Forget Uber: Online self-employment gigs are booming in popularity

By Oliver Smith 22 September 2016

Freelance digital jobs in Britain soared 14%.

Forget offices, desks or working from home, in the future you might never even meet your employer.

Uber, Deliveroo, TaskRabbit often make the headlines as the flag-bearers of alternative employment, but there’s an online type of work which is growing even faster.

Sites like Freelancer.com and PeoplePerHour are leading this trend, letting anyone post projects for self-employed coders, designers, writers, and website developers to take on.

Jobs on these platforms include things like; designing a new logo for a company, creating business cards, and data organisation or entry.

Boom time

The total number of new jobs on these kinds of sites in the UK have jumped a huge 14% since May alone, according to new data.

That’s the finding of the Online Labour index, newly launched by Professor Vili Lehdonvirta and Dr Otto Kässi at the Oxford Internet Institute.

This job growth is actually outpacing the rest of the economy, according to the report’s authors, compared to the stagnant traditional jobs market in the UK and US.

But this job creation isn’t necessarily all a good thing.

The dark side of sharing

As we’ve detailed before the Sharing Economy (or gig economy) at large is rife with jobs that sidestep the traditional rights of employees.

Some of these are justified, where the self-employed work on their own terms to dip in and out of work as and when they choose.

Other times businesses in the gig economy employ onerous conditions on how contractors work which blur the line between freelancer and employee.

Read more: Deliveroo has triggered the Sharing Economy’s day of reckoning

In the UK Uber is now facing a lawsuit from drivers who are demanding minimum wage, holiday pay and the right not to be discriminated against or have deductions made from their salary.

Platforms like Freelancer.com and PeoplePerHour are great for those who choose to do some freelance work as they generally act more like pure marketplaces simply connecting workers with those needing work done.

That said, if these jobs continue to grow in size and popularity as the gig economy as a whole is, it’s crucial to remember that these workers lack the safety net of full time employment.

If people are choosing this self-employed line of work, but maybe a more worrying trend if large numbers of employers start using these platforms instead of employing staff.