Freelancing can be a hassle. But there are more highs to it than lows, this is evident in the sporadic growth of the industry in the last couple of years. Who doesn't want the freedom and all that flexibility that comes with being a freelancer?
However, there is a brewing concern in the freelance industry — and nearly every other industry— over where exactly we stand in our relationship with machines and what this romance means for our future.
Yes, Artificial Intelligence (AI) replacing humans has been the theme of more sci-fi movies than we care to count, and we are beginning to see this play out right before our very eyes.
But can AI totally replace humans? The answer to that might not really be what you are thinking, in fact, research at hand suggests that the reverse could be the case.
In this article, we will look at how AI is transforming the freelance landscape. And what you should do to be on the right side of history as a freelancer.
The basic thinking is this— whatever task you perform with the aid of artificial intelligence comes at the cost of a human worker. Several industries use AI to automate repetitive and mindless tasks, for instance, popular automobile brands use a fully automated assembly line to perform several tasks. This comes at the cost of humans — a machine fixing the door of cars is doing that at the expense of a person who could do the same.
No. We are seeing even more progressive and thought-provoking advancements in the use of machines in all kinds of industries— even in the least expected. For instance, through generative AI, people now make something as subjective as complex artworks. The idea that AI can only be used effectively in engineering industries and the like is fast becoming laughable.
It is no doubt a thing of concern, however, a lot of data shows that AI isn't here to take your freelance jobs, instead, it is here to help.
According to an Upwork study, the demand for freelancers who are skilled in AI is fast increasing, in fact, their data shows that this was the second most sought skill in the platform in 2017.
This only means one thing — freelancers who have learned to use AI tools in their jobs are on the right path. To explain this better, a time in history comes to mind.
In the 18th century, when the sewing machines first came into the limelight, there was a lot of resistance with textile workers fearing that it was a monster conjured to take them out of business, centuries later we have seen how things played out— the industry experienced explosive growth, because it improved productivity!
The sewing machine scenario begs to make a case for AI in freelance. With all sorts of innovative AI tools on the internet, freelancers can increase their productivity and deliver even better quality to their clients.
Freelancers aren't going anywhere, not yet. Research suggests that the industry is growing at very impressive rates since the freelance boom of 2020, thanks to corona, and will continue on this track for the foreseeable future. Another Upwork data projects that the majority of the workforce will be freelancers by 2027.
Creative destruction occurs when certain innovations increase productivity in an industry by eliminating resource constraints, the textile industry mentioned earlier is one good example.
Companies understand creative destruction, and that is why they are leveraging AI in so many ways. According to Forbes, 76% of enterprises surveyed in a study plan to prioritize AI and machine learning initiatives ahead of other IT goals in 2021, and 83% of organizations have increased their budgets for AI since 2019.
Unlike popular assumptions, this trend also has some notable positive effects — more new jobs and subdisciplines are being created, and the demand for skilled freelancers that can manage these AI innovations is also rising.
But what benefits does AI offer to freelancers in general? Here are some ways AI can help your freelance career:
Productivity is a vast and crucial area of concern, more so for freelancers than traditional workers. The most productive freelancers no doubt make the most money from their businesses.
Productivity entails delivering good outputs at efficient costs.
This means performing your tasks while expending the least mental, physical and economic efforts. And of course, conserving the most important resource you need as a freelancer — your time.
As a freelancer, you can leverage AI in numerous ways to increase your productivity— from project planning to execution and communication with existing and potential clients. Some tasks do not need any human supervision or judgment, it is wise to consider machines for what they can offer there.
Machines are better than us at speed and ability to perform complex computations, this can be leveraged to complement your skills as a freelancer. Delegating tasks to AI is simply more productive than taking on all by yourself.
Through innovative communication tools, AI can help freelancers implement better communication with their clients and even seek more opportunities by leveraging AI-powered job platforms and cold-reach email tools.
By analysing data, smart tools can create a working strategy for your communication goals, some of which go as far as helping you craft thoughtful messages and even automating the delivery of these messages.
What's more? Tons of social media management tools can help you nurture an audience for your freelance business by helping you create and deliver engaging campaigns using a well-planned schedule.
Communication is only getting better with AI, and it is important to know the advantages this could mean for your freelance business.
A temptation for freelancers— especially newbies— is to take on as many jobs as they have in sight. This is no surprise given the competition and how difficult it could be to land a job.
However, this has more bad effects than good. Asides from freelancing, most people have other tasks they need to perform. And combining all that workload and your personal tasks can stretch you to mental incapacitation or even physical breakdown.
AI can help freelancers as assistants in this regard. With the sophistication of new technology, like virtual assistants, freelancers can reduce their cognitive load by incorporating tools to help them solve complex problems in their projects, they can also assign repetitive tasks to other tools.
