We all know Freelancing is the is the future of Employment. In the US itself 34% of the Professionals work as Freelancers. If you are reading this that means either you are a freelancer or you want to be a freelancer or maybe you want to hire a freelancer, but what I can vouch for is that you know about Freelancing. Have you ever questioned yourself about the origin of freelancing? Today what we tend to curtail as mere online working seeps its roots to as early as 10th century. Shocked? I know you are, so why don’t we dive into the history of Freelancing and know some cool facts about the evolution of the” Freelancer”.
In the middle ages, the freelancers were the soldiers who offered their services to the kings who paid them. They were mainly such soldiers who had already lost their kings in wars and now fought for whoever they wanted to. These hired soldiers were common after 1000 A.D. These soldiers in English were more commonly known as condottiere. The term basically refers to the leader of a band of mercenary soldiers. Latin records indicate that these soldiers were initially called stipendiaries. Again as the name suggests, these are soldiers who worked on stipends provided.
These mercenary soldiers had their main origin in 13th century Italy.
At this point of discussion, it’s important to mention about Wallenstein who was a well known mercenary leader and had actively participated in the 30 years of war that took place in Medieval Europe. He offered his services to the emperor Ferdinand II and possessed an army of 1 25 000 soldiers. He was a Protestant by birth but provided his services to the Catholic making it even worse for the Protestants. Strongly backed by the Hapsburg family, he continued to become the supreme commander of their army. He even converted to Catholicism in 1606.
Wallenstein was married to a rich widow who died shortly after the marriage. Her early death gave Wallenstein an access to her riches which he started using to build an army; being himself the leader. Three years later he fought a war against Venice, won it and increased his army further. He started working as a contractor. He fought in the Bohemian revolt against the Protestants. This was the first time Wallenstein worked under Ferdinand II and ended up with flying colours ( other than Ferdinand II, there were other leaders acing the war, e.g. Johann Tserclaes). He continued with a series of further wins over the Protestants, however; the defeat of the Protestants at Dessau bridge needs a special acknowledgement here.
Things were going fine but with every battle, Wallenstein was turning more and more fierce. In order to increase the army, he not only started plundering villages but also ruthlessly raping the women. As he was a man who represented the Catholics and the king, this was not at all good for their reputation. Also, with his ever-growing power, the king felt that he had lost his control over Wallenstein. Consequently, the king had to dismiss Wallenstein. Moreover, several Protestant victories over the Catholics forced the king to call him back. He helped him with the battles and even won them. Although, all along Wallenstein was little pissed off at the king. This was mainly because of the king’s obscure behaviour. He decided to create his own empire. On the other hand, the king continued to grow more and more suspicious of Wallenstein. He had already sensed his intentions and before he could create one, he was killed by his soldiers.
This is just one tale of a mercenary, nevertheless, there are many more. This one I personally feel is of utmost importance because it includes a very substantial real example explaining in a very detailed way the concept of contractors or calls it freelancers. I know, that the end meets a tragedy but had Wallenstein not misused is rising powers, he could have continued flourishing. This also gives an intense message that freedom should always be complemented with responsibility, else it can be self-destructive.
This is how freelancing or contract working or remote working or condottiere was perceived ages before. Now the story of the emergence of freelance in modern time is even more fascinating.
The word freelancer in itself is a very interesting term. The word comes from two different languages. The first part of the word, i.e.free comes from the Germanic origin and it means “ to love”. The later half “lance” comes from French origin and it means “to throw or discharge with force.” Combining the word one would understand the meaning as something pertaining to freedom. This freedom can be in context to different things ranging from application of force to simply living and surviving. This is solely my interpretation obtained from the two meanings of the words. From website to website, one might get different meanings and interpretations. One most common interpretation is “ someone who hurls his/her skills into the work he/she loves”. Though I do not approve of this definition as it hardly talks about freedom.
