8 hours .

But here's the twist as the employee is at home , there is no restrictions of meetings, you are having your meals 🍳 but still need to attend some zoom calls explaining your role and work you did on the assignment. From day to night all along there is no control over meetings and expectations of getting things done. They sometimes want you to build whole Amazon in 2 hours and they want you to integrate a whole ML model with that. And that also like a day's work only.

I would point out the fact that the difference between a employee and a contractor has become negligible for the companies. They are assigning their work based on hours to their employees and want them to have thier own system and compatiblity to work smoothly.

What I noticed is that if a company used to get a job done in 3 months earlier are now getting done in 1 week or something. Due to work from home they got the freedom to increase the work pitch to it's pitch. Getting 24 hours of their employees day working.

They are also generating a very good profit. But here's the twist, due to remote work expenditure of employees increased drastically, working over a heavy project ? Get a high end setup at home and that also on your own cost. Got less or no internet, get your setup done on your own cost. But the company will be paying you the same salary or something marginally less just because that employee is working remotely.

The whole profit then get's used to expand the whole company and marketing. Ran out of budget? layoff employees as due to remote work number of applicants that you can get is much more due to worldwide coverage and you can get them anytime you want. Every single job listing says join immediately, in 1 week you get hired and the 2nd week you should be in the company working.

I see work from home as a new toy which a child got into his hands and is exploring and found it fascinating.

Work from home had some responsibilities from employers side but noone focusses on that. Every single person I met, just lists the advantages of it that hire from anywhere, get people onboard easily and get your company started in no time.

I have seen many people facing the issue that companies hire them remotely ,provide the employee a offer letter even and just after couple of days. If they find the need of that person , they send them the requirements with immediate joining or else terminates the offer letter 😞. Just see it from employees side how harsh it would be for them. They left their earlier job to join the new company and suddenly one day the company thought let's not onboard them and terminates the offer letter. A happily working employee just became job seeker in split of days 😫.

It's ofcourse based on my experience and opinion. I am open to know others thought, if they faced the same or something better πŸ‘‡.

besworks profile image
Besworks • Edited

Many of the issues you describe are the exact reasons I avoid these kind of jobs. I refuse to be exploited in this manner and that is leading to an inability to find work.

This situation reminds me of the transition from the early days of the internet to the current ecosystem. Originally, there were only technical minded people online, then over time the average person was able to get connected. This completely changed the landscape of the web. The same situation is happening now. Remote work was dominated by freelancers and entrepreneurs, now many more people are working from home and companies who have never considered this as an option are diving head first into the pool and disrupting the workflow of those of us who have been in this game for decades.

In many ways, it's not unlike colonialism. Our "lands" and culture are being usurped and there seems to be no recourse. The employers do not care about the impact they have made, and refusing to participate has little to no effect. There is a seemingly endless supply of desperate people willing to apply for these positions so the businesses have no incentive to change their behavior.

I've honestly considered giving up freelancing to seek a manual labor job rather than put up with this anymore. But this is not really what I want to do. I have too much knowledge that would go to waste by such an action. I am just hoping for better times to come soon.

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suchintan profile image

Yes I understand Besworks, I am also hoping that just like internet has later on turned to be even more better and now-a-days there are a lot of useful stuffs to use on internet due to the transition that took while making everyone get an access to the web easily πŸ™‚.

I believe something similar can also happen for work from home.

Freelancing will soon be one of the demanded fields in future which everyone will aspire to achieve just like influential market has turned. And getting a bid would be a lot harder slowly and slowly. Maybe that's the step of the world to bring everyone on the same ground where your location will not matter but your skills and experience will decide if you can get a work or not πŸ€”.

frankfont profile image
Frank Font
suchintan profile image

I understand your concerns Besworks. If you take a closer peak into the situation of current market then you will understand work for home is pretty new concept for the civilization. But yet it's powerful, as it gives the company a chance to hire from anywhere sometimes beyond their countries. But at the same time, with no cost for moving the candidate to office, no cost for any devices or utilities for the employee and sometimes no cost for any infrastructure.

In earlier days, if someone had to start a company they had to setup a workplace first, then recruite people through visiting different campuses and get an establishment for your company 🀷.

