You’re in your PJs. On the internet. At 3.45am. You log on to Freelancer.com. You browse job openings and look at an advert for a job to make knitwear. You click the button for building services. You are informed that this is an offshore project, but there is work. You click, presumably, to check your work status. You are disappointed.
You are disappointed because this was all possible two or three weeks ago. Not that Freelancer.com will appear to be an online Craigslist or Gumtree, instead presenting itself as a website where many a job market-maker had contracted a thriving business just a few years ago. Back then, a listing could ensure that he or she had access to thousands of jobs for a few hundred dollars a week, a process that gave jobseekers a new kind of freedom.
Whereas previously work would be contracted through expensive agency agencies, offering years of no-strings-attached recruitment, the online market began to reshape in 2008, when eBay-like sites such as Freelancer.com, Fiverr and Guru rolled out. Depending on their market, they were either a place for starting up small businesses, or for sourcing talent from people looking to earn money for doing essentially nothing. Previously, people couldn’t afford to be flexible, but online, there was opportunity. Agencies began to whittle down their contingency roles and the free and flexible “jobs” market blossomed, helping to power a workforce of nearly 20 million people in the past few years.
I also lost my job in October and my new job came through Freelancer.com. I managed to find two new jobs in three months by simply being my usual inquisitive, trouble-shooting self, and by looking up jobs on the site. I was lucky. Many others have struggled – struggling to make money, struggling to find work because there simply aren’t enough opportunities.
Look online. A new site (Hunting4re) claims it has saved a UK runner £32,000 (£8,632 a month), through matching him with fellow runners having the same difficulty – as I am. This website is different to other sites because it connects people simply by having chat forums. It says only that it is “revolutionising the hunting experience” by “exceeding the traditional meeting for cattle,” without providing a link to how.
Risk-free: a funny new paper finds you might survive a car crash – with a degree in dentistry Read more
This not only affects people paying to look for work, but those unemployed or about to be unemployed. More students are represented on these jobs sites than have working labour, but that, too, would go a long way to making the UK economy more balanced, diverse and, frankly, healthier.
Derek Gordon, creative director of Fulham High Street, near the Mall in London, tells me that he has noticed a noticeable change from the work done by agencies: “People are asking me if I work for agencies any more, and then say I’m working for us instead.” Does he?
My own personal story of travelling the UK and presenting jobs to teachers, library workers and charities, all without the benefit of paying agency fees, has been met with enthusiasm by many people.
But I haven’t noticed any difference between them and me, and I think there is something much bigger going on: people actually wanting a chance to make a living from the job that they already do, rather than handing it to the people who are happy to do it for free.
Derek Gordon says it is “hard for the agency to keep up” with new additions to the market, and he says that, as a result, people in his position aren’t signing up to agency agencies. He talks to those he knows who used to work for these agencies but can no longer do so, and those who worked for them but aren’t anymore. None of them are now doing the work that they’re describing – yet, because they are not there to do it.