The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way businesses operate as many organizations have realized the advantages of remote working and hiring freelancers. At present, India has a pool of ~15 million freelance workers staffed in projects across IT/Tech, HR, and design. Remote freelancing is a competitive field. Without face-to-face interactions, it can be disproportionately difficult to discern what employers want from you. Tech and web development are some of the most critical pieces that employers struggle with. In this article, Karthik Sridharan, co-founder & CEO, Flexiple and Remote Tools, shares his thoughts on how to make a career as a freelance web developer, and the future scopes in the freelance developer jobs vertical?
Boom in Remote Working and Freelancing / Gig Economy in India
In the US, as far back as 2016, almost 55 million professionals were considered freelancers. Between 2016 and 2017, the number of employers seeking contract workers jumped by 47%. In India, there were around 3 million freelancers in 2020. At present, that number is 15 million.
The pandemic-induced remote working has blurred the age-old skepticism over the efficiency and dependability of contractual or part-time employees, with companies increasingly looking to hire gig workers.
India’s workforce is growing by ~4 million people annually. And as most of them are young millennials, they are showing an increasing preference for gig contracts. This trend is expected to significantly impact the gig economy in India in the near future.
As per a report by ASSOCHAM, India’s gig sector is expected to increase to US$455 billion at a CAGR of 17% by 2024 and has the potential to expand at least 2x the pre-pandemic estimates. In another estimate, India is likely to have 350 million gig jobs by 2025, presenting a huge opportunity for job seekers to capitalise and adapt to the changing work dynamics.
About Flexiple and Remote Tools
Flexiple is a network of pre-vetted freelance developers & designers to help top startups & companies find quality tech talent. Remote Tools is a curated list of tech products with a particular focus on remote working. Users can discover new & exciting products each week.
Freelance Developer Jobs
Q&A with Karthik Sridharan, Co-founder & CEO, Flexiple and Remote Tools
Initial Career Journey
Tell us a little bit about your initial career journey (BITS Pilani to JP Morgan to IIM-A)
I was quite interested in working in the finance industry and got the opportunity to work in JPMorgan Investment Banking. I learned a ton of things – worked on big M&A transactions.
But it slowly became clear to me that I really didn’t enjoy the work. Working 100+ hours each week on things that I felt weren’t impactful wasn’t for me.
Why did you decide to opt for an MBA (PGP)?
Towards the end of my time at JPMorgan, when I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do next. So, I just gave the CAT and was able to get through. I felt that the MBA would give me the time and perspective to explore what I wanted to do next.
What prompted you to take the entrepreneurial route after your MBA?
The very first week at IIM-A “placements” dominated all discussions – CVs, placement meetings, etc. I felt an almost immediate repulsion because I had joined for a more educational experience and this MBA was turning out to be more of a placement agency.
In all honesty, the job I had left at JP Morgan was possibly the best job I could get at IIM-A anyway. So, I felt that to find out what I really wanted to do, I should quit the placement process and maybe try my hand at entrepreneurship.
How did Flexiple happen?
While deciding on what I wanted to work on, I came up with many ideas. I used to note them in a book and discuss them with my friends. I slowly recognised that B2B was the space where I would like to spend my time building a startup.
About freelancing, there are two points to it:
- I feel while there are other freelance marketplaces, they cater to the “gig economy” where quality is not the focus but the volume is. Flexiple plays in the “talent economy” where quality is at the core of everything we do. I didn’t think this place was crowded. Further, I also felt that this was a pretty big industry.
- Secondly, I think having competitors is good – it tells you there is a market for your startup and also helps you to quickly get context about what works, doesn’t work, etc. in the industry.
Freelancing and Gig Economy in India
What are your thoughts on the Gig Economy and Freelancing in India?
The talent economy has always been on the rise, it is just that there is more talk about it in the media now. As we move ahead, I think people will become more & more focused on building individual brands vs. just being a small cog of a larger monolithic company.
About remote work too, I think, it was already on the rise for many years before the pandemic. The pandemic has just catalyzed its adoption and has made it obvious for many that working from anywhere is a very realistic option for them.
