Freelancing in India: how does it work and where is it headed?
Freelancing has evolved from a very narrow domain of people to a comprehensive array of business interaction.
Powered by the Internet, individuals across the globe have established their micro-ventures and are enjoying the element of freedom and self-sustenance. This is the new definition of freelancing.
The freelance global economy is a major contributor to the global GDP. With international payment systems connecting remotely located markets, employers are increasingly looking for niche-specific skills and the outlook for freelancers across domains looks brighter in the time to come.
India too is a significant part of this economic shift. With over 1 million freelancers who contribute $400 billion to the national GDP, the Indian freelancing industry cannot be ignored.
Here is an overview of freelancing works in India.
Top freelance marketplaces:
- Upwork, ProBlogger
**Bookmark this constantly updating list of freelancing sites in India.
Top payment systems:
- Direct Bank Transfer
Freelancers generally depend on multiple sources of client acquisition. Most of them will have a dedicated website as the major source of clients. The payments are usually secured using online channels mentioned above.The communication is mostly personal and online based. The real differences arise when you start looking at macro/micro level trends in the Indian freelance economy. There is a definite boost, but where is it coming from?
SMEs and startups are boosting freelance demand
According to Garg, India is a fast growing economy. More and more professionals are offering skills, which are diversified, unique and rare. This is creating a high demand for freelance work from the rising startups and SMEs flourishing in the country at the moment.
You can see that for yourself. Most of the employers on Truelancer are associated with a startup or some other small enterprise looking for niche skills.
Indian freelancers also cater to a fair share of foreign clientele. This is evident by the number of Indian freelancers active on payment systems like Payoneer. The rate and volume of international transactions are the highest for Indian freelancers.
It is substantially higher than that of other leading Asian freelance marketplaces like Singapore.
Employment saturation is also a factor
For many people like Abhishek Pathak, freelancing is a worthwhile career option because there is a lot of hassle and competition in getting a “real” job. Abhishek is one of the top performing freelance digital marketers on Truelancer. An engineer by profession, he says that it is easier for him to find freelance clients and offer them his services.
As far as being a hired employee, he has no real desire to be one. He finds “regular” jobs tedious and boring. He says that it’s quite a hassle; not everyone has the right brand of degree to land a satisfying job.
There is no one reason for this phenomenon. In India, the competition for each corporate vacancy is cutthroat. This is partly due to the demand/supply inequality in corporate employment, and partly because of the hidden flaws of the Indian education system.
Educated individuals consider the Internet to be a sea of opportunity, and freelancing is the ship to sail these waters and find something worthwhile.
The monetary disparity
One cannot deny this fact. Global average payouts for freelancers paint a dazzling picture overall, but there is major skew that can be outlined between the East and the West.
Compared to the US, Indian freelancers get paid an average of $10/hour. For American freelancers, the average is $40/hour. When I asked Dipesh the reason for this disparity, he explained that it was mostly because of the cost of living.
Most of the work received by Indian freelancers is outsourced from the West at lower prices. It is higher than what most Indian employers agree to pay but it forms not the dominant share of the income.
This will end soon, according to Dipesh. He outlines that the gap has already begun to recede. It is an economic process and hence, it will be slow and gradual. As the quality expectations increase so will the compensations. This influx will improve the cost of living here. To balance the scales, the pay will also start growing.
Satisfaction rates are higher in most Indian freelancers compared to working professionals.
Abhishek Pathak, who worked one year through Truelancer, found himself financially free enough to pay his entire college fee.
The scope is great. Those freelancers who are putting in maximum efforts with precision, management and planning are weaving wonders.
Freelancer turned-businessperson Rahul Rakesh, the top-earning content writer on Truelancer, believes that freelance is one channel through which Indian youth can break the shackle of regular and enforced employment and education.
“One needs to be smart”, says Rakesh. “Smart people thrive better when they work independently. If you want to become a businessperson, then you have to be a successful freelancer because, at the root level, freelance is the first step towards a full-fledged rewarding career.”
There are many more like him, who are slowly moving forward based on real-time growth rather than an influx of capital. Their satisfaction and freedom of choice are the motivation to put in more efforts and drive the Freelance economy forward.
What are the gaps we need to address?
When I asked Rahul what it takes for an Indian freelancer to pipe in some profit he explained that efficiency is the key. You have to invest in resources and tools that make you efficient.
You have to deliver unexpectedly high value in an unexpectedly tight timeframe. That is the only way to beat the competition.
Dipesh also outlines the fact that most Indian freelancers shy away from investing in tools and cloud technologies that could help them perform better. He says its one significant difference between US freelancers and us.
We need to create awareness programs and campaigns for Indian freelancers so that they know that it is not difficult to scale up if they learn how to invest in infrastructure.
With India set to build the largest pool of freelancers in the next five years, we must recognize the reality that Indian freelance is also poised to be competitive. The ones looking for complete freedom of work will have to think on their feet and develop core competencies which keep bringing them repeat clients.
Where is Indian freelancing headed?
We are ready to rumble. Indian freelancers are already contributing to the economy by offering skilled services and adding to the GDP. As their numbers increase, so will the differentiation in services provided.
This will majorly create a healthy and competitive market for Indian freelancers, but it will test their marketing and management skills also. Only the persistent and the innovative will survive. For these survivors, rate disparities will continue to decline.
As for now, all is right and moving steadily.