Shortage of skilled workers in digital professions: Highly qualified freelancers as an opportunity

The comprehensive digital transformation of German companies reveals the shortage of skilled workers in the digital industry. With the increasing speed of digitization, fueled by social distancing and the obligation to work from home, digital work processes and experts for their implementation are in demand.

Project managers, marketing experts, graphic designers or software developers are desperately needed – but highly qualified freelancers are often overlooked in the recruiting process for various reasons; the gap between supply and demand for skilled workers is widening. The growing freelancing industry in Germany has a great deal of experience and expertise in digital professions – and could contribute to solving the increasing “skill gap” in companies of all sizes and industries. These are the findings of the Freelancing in Europe 2022 study conducted by strategy consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in collaboration with Malt, a digital one-stop shop for companies looking for freelance experts. For this purpose, 3,300 solo self-employed were surveyed from July to September 2021 about their working habits.

Germany, your freelancers

Freelancing is popular because it promotes independence, flexibility and appreciation. A quarter of the 13 million digital experts in Europe already work as freelancers*.
Specialists from various professional fields are increasingly recognizing the advantages of solo self-employment. The freelancer marketplace malt shows an increase of 27 percent in digital job categories such as UX designer, web designer, social media manager or developer for the year 2021. The growth is even greater in more “traditional” job profiles such as business development, sales or operations, where Malt saw 63 percent growth in 2021. For 95 percent, the step was an intrinsically motivated decision, almost nine out of ten are happy with their careers.

Across Europe, German freelancers can draw on the most work experience in an employment relationship at 10 years (France and Spain 9 years each), and they also devote almost half a working day a week to further training. German freelancers are also the happiest in Europe (87 percent). Three quarters therefore want to remain self-employed in the long term. The prospect of financial success is also good. The German freelancers surveyed are happy about an average daily rate of 790 euros across all sectors – three times as much as their Spanish and one and a half times as much as their French counterparts.

Unlike in Spain and France, where 77 and 69 percent of freelancers mainly work with small companies, the labor market for German freelancers is more balanced: last year, 43 percent worked primarily with small companies, 37 percent with medium-sized companies and 20 percent with large companies
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The use of solo self-employed in corporations is getting rolling, with the increasing number of digital freelancers, decision-makers have quick and easy access to the experts they need. The reasons for choosing freelancers are obvious:

    • An average of ten years of work experience; 79 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree
    • Half of all freelancers and almost four out of five IT specialists (78 percent) are very familiar with agile working methods – and thus more than in any other country ● Up-to-date: German freelancers spend an average of four hours a week on further training
    • Opportunity for companies and freelancers to work together
    • The quick availability paired with high digital knowledge and the affinity for hybrid working models and agile methods represents an opportunity to stimulate the cultural change of the working world in companies together with freelancers and to raise the digital transformation to the next level of development.
    • What companies and politicians should tackle in the next step in order to exploit the full potential of Germany’s freelancing industry:
    • False self-employment: German legislation must address the problem of false self-employment, i.e. self-employment without real independence. 77 percent of freelancers are dissatisfied with the legal framework.
    • Corporate culture: Companies of all sizes already work successfully with freelancers. Decision-makers actively encourage cultural change by implementing freelancers. In the freelancing sector there is potential for companies of all sizes to boost their own digital transformation.
    • Digital tools: In order to handle the process from hiring to onboarding to payment transparently and securely, companies and the self-employed must use digital platforms – to the benefit of both parties.

“Germany has the image of a lumbering giant. At the same time, the Corona Pandemic has relentlessly revealed the gaps in digitization. Specialists with the necessary expertise are needed to address the need for digitization in critical areas such as administration, infrastructure and healthcare,” comments Dirk Henke, General Manager DACH at Malt. “Freelancers are predestined for this task and could mean a huge boost for digitization. To do this, however, the legal framework for solo self-employment must be addressed, especially with regard to bogus self-employment.”

“In times of talent shortages, when companies are trying to accelerate their digital and analytical transformation, many turn to freelancers to find the right skills at the right time. Often it’s still an ad hoc fallback to to respond to the urgency of a project deadline,” says Vinciane Beauchene, partner at BCG in Paris and co-author of the study. “To realize the full potential of this ecosystem, companies need to structure their approach by adapting their added value, a more precise and dynamic one Develop an understanding of their internal talent pool and review the working methods in use The pandemic has disrupted a number of tenets around work, allowing for the emergence of new ideas and ways of thinking (flexibility, meaning-seeking), opening new opportunities for a growing number of multi-specialty professionals .As an experienced, agile and fulfilled solo self they offer an interesting perspective on the future of work that companies should proactively pursue.”