Updated: Sep 25, 2021
Upwork, a US-based work marketplace, knows an opportunity when it sees it. In a recent press release, the company drew back the curtain on a business model pivot it believes is primed to meet the needs of both today's workforce talent and the requirements of modern enterprises of all sizes.
While freelance job sites are not necessarily new, Upwork is capitalizing on a dynamic change in how we work – spurred by the pandemic, but bolstered by the transcendent opportunities presented in a remote economy.
One of the quintessential lessons in the start-up lifecycle is to "live in the future and think about what you need and then build it." That's exactly what Upwork CEO Hayden Brown and her team have done with the introduction and full-scale company rebrand of "Work Marketplace", which expounds upon more traditional broker-oriented freelance job boards, and instead enables companies to construct what Upwork dubs a "Virtual Talent Bench™" whereby they can assemble and deploy lean, functional teams at efficient scale and across a full spectrum of projects.
The core driver of the shift is in both reading the tea leaves and acting on customer intelligence. Per the press release, Brown said they were:
"...compelled to introduce the work marketplace because when we spoke to customers, it became really clear to us that traditional staffing firms and ‘gig’ solutions for freelancing are holding back the full potential of this market by perpetuating transactional relationships and commoditizing freelancers. Upwork is different – we realize relationships are the bedrock of success and are relentlessly focused on helping freelancers and companies connect and reach their full potential through meaningful work relationships."
At BedSideHustle, we've talked about how removing the tether from the office enhances optionality and agency for both sides of the paradigm and how it truly upends the future of work in a positive manner.
What Upwork has done is build a platform that lends itself to this exact transformation.
Beyond companies being afforded the chance to create more tailored and bespoke teams, it's also a great resource for the "BedSideHustle Lifestyle" as it reduces the friction in making freelance work a viable option.
One of Upwork's new offerings "Project Catalogue™" is invaluable for those who want to make flex-work a lifestyle, as it provides freelancers with a place to market and package their services, a process which you can check out here. This entails creating off-the-shelf project proposals that clients can purchase directly, generating a plug-and-play business funnel for freelancers.
It's the type of optionality a typical 9-to-5 doesn't always offer – the ability to script what projects you're most interested in, most capable of, and wholeheartedly pursue them.
In other words, you become your best manager.
This model drives massive utility for workers, who will start to value autonomy and accommodation over the attributes of trendy physical offices, such as food trucks, outdoor spaces, or workout centers.
At the end of the day, data suggests these perks may pale in comparison to what life away from the cubicle can indeed look like.
Of the 9.5 million Americans who tried freelancing in 2020, 60 percent say there is no amount of money that would convince them to take a traditional job.
Remember that line about Upwork building their business for the future? The report's data suggests that half of the Gen Z workforce (18-22) did some form of freelancing in the last year, and 36 percent of that bucket did so once Covid-19 hit, with "9-out-of-10" planning to continue to freelance in at least some capacity.
And they're more likely to do it remotely too, with people exposed to remote work during the pandemic now viewing freelancing as a pathway to living a more flexible and potentially more lucrative lifestyle. Per the report, 62 percent of freelancers feel they're more productive when working remotely, which is an 8 percentage point difference to non-freelancers.
But for traction, the other side needs to be willing to come to the table. And data suggests that's happening too, with 79% of clients who increased their use of freelancers in the last year looking to continuing using freelancers as part of their refined staffing model.
To support such demand, "Work Marketplace" rolled out enterprise solutions such as "Talent Scout™" for sourcing team members as well as ways to help companies with all the on-boarding, management, and compliance implications of regularly integrating a flexible yet skilled talent pool.
Microsoft, PGA, Airbnb, and WordPress are some notable companies to already latch onto these offerings.
The entire research report deck is absolutely worth a read for freelancers, companies, and really any stakeholder touched by and interested in the rationale behind why, how, and where people work, and it can be accessed here.
A lasting takeaway from the research is reading about what's classified as a "diversified worker" – someone who may blend a full-time job or part-time job with freelancing, a side hustle, or other supplemental business venture. This type of individual tracks with what we envision on our lifestyle page, someone who can lead their own vessel through rewarding waters of diverse work channels and tributaries.
It's quite possible that such an archetype becomes more and more common. Working remotely may have gotten an accelerated boost from Covid-19, but in an ironic way, the virus exposed an impenetrable virus within our existing working model – one that bred constriction, single-box behavior, and inflexible career paths.
Going remote is one facet of the on-going vaccine of overhauling a burnt-out workforce, stagnant career escalation environment, and sagging corporate innovation. But the hope is that widespread telecommuting will engineer the initial uptake in living a life, not a career.
Upwork's "Work Marketplace" is one such lever that could help achieve that.