The ability to go over millions of data records in minutes is not an ability to take with a pinch of salt.
AI can help freelancers create even better results, they can do this by analysing historical data to find patterns in the best samples. Then, using insights from this analysis, they can make suggestions in real time.
We have seen this kind of feature in auto suggestion tools, recommendation systems and several writing and editing tools available on the internet. Even the design field has a tool like Colormind that can recommend color schemes based on deep-learning models.
Furthermore, freelancers can make better informed decisions in tasks as complex as development or even data analysis by using AI. Tools like Jetbrains Android studio, for instance, through smart assistance can help developers write better code or optimise old code bases in record time.
A freelancer who cares about the quality that stands out should definitely put AI tools into consideration. However, it's important to note that humans still need to play supervisory roles in the use of AI.
AI tools can perform certain tasks that would otherwise mean you hiring extra pairs of hands, and they can do this sometimes for free.
There are countless free AI-based tools that freelancers can use, even the paid ones are relatively inexpensive or have a free tier. For instance, the Grammarly editor, popular among writers, offers great features on even a free plan. This can eliminate the cost of hiring a professional editor for simple editing tasks.
Another instance is seen in the UX field, UX designers, instead of planning and organising expensive physical tests and user interviews, can use sophisticated tools like Maze for usability testing — and for free.
Freelancers, therefore, can save more money by using these simple AI tools instead of outsourcing some functions to humans.
It wouldn't be a complete take if we discussed how AI is impacting freelancing without looking at some popular tools that freelancers are employing in their day-to-day activities. Yes, there are many of them and you would be missing out if you aren't aware of their capabilities.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, here are top tools to consider:
This AI tool can help freelancers plan and automate cold email approach campaigns. But it goes beyond that, originally developed for Google by the Boomerang team, this smart tool can analyse emails and suggest improvements that can help freelancers create the perfect emails for cold outreach.
This can lead to freelancers increasing their client base and getting more work.
For freelance copywriters, this AI-powered content generator is something worth looking at. If you are having trouble going beyond a blank page, this is an ideal way to start.
Using Copy.ai, you can generate all kinds of marketing copy and other content within seconds. All you need to do is provide a topic and some context then relax as the AI tool generates great content. However, it is recommended to not rely on AI generators and some clients frown at it.
Freelancers in the design fields can tell how stressful it can get to find suitable stock and free stock images for their projects.
EveryPixel is a smart search engine for stock photos that uses AI technology to find any kind of stock photo you need for your work from over 50 leading Stock image sources.
This tool can save you significant time.
In your job as a freelancer, you are bound to take on a lot of jobs, sometimes, this can lead to not meeting deadlines or delivering subpar work.
What if AI can help you better organize your projects? Well, it can. The Futurenda app helps freelancers to create sessions based on to-do lists, which they can make into agendas.
This intelligent tool can help monitor deadlines and consequently adjust agendas.
Into branding or digital arts? There are notable generative AI tools that can help you create beautiful logos from scratch in a short time.
Logopony is a popular one of such tools. This AI logo generator has a sophisticated algorithm that generates thousands of logo ideas by combining millions of premium fonts, colors and styles.
Digital marketing is a very popular freelance niche. And sometimes, keeping up with so many social media platforms can be a strenuous task.
Buffer is a popular digital marketing tool that can act as a virtual social media manager. Leave scheduling and other tasks to it while you focus on what really matters.
A digital virtual assistant, this tool is a great way to improve your productivity as it lets you delegate repetitive tasks to it, freeing up time for more demanding tasks.
Askbrain is a powerful AI digital assistant that can perform functions like language translation, company research, file conversion and can even help source images and other graphics.
AI has historically been woeful at some skills. Even with the recent developments in the industry like the generative AI tools like mid-journey and impressive chatbots like chatbot, AI still struggles notoriously in "humane" skills.
Jobs that require empathy, judgment, creativity and the insight humans bring to the table are where AI finds it unfavorable to compete. UX design is one of them, as it requires a lot of subjective considerations. Whether this will change in the future, is left to time.
Already, you can't overlook the notable impact of AI in UX design.
On the other hand, there is wide-scale adoption of AI in jobs that can be considered "Mechanic", AI has computing speed that humans cannot match. So, operations like large-scale data analysis are better left to tools.
AI is revolutionizing the way people work, nearly all fields of work are in one way or another affected by the sweeping impact of this industry. As freelancers, this trend offers more opportunities and positives than it does for even an average worker. Learning to leverage different AI tools in your work can increase your productivity and quality of output leading to more income. It is, therefore, a necessary topic of consideration.