The future of work isn’t freelancing…

…It is a blended workforce

Freelancers are just the early adopters of the future of work focused on value-based specialised projects for multiple clients. 

Welcome to the first email in an email series from me, Albert Azis-Clauson, CEO of UnderPinned, about the Future of Work and UnderPinned. This will be a four-week email series aimed to bring you, the investor, advisor, and research communities into the future of work and UnderPinned’s vision. 

“The future of work is being defined in the grassroots of freelancers and micro-businesses, as they form the early stages of the future of a blended workforce that is now influencing businesses of all sizes and across all industries.

The freelance revolution has already passed a trillion dollars in global revenue and is growing fast. UnderPinned is powerfully positioned to lead this market with its innovative education and integrated platform offering.” 

Jon Younger, Forbes

Some important definitions to start with:

Gig worker = a (generally low-skilled) worker that competes based on price, often via a platform such as Fiverr, Upwork, Deliveroo, Uber, etc.

Freelancer = a skilled professional who works on a project by project basis (increasingly charging by value rather than time). This is our focus, these are early adopters of the future of work, this is where the biggest opportunity lies. 

Contractor = a long term contract based employee who is employed in this format for various technical reasons, usually to do with tax or independence reasons.

Blended Workforce = a term used to describe the decreased reliance on full time staff and an increase of hybrid project based workers. A fully blended workforce means two key things; 

  • First, companies having talent pools of project based workers with a small percentage of full time staff to maintain infrastructure; 
  • Second, microbusinesses/freelancers building highly specialised project based practices where they collaborate with each other to form transient project based agencies without traditional agency overheads. 

Both of these formats of work are already instantiated in the world of work and are rapidly on the rise. Read more about this phenomenon in this paper by our good friend and advisor Dr. Rochelle Haynes here.

Why are these ideas important? 

We all hear how the future of work is changing rapidly, but there are very few people who have been looking at all parts of this grassroots movement since it really started gaining momentum. 

The above four definitions are so important because they give us insight into how different parts of the future of work are changing. You have no doubt heard a lot about the gig economy and the adjacent narrative on workers’ rights. It is also likely that you are aware of the poorly designed but well-intentioned IR35 policy aimed at companies hiring long term contractors as a way of hiding their employment and reducing tax contributions. 

However, the noise that has been created around th aforementioned has hidden a much bigger economic phenomenon which the pandemic has accelerated to a point it is starting to break into the public narrative. That is the massive rise in skilled workers working on a project-by-project basis and the reciprocal companies relying more heavily on value-based transient workers who add huge amounts of value in short bursts to all aspects of their development. There are now over 5 million people working as self-employed in the UK and 60m in the US, but perhaps more interestingly there is a much larger underground movement of side hustles. Over a third of UK working age adults have side hustles, with a huge proportion of people starting these over lockdown. 

This segment is so important because it is where the greatest infrastructural and cultural changes are happening to the way we work with the majority of work expected to come from this segment in the future. There is a supply-push of skilled individuals wanting to work on their own terms for multiple clients (a trend perfectly summarised by a skilled project manager I spoke to who said “why would I be an employee? I don’t just want to have one client.”). There is also a demand-pull from companies who have adopted sophisticated communication and project management technology over the pandemic allowing them to swap long term staff out for short term workers without changing their processes or approach, leading to the birth of a whole new way of work. 

The two trends we believe are most important when it comes to this new style of work:

  1. Individuals working with businesses as part of a blended workforce where they commercialise their skillset to achieve project-based success for a number of clients rather than working up the ladder for one. This is coupled with a massive reduction in the need for full time staff in businesses as admin processes are automated and value is drawn from high skilled workers in a more transient way.
  2. In the same way the late 20th century gave birth to the SME agency, we are now seeing the rise of the collaboration agency. There are two formats of this trend: 
    1. No one hires an agency based on the talent of the junior or mid-level staff. Instead, they are hired for the combined experience of the directors who are trusted to delegate the work. So, instead of having a roster of full time employees, agencies are increasingly relying on a bench of rolling freelancers who can deliver highly specialised, high quality work. But going one step further 
    2. We have the fully collaborative agencies where groups of individuals band together to deliver large high value projects in a way that was previously administratively prohibitively difficult. This new form of project based agency is an example of how technology and the rise of the freelancer is allowing for a new kind of economic efficiency with little to no overheads. 

But what is holding them back?

In the next email on Thursday 14th April we’re going to dive into the 5 key barriers this movement is facing that are a bottleneck to individual commercial success as well as economic growth. Being a key part of this movement is an opportunity to have a say in the  infrastructure that will support how companies and individuals around the world operate professionally. 

Why are we sending you these emails?

UnderPinned is at the very core of this movement, with deep knowledge and a network of people that have operated at the grassroots of this movement as well as a team that’s built for this specific problem. We’re in the midst of the biggest change in working styles since the Victorian mechanistic revolution. 

We will be opening our doors to formal investment conversations on the 9th May.

If you’d like to read about UnderPinned and these trends in the news, click here to head to our Media Room.

If you’d like to talk with me, please contact me here: albert@underpinned.com

This investment opportunity will open its doors to first formal conversations on the week commencing the 9th of May. If you’re interested in being part of these conversations, please email me directly for a private discussion.