Freelancing in Europe 2022: Companies can learn a lot from freelancers

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Paris — Characteristics of being a freelancer such as being independent, working on interesting projects and developing one’s skills, are constantly attracting new talent.  With the job market being quite tense at the moment, particularly in the digital field, working with freelancers can be strategic for companies who are looking to boost digital transformation.  Who are freelancers and what are their skills and aspirations?  What can they teach us about the future of work?  The second edition of the BCG x Malt report Freelancing in Europe which surveyed 3,300 freelancers in France, Spain, and Germany has found that digital freelancers embody some of the major trends in the future of work. 

Vinciane Beauchene, Managing Director and Partner with BCG explains that “by breaking down paradigms within work organization and bringing to light new aspirations such as flexibility and the search for meaning, the pandemic has paved the way for a growing number of freelancers within a broader spectrum of skills and fields.  Because they are experienced, agile, and thriving, freelancers offer an interesting perspective on the future of work, which companies should follow proactively.

Vincent Huguet, CEO and co-founder of Malt says: “taking a close interest in the freelance market, in a broader sense means keeping an eye on the future of work.  This new edition of Freelancing in Europe highlights the fact that, in the war for talent, freelancers serve as true catalysts for transformation for companies.  Their range of competencies, level of expertise and thirst for knowledge have made them pollinators of innovation, which every company, regardless of its size, should seize.”

Freelance workers’ competencies and fields of expertise are expanding

Both the health crisis and the rise of new ways of working have resulted in major growth in freelancing: 53% of freelancers surveyed acquired this status less than four years ago. They are young (37 years old on average in France), fairly balanced in terms of gender (57% men and 43% women), and their primary motivation is independence (95% in France). Other motivating factors include flexibility (83%), being able to choose where they work (78%), being able to work in line with their personal values (78%) and finally, being able to choose their clients and projects (77%). In addition to major growth, freelancing is also experiencing diversification and expanding skills. Digital professions, such as SEO experts, UX designers, DevOPs specialists, developers, web designers and social media managers increased by 27% between 2020 and 2021. There was also an increase in more traditional jobs such as support and project management (63% between 2020 and 2021).

According to the survey, 7 out of 10 freelancers wish to stay independent, while 7 out of 10 digital talents say they are ready to change jobs in the next two to three years (taken from a BCG report). Furthermore, depending on the position, 60 to 80% are quite confident when it comes to their professional future.

Freelancers are at the forefront of new ways of working and a source of inspiration for all companies, from SMEs to major corporations

In France and in Spain, freelancers work mostly with SMEs. In Germany, 20% collaborate with large corporations (versus 14% in France and 5% in Spain). All are at the forefront of new ways of working and a source of inspiration for all companies, whether they be small businesses, SMEs, or major corporations.

91% of freelancers have worked for a company at some point in their career and have on average 9 years of professional experience. Digital workers spend about a half day per week on their training and development. The same figure was found in the 2020 report, and it is a significant advantage, given that digital skills become obsolete within 18 months. Furthermore, freelancers are quite versatile – more than half have already switched specialties – and are also keen to work with their counterparts: 70% of respondents have already worked on projects with several other freelance workers. In France, 69% of tech and data freelance workers use Agile methodology, as 80% of them consider it to be an efficient way of working.

What it takes for freelancers and companies to work together successfully

Vinciane Beauchene, Managing Director and Partner with BCG explains that “during this time of talent shortage, companies are looking to speed up digital and analytical transformation by turning to freelancers who offer the right skills at the right time.  This solution serves as a quick fix to an urgent project deadline, albeit one that is still relied on too often.  In order to benefit from this ecosystem’s true value, companies will need a structured approach through adapting their value proposition, developing a finer and more active understanding of their in-house skill-set and formalizing practices.”

In order to attract the best talent, companies must cultivate an appealing value proposition and ensure that it offers quality partnerships. The survey reveals that when thinking about taking on an assignment, freelancers consider interest in the project to be twice as important as pay. More than half of freelance workers would turn down an assignment from a company with whom they don’t share similar beliefs.

Furthermore, 25% of respondents say that the primary challenge they come across is negotiating the right price for their services. Terms of payment and income irregularity are also mentioned. Both communication and flexibility come up as key elements in securing an efficient partnership with a freelancer. For those working with large companies, a good working relationship (69% in France), a qualitative initial briefing (for 50% of French freelancers) and regular communication (49%) are the key factors to success. Finally, 56% of freelancers consider that inflexible procedures are the main obstacle to them working with large companies.

According to Vincent Huguet, CEO and co-founder of Malt, “in order to continue working with talent who does not wish to work in salaried positions, companies will need to largely incorporate outsourcing into their recruiting plan.  This will also encourage companies to think not only about their employer brand, but also about their freelance brand.



Survey conducted in September 2021, among 3,334 freelancers registered on the MALT platform, in three countries: France (2091 freelancers), Spain (688 freelancers) and Germany (555 freelancers).


Claire Lebret

Julie Busson

Victoire Rivaton

About Malt

Founded in 2013 by Vincent Huguet (CEO) and Hugo Lassiège (CTO), with Alexandre Fretti as Managing Director, Malt is a European marketplace where more than 310,000 freelance consultants put their skills and expertise at the service of companies looking for external talents to accelerate their projects. It already has more than 30,000 clients, including 36 CAC 40 companies. With 300 employees (50% women and men), Malt is present in France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, and Belgium.
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