One of the stronger, more active, economies for freelancers is The Netherlands. Overall, published estimates suggest that over one million freelancers pursuing their profession as part- or full-time freelancers in this country of over 17 million people.
That equates to over 5% of the population, and over 10% of a workforce just under 10 million. While growth in 2022 was 3.7%, uncertainty about the global economy is forecasted to reduce GDP to 1.3% in 2024. The Dutch labor market remains relatively. The unemployment rate is forecast to pick up further, from 3.7% in 2022 to 4.3% in 2023 and 2024. The main professional categories of freelancing are well-represented in the Netherlands: strong software and hardware tech professionals, creatives involved in marketing, advertising, SEO and expertise in graphic design, photography and videography, and independent management consulting.
What’s the forecast for freelancing in The Netherlands? According to the OECD, the Dutch economy is expected to grow at pre-pandemic rates supporting a strong freelance performance in many areas, as hiring remains tight. But rather than seek generalities from government estimates, we asked CEOs from the major freelancing platforms to comment on their view of the opportunities and challenges of being a freelancer this year and in the next couple of years.
Here’s what they said:
Jonnie Cartmill CEO of Workfree.io, pointed to the macro-economic and social drivers, combined with The Netherlands cultural embrace of innovation and change giving freelancing a strong push:
“As a top tech hub, The Netherlands has always been open to innovation and change. With the rise of remote work due to Covid, and recent layoffs, more and more are turning to freelancing. Trends are like the US, 50% of GenZ & Millennials freelance. 70% of tech execs rely on freelancing to fill skills gaps and access talent quickly. Companies embracing blended teams of freelancers and fulltime employees will have a competitive edge in the ‘new’ war on talent.”
Kiki Calis, CEO of The Freelance Qommunity emphasizes the lifestyle allure of freelancing to Dutch people of all ages:
“This year there is a peak in the number of freelancers in The Netherlands. Freelancing is the new lifestyle. It’s not a trend, it’s not the future, it’s happening now. For Gen-Zs who want to switch jobs easily, for Millennials who want to work remotely, for Boomers who want to make more impact with their expertise after 15 years of experience at an advertising agency. For most of our members, purpose, and autonomy, have more value than a big salary.”
Niels Arntz, Co-founder of Temper reinforced Callis’ emphasis:
“At Temper, we see more and more people entering the job market who really want to work, but only if they can decide for themselves what, where and when. It’s a broader trend: people want freedom and flexibility and are re-prioritizing the role of work. We believe this will increase. The labor market in which these people find themselves is dominated by structural shortages – mainly due to an aging population – that will not disappear in the coming years. We need to embrace the desire for freedom, or we will not fix the current mismatch between the supply and demand of work.”
Edwin van de Bospoort CEO of Fring pointed out substantial degree of partnership already in the Dutch market where tech departments, as an example, already rely on Freelancers and other external partners:
“We’ve noticed that many companies are increasingly relying on skilled freelancers. We have noticed a considerable number of tech departments that rely on external employees for over 50% of their workforce. The freelance market in the Netherlands is competitive, and hiring managers face a war on talent to secure the best candidates. A challenge is that HR and purchasing departments often prioritize processes over hiring quality. There is a slow shift towards prioritizing quality, as businesses recognize the importance of attracting top talent to drive success.”
Louise Doorn, CEO of HelloMaaS, a marketing and creative services platform points out how companies are implementing what Fring’s van de Bospoort described in his comments:
Out of 9.6m people working in the Netherlands 1.6m are freelancing. This number continues to grow each quarter. One out of 5 jobs are now done by a freelance worker. The Dutch labor market is tight. We see that many companies continue to prioritize hiring in-house and keep high demands on experience and capabilities, Progressive companies are future-proofing their organisations by hiring for key roles (60-70%) and allocating the remaining OpEx to a flex solution of vetted freelancers. Each quarter clients can dial up and down skills and capabilities but only need to onboard freelancers once.
Sebastian van ‘t Hoff and Bob van Es, Co-CEOs of SABest.nl describe how their company demonstrates that freelance economy operating within and on behalf of The Netherlands is both robust and increasingly global:
“We formed a South African freelance remote workforce, especially for the Netherlands. By delivering top quality for a better price, we have a definite advantage. The same time zone and language, as well as work ethics, are elements that vouch for South African freelancers. We are like everyone else aware of the economic situation but hope to weather the storm ahead. If the demand for permanent positions will replace the demand for flexibility, it is many years away. Flexibility is needed for growth. Where people used to see freelancers as a brain drain, they are now regarded as add-on expertise.”
Lee Willoughby, Co-CEO Bubty describes a next evolution of the freelance economy in The Netherlands and elsewhere. More and more large and medium sized corporates, as well as not-for-profit agencies and municipalities, are creating talent clouds to remain connected with selected freelancers. Whether it’s a boon to marketplaces, leading to more business, or a tough competitor, is yet to be determined:
“We see many prominent companies implementing internal talent pool freelance strategies to tap into qualified resources quickly and easily. This approach enables companies to own their own talent pools and reflects a growing understanding that businesses can build internal talent pools. The adoption of internal talent pool freelance strategies is a valuable approach for companies to meet their hiring needs in the competitive Dutch labor market.”
What are the overall conclusions from the guidance of our Dutch CEOs? The freelance revolution is growing for both economic and deep cultural reasons. More Dutch independent professionals see freelancing as an attractive career path. Client-side freelancing hires may have hit a temporary speed bump until the Dutch and EU economy improves, but the trend is evidently bullish longer term. Corporates are more interested in benefiting from freelance access, expertise, and the speed of on-boarding and time to productivity.
Viva la Revolution!
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