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A few years back, a survey by payout platform Hyperwallet had predicted: The Future of Gig Work is Female. According to this survey, professional freelancing, direct selling, and working on service platforms are the top three gigs women opt for.
Did you know that freelancing demands have hiked by 22% in January 2021 compared to January 2019? Similarly, according to a study by Payoneer, one in every five Indian freelancers is a woman. Another Payoneer report has released a list of top 10 freelancer growth countries, in which India has positioned second, with a growth of 160%.
The rigid working environment in India and our culture have a crucial role in this hike. The pandemic has also brought a drastic change in the industry dynamics, giving rise to freelance culture, not only in India but across the globe.
The varied responsibilities of women have also changed, which have empowered them to start freelancing ﹘ which is their first step towards entrepreneurship.
Let’s dive into the factors that are empowering women to freelance.
Why women freelancers are thriving in India
Apart from advanced development of technology, automation, internet access, and digitisation, here are some common factors behind the rise of women in freelancing.
(1) Cultural norms
Our culture has created a norm where women have to manage household chores as a priority. This has created limitations among them, where they feel under pressure to manage those responsibilities. The arrival of freelancing has allowed them to work at their preferred time and pace. So, we can say that this norm has become the most significant factor behind the rise of women freelancing.
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(2) Financial support to the family
Various studies have found that establishing a work-life balance has increased mental and physical health issues among women. This is most likely why they opt for freelancing.
While women must prioritise family, they must also support them financially, especially during a crisis. Quartz India has highlighted that many women have started small ventures to support their families. This has also allowed them to conquer household responsibilities.
(3) Dire need of flexibility
Indian womens’ challenges with unpaid work constantly push them to find flexibility in their personal life. While balancing personal and professional spaces, women seek flexibility in office hours, meetings, and events. Some women may feel inconvenienced with travelling long distances to reach office, while others are restricted to do so. The expectation of flexibility has increased for women.
(4) Solopreneurs or startup culture
The newer generations are leveraging the available technological resources to unleash their creativity. Earlier, the startup industry was dominated by men ﹘ women are now converting their creativity into viable businesses and turning into solopreneurs. They are collaborating with others to become a part of startups.
Big brands and corporations are also looking for reliable freelancers for their projects and are investing in women-led businesses.
(5) Desire for self-actualisation
A person indeed feels accomplished when they establish themselves as financially independent. According to a recent survey with 50 women, 48% of women desire to feel self-actualised and accomplished. It can happen only when they become financially independent through a job or a business venture. Financial independence makes women good decision-makers and helps them find themselves and fulfil their dreams. Freelancing gives them the opportunity to fulfil their desire for self-actualisation.
How the pandemic encouraged women entrepreneurship
The pandemic caused more job losses for women compared to men, thus forcing them to stay at home. Phases of complete lockdown impacted every sector. It not only affected high-paying corporate jobs but also domestic services.
According to Bain & Company’s report, the pandemic impacted 73% of women entrepreneurs, of which 20% of businesses did not receive any revenue. 35% of women experienced revenue loss from 25% to 75% because of their business shut down. The report also states that 44% of women changed their business model during the pandemic.
For women who lost their jobs, many found freelancing to be a better option for them. YourStory has also listed five women entrepreneurs who have successfully sustained their business during COVID-19.
Homemakers, on the other hand, began monetising their talents in cooking, baking, arts, designing, dancing, teaching, etc., which they were otherwise doing only for their families.
Slowly and steadily, these women are growing their small businesses into brands.
The pandemic brought several names forward due to this pivot. Forbes India shared some examples of Indian women entrepreneurs who have won the COVID-19 war. MyGov and UN Women organised the COVID-19 Shri Shakti Challenge to encourage women entrepreneurship, in which six women-led startups won for their innovative business ideas.
Fortune magazine states that the flexibility of remote working is revolutionising women freelancing and might remain for a long period of time.
All this is sufficient to understand that the pandemic has encouraged the spirit of entrepreneurship in Indian women.
How freelancing is the first step towards entrepreneurship
A woman feels confident when she has financial freedom and decision-making abilities.
In India, where most middle and lower-class families believe that marriage is more important than education, it is rare to see family members encouraging their daughters to start their own business. This affects womens’ ability to choose entrepreneurship. To make women do something independently and feel free and confident, initiating freelancing is the best solution.
Freelancing is a kind of entrepreneurship as well, and here are some mandatory skills to become a successful entrepreneur.
- Passion and ambition
- Courage and risk-taking
- Collaboration and teamwork
- Empathy and kindness
- Growth mindset
And, the interesting thing is that while freelancing, you can acquire and develop all the above skills.
Here’s why freelancing is the first step to entrepreneurship:
- Irrespective of the industry, freelancing gives women multiple options regarding their new venture. Women can choose according to their interests, and a business based on passion always succeeds.
- Whether you are a full-time working woman or a homemaker, it is tough to choose to work as a freelancer. It helps to start a side hustle at first. Once you choose to freelance, you can automatically feel independent.
- In the initial stage of freelancing, you need to find your clients and leverage specific platforms yourself. You have to decide your pricing structure and deadlines and become a pro in negotiation while dealing with clients. You’ll have to learn marketing to market your services, make a system of invoices, and find teammates for expansion. Doing all this yourself makes you a prominent decision-maker.
- All this does not happen overnight; you need to work every day and be patient. Through consistent actions, you develop the habit of discipline.
- By making decisions strategically, you learn how to take risks, handle challenges, manage well under pressure, and deal with uncertain situations.
All these learnings will help you develop the essential skills to start your entrepreneurship journey.
Our culture and norms teach women to support their partner and family in all aspects. When women witness the pain of job loss and financial problems, they prefer to help their family in any way they can.
Freelancing can be