But times have changed βŒ›, in today's date you can start a company in days, go remote and recruite talents worldwide, no workplace or office cost. πŸ’° No need to provide any working systems πŸ’» to them as they can have their own. Isn't it quite cost effective ?

Yes, it is you can start a company πŸ› with no money, one of my friend actually did it. The company is now 1 year old and till now he haven't had to pay a single penny. We work there as we know the startup will get successful one day and we have freedom to work from anywhere.

See times have changed, you need to understand slowly people will start building their own company rather than joining one πŸ€”. It's a legit fact that companies will slowly have less people onboarded but with great talent from worldwide and soon we would have no office culture.

So, if you are knowledgable enough then I would suggest you to start working on your dreams πŸ’­. There are two ways to see the outcome of any situation. A good side and bad side.

The bad side is ofcourse that jobs will deplete in one company but many new will also open for you. The good side is now you have a cushion to work from home, on your own system, with working over your dreams side-by-side πŸ’. And so do the companies also have.

There will be less to no company culture, you work you get paid. You don't work , you are fired and a new candidate replaces you. Harsh truth, but this will be soon a reality.

bacloud22 profile image

But times have changed βŒ›, The question is does the time exists and we don't ?
I mean you are making it look like either the new normal thing, or the necessity and 100% sure it is better in terms of "productivity", "cost", etcetera,

I don't agree on anything of these ! Quite the contrary,

And if I may, I think the best option to sustain civilization you are mentioning, is giving the option of 1 to 2 days per week for developers and nothing more.

I think, (my opinion :)) it is counter productive, less serious, and normalizing remote work because supposedly developers can do 100% of the stuff from home and imply that on the other employees is catastrophic.

suchintan profile image

I completely understand your point aben πŸ€”. And I respect you view, yes it can be a way to look after this thing πŸ’.

But I think you are somewhere around looking into this from the prospective of a senior developer. See, 1-2 days per week an option for developers to come to the office is something which would ofcourse be a good thing for experienced ones. But! The question is why would companies keep their offices just for people to visit 1-2 days of every week. From companies prospective this would not be a justified reason to spend their capital on offices πŸ›.

Secondly it would be less serious nomalizing remote work as developers 🀷 can do 100% of the stuff from their homes. There are two things I would like to correct here 🚫, not only developers can work remotely but all jobs like content writing, graphic designing, product management, and all business roles like business analyst. Just leaving couple of jobs which are needed to have you go outside ( not office ! ) are not possible to be done remotely πŸ’». So, most companies will have no reasons to have offices which applies no office culture and work culture ⚠.

I am a tech person, I never said it's going to be good or bad. ( Yes I pointed out the good and bad sides though ). I know changes are needed , and people can't stop development or change by fearing them of uncertainity βŒ›. Work from home would be the future. But yeah , it may end something called work culture and maybe freelancing. Just think when employees are working like freelancers , then why need a freelancer separately. The reasons are pointed in the above comment itself.

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bacloud22 profile image
aben • Edited

I meant 1-2 remote and nothing more. Not the opposite. I'm against remote work being the new normal!!!

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suchintan profile image

Ok I see aben. Cool then we are on the same boat. ✌

darryldexter profile image
Darryl D.

I'll take my dev hat off for a moment...

From a positioning perspective, if you've been freelancing for a long time, don't use the platforms to scale. Use them to springboard into something with no ceiling. The platforms come with pros and cons.

Imagine treating Linkedin as, let's say Upwork. Everyone is flocking to Upwork because they don't have the same level of experience that you have.

Zig when everyone zags... learn other platforms, find a more direct source to your audience, learn to do direct humane outreach, etc.

How this vantage point helps! I also agree the flood of newly found freelancers is very real.

ps - you know how to use the platforms better than most. Teach the ppl flocking on how to achieve what you archived. This is the norm now. Take advantage of your past experiences.

besworks profile image

This is exactly what I was thinking about today. I should be building a team of junior devs and imparting my wisdom on them. Lately I've been crushing the Stack Overflow bounty board and it made me realize that I could be profiting from this kind of thing instead of giving it away for just rep.

frankfont profile image
Frank Font • Edited

Besworks, we'd love it if you could find a way to capture some of the knowledge into mission diagrams that others would learn from. Let me know if you'd like me to explain. The site we put together is and we think it is something different from the norm.

Being different is especially important now.

nhshanto profile image

I totally agree with you.