In today’s context is freelancing not all about freedom? Maybe not all, but it does form a very important aspect of freelancing. A beginner or a fresher enters into this field with the hope that no longer he/she will have to remain a subordinate to someone. At least, I did the same. It was only later that I realized that it was not possible. You might not work under someone but you do have restrictions. Time is the biggest boss. Be it freelancing or any other field, one needs to stick to the deadlines. The quest for freedom never ends. One might deny going to an office, but would that end the slavery? As long as, someone else pays us for our work, we continue to be under someone. In this case, it would be the clients. Even the biggest of the biggest companies exist because they have customers. So if we see it that way, they are our slaves. That might sound funny but that’s true. It’s just a too direct way of saying it. Now without diving any further into this, I would like to get back to the topic.
So the word was used for the first time in the book The Life and Times of Hugh Miller by Thomas N. Brown (1809). That is the oldest reference we so far have. Also later, in the book “Ivanhoe”, Sir Walter Scott used the word. The lines from the book are “I offered Richard the service of my Free Lances, and he refused them—I will lead them to Hull, seize on shipping, and embark for Flanders; thanks to the bustling times, a man of action will always find employment.”
Later the word “freelance” was used to refer to a politician who had no political affiliation. So basically, these were independent politicians who did not want to work under any political organization. They had their own terms and principles and they valued them by not compromising with them. This relates very much to the use of the word freelancer in today’s era.
History of Freelancing in Late 90s
The modern freelancing, that we know of today, came into being in America. The credit goes to Jack Nilles and Frank Schiff. Nilles coined the term telecommunication. Later, another term “flexiplace” was coined by Schiff.
Nilles came up for the first time with the idea of telecommunication. During those days,i.e., 1970s , there was transportation problem in the cities and it was utterly inconvenient for the people living in the remote areas to travel to the main towns for their everyday work. Even the government was concerned about this and was looking for a solution to this issue. It is said that necessity is the mother of invention. The world was thrilled by the invention of the telephone by Graham Bell in 1876. By 1970s it was already in use in the offices of U.S. This is what struck Nilles and he came up with the idea that telephone could be used to resolve the problem. He introduced the concept of working from home through telephones. Since that was a time when internet had not yet shown up to amaze the world, many were apprehensive of the idea of working from home. There were a lot of concerns and in order to introduce this concept of remote work into the mainstream masses it was necessary to prove that it works. So he started experimenting at the University of California and he did manage to get good results. This is how he could obtain the fundings from the national science foundation. As mentioned earlier, even the government was supportive about this idea as it not only provided a solution to the problem of transportation but also it could cut down the consumption of fuels and provide a check to the rising levels of pollution in the U.S.
Frank Schiff was very vocal about the perks of working from home. He was mainly concerned about the increased use of gasoline and other fuels. He assisted the proposals of Nills. As the head of the Committee for economic development, he advocated the concept of remote working quite a lot. In his article “ working from home can save gasoline” which was published in The Washington Post, he beautifully describes the advantages of remote working. He rather calls it “flexiplace” or “flexible workplace”. The way he talks in his article about working from home by citing several examples from fields as different as economics and providing substantial statistical evidence, makes it impossible for the reader to turn a blind eye to the advantages of remote working or so to say “ freelancing”. Even in those days, he was able to put forward the concept of using internet so provocatively; is yet another amiable feature of this article. Consequently, this article gained a huge popularity in the U.S and dragged the idea of freelancing into “limelight”, whereby everyone started reviewing the pros and cons of it.
Gil Gordon, a recruiting and staffing expert, is yet another name to be mentioned here. He contributed a lot to the propagation of telecommunication. Along with Jack Nilles, he was the one to accentuate the advantages of freelancing or remote work from a scientific point of view. He even organized a national conference asserting the advantages of freelancing. He went on to publish his own bulletin “telecommunity review”. While Gordon and Nilles continued exploring telecommunication from a scientific standpoint, Schiff was busy in studying the practical application of remote work. He and Edward Fleming were implementing freelancing on various government agencies. It was only through these experiments that it was concluded that not all the works befit freelancing; however many did.