Undoubtedly, it is going to grow multifold in the coming decade and we’ll see both its advantages & negeative consequences in play with it. To encourage discussions on such topics, we’ve built a remote community called Remote Clan.
Freelancers are great (and cost-efficient)
resources for start-ups. How is the trend with the MNCs at present?
<Just a side note, I wouldn’t call people “resources” at all>
Freelancers are great not just for cost efficiencies but for being able to scale your team faster with top talent vs. taking the full-time hiring route. So, I don’t see freelancers necessarily as a replacement for full-time hires but as a complement.
We do work with a few MNCs – they are slow to adopt this route, but once they do see the advantages, they expand this segment of hiring at a really high speed.
Freelance Developer Jobs via Flexiple
Why did you decide to focus on freelance developer jobs (and web designing jobs)?
We felt that tech is a great starting point for us because:
- It serves as the backbone for so many startups & companies and that’s only going to increase in the future
- It naturally aligns with remote working better than most other industries
- It is one of the most brutally painful functions to hire for
What is the average time frame for recruiters to find the best-fit freelancer on Flexiple?
For most requirements, we are able to match a talent within a week. However, when companies have very niche requirements, it can take us longer.
Quite often, there are many freelancers out there on a platform, and they might not get a project initially (unless they bid very low at the beginning). How is it with Flexiple?
There is no bidding on Flexiple – it was one of the very first things we decided to do. We didn’t want talented professionals to waste their time on unproductive things like bidding. Whenever we have projects relevant to their expertise, we personally reach out to them.
Nowadays, we match a freelancer to a client almost immediately after they get onboarded to our network. If we don’t have projects relevant to their expertise, we ensure that we don’t proceed with their screening process, so that we don’t waste their time.
How does the hourly/weekly rate get fixed? Do the freelancers/recruiters negotiate after seeing a price range?
The rates are entirely decided by the freelancers themselves. Of course, we do guide them in picking a rate that is both commensurate with their experience and is able to get them an adequate flow of projects.
What has been the average time period of projects for freelancers on Flexiple?
It varies. We typically don’t take on projects that last less than a month. Average would be around 4-6 months. But we have had many engagements that have lasted even a couple of years
Have been there cases where a freelancer got retained for a year or two or became permanent?
Indeed, many times
How is Flexiple different from other platforms like UpWork, Freelancer, Toptal, Truelancer, Guru, etc.?
There are many similarities between us and Toptal, though I think we are much more reasonably priced. More about it is written in this article.
Upwork and other platforms are pure marketplaces – their focus isn’t quality and have zero screening processes in play. In contrast, we have a very comprehensive screening process in place.
One of the biggest issues that freelancers face is delays in payment? How does Flexiple solve that?
All payments go through Flexiple, so even if we have delays in payments from the client side, we ensure that freelancers get their payments on time.
Career Guidance on Freelance Developer Jobs
How should a college student or early-stage professional (less than 3 years of work-ex) plan about freelancing?
I think it is good to work full-time in a company to gain skills before venturing into freelancing. it helps one understand how to handle professional relationships while also giving their profile more credibility.
Having said that, making open-source contributions, building pet projects, sharing all of this & other lessons publicly on social media are all brilliant steps in building one’s personal brand.
What does Flexiple look for in freelance developers?
Of course, our bar on the technical side is quite high. However, we recognize that beyond technical skills, the softer aspects of communication, being reliable and great to work with are very important to ensure success. So, we try to get as many proxies on all of these fronts.
What are the top in-demand skills for freelance developer jobs?
The top skills desired by companies looking to hire freelance developers consist primarily of various technologies and IT-related skills. They include Blockchain, Amazon DynamoDB, React Native, Angular, Computer Vision, Go among many others. Read Freelance Market Statistics & Trends – 2020.
Given the growing competition in remote freelance developer jobs, what would be your career advice to high school and college students?
As the world becomes more global because of remote working, hard skills are going to build careers more than the general pedigree of having a degree from reputed universities.
So, everyone needs to be on a journey to continuously upskill themselves. Further, there are numerous free avenues to learn, and hence, there aren’t any excuses anymore.