Project fees for gig professionals rose 11% for 2022 over 2021, compared with average salary increments between 9.5% and 10.6% for India Inc’s full-time employees, shows research by white-collar gig platform Flexing It. The research considered 175,000 data points from short- and long-term projects.
According to the Aon salary increase survey in September, the actual salary hike for 2022 was at 10.6%, while according to the Willis Towers Watson Salary Budget Planning Report in August, the actual average salary increase for India’s corporate workforce stood at 9.5%.
Organisations are predominantly leveraging freelance talent for their skills and expertise, and not as much for the cost.
“Our 2021 study on ‘Understanding Perspectives of Skilled Freelancers’ indicated that nearly 90% of skilled freelancers work on strategic projects and 30% of them were hired because organisations needed access to specialised skills not available internally. As a result, consultants with in-demand skills can command commensurate fee levels,” said Flexing It founder Chandrika Pasricha.
Freelancers typically do not get any benefits and retirals like full-time employees and consequently, build these costs into their project fees.
Flexing It research also found that nearly 70% of the freelancers received a premium over their full-time counterparts. The quality of freelance experience – a combination of prior work experience, nature and quality of experience, and prior client feedback – has a substantial impact on fees.
Tech, IT Pay Most
Across levels, IT and technology emerged as the highest-paying sectors for younger freelancers. Senior freelancers in strategy and finance earn the highest project fees.
However, the gender pay gap persists in freelancing too – the overall gap currently standing at 35-40%. “There is a significant gap (50%+) in ‘women-friendly’ skills like HR too. IT, along with technology, has the lowest gap in project fees at 5%,” Pasricha said.
The research revealed that greater confidence in and sensitisation toward the flexible talent marketplace has contributed to the ecosystem becoming more open and transparent toward project fees.
“Organisations are keen to look at more market benchmarks or internal parity factors to peg fair project fees,” said Pasricha.
The July-September quarter saw strong growth in demand for freelance talent, including a 50% increase in marketing as a skill in demand in Q2 of FY23 over the previous corresponding period. Projects like building direct-to-consumer or ecommerce channels are leading this disruption. Within marketing, more than 50% of marketing projects emerge from FMCG/ personal & household products, followed by healthcare.
Demand for skills in consulting and strategy stayed consistently high.
Professionals continue to join the freelance workforce. Flexing It has seen the highest-ever registration of consultants in the July-September quarter, an increase of 25% over last quarter. About 30% of this is accounted for by young freelancers with less than 5 years of experience.