As the time passed, the use of internet kept becoming more and more common. Earlier the fundamental unit of the economy was believed to be a cooperation, freelancing challenged this belief and showed the world that it was an individual who does a work and not a chain of authorities.
Freelancing today: In the late 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, these individuals started connecting to each other for a particular work and when the work was done the connections were dissolved thus making them again freelancers. Since these individuals were connected to each other through the internet a new term “e-lancers” was born. During the initial years of 21st century, the entire field of internet boomed at an unimaginable speed. Now almost everyone had access to the internet. Connecting with individuals became a cakewalk. The first freelancing marketplace was founded in the year 1999 and Today around 1000+ Freelance Portal on the Web. In this Huge world, Truelancer played a significant role to provide millions of Job Opportunities to uprising talent.
As the number of such companies grows, the competition in the market increases exponentially and so do the options available for the freelancers and clients. This might be a trouble for the competing marketplaces but is a boon for the client and the freelancer. Freelancers can use this opportunity to explore the best marketplaces- platforms which pay them well. Clients can at the same time look for platforms which charge the least.
Though I believe that too much inclination towards any of the abovementioned sides will only degrade the performance of the marketplace. If a site is paying too well, it will definitely attract good freelancers but the clients will abstain from it. Similarly, if a website pays too low, it might even get freelancers but the new clients will always remain apprehensive about the quality of the work. Therefore, a balance is necessary to achieve. Now, it is said that cricket is a batsman’s game, similarly, currently, the field of freelancing is dominated by the clients. The reason being that there are countless freelancers looking for jobs but we have only a handful of clients. The world recession has left many jobless and a great part of these jobless people have turned to freelance as the alternative career option. This makes the field a lot more challenging for a newcomer.
Clients generally trust only the experienced freelancers and even if they somehow manage to grab a project or two, the chances of getting exploited remain high. So in order to establish themselves, it is very important to be an expert in their respective fields. Some clients are really choosy and are ready to pay good bucks, provided the quality of the work done is outstanding. So for that to happen, a good grip on the subject or topic is an absolute must. Another factor that can influence the earnings of a freelancer to a great extent is the field he or she is in. For example, a software developer earns much more than a content writer. The reason is that there are already a lot of content writers to offer their services but software developers are limited. Fewer supply increases demand and thus the rates. So sensing the market before jumping into it is very necessary.
But this is only one side of the story. There are people who outsource the work for the sole purpose of finding the best person who could do it. This keeps the spirit of freelancing alive. I do feel that this field has expanded itself not just to those who need money but also to those who want more. With the swift pace of time, the entire perception is changing. Freelancers no longer want to remain the mere subject of exploitation. Also, a lot of real talents have entered the field. The concept is to work for the maximum number of bucks one can get for a particular task. There are a lot of people who quit their jobs and start freelancing. I think such decisions are very much driven by the future scope of this field.
Today’s era is the era of digitalization. This generation believes in typing over writing and in robots over humans. The concept of work from home sounds so lucrative to everyone. People have made their own small virtual worlds on phones and laptops. While traveling in the metros, I often tend to contemplate this entire transformation which is happening right in front of our eyes and yet we almost remain oblivious to it. So would it be a surprise at all if we happen to live in a world where humans take up only online works and the manual things are done by robots! Maybe I am thinking way too down the line. Maybe I am not. Only a few years back mobiles were a dream and now every hand has got a phone. The point is that in this superfast digitizing world freelancing is just another stride towards technology.
As more and more companies are turning up to freelancers for their works, the picture ahead seems bright. With ever-growing number of startups, the field of freelancing is already pacing towards its glorious zenith. Moreover, it needs to be assured that it does not turn out to be a one-handed game. The challenges like exploitation of clients need to be checked so that we can together build a platform which is fair to all. The U.S. has taken a small stride in this direction by making it compulsory for the clients to pay the freelancers within 30 days of the work done. I hope that these small but yet effective rules are introduced all over the world under an international frame so that everyone is benefitted and not just few people living under a common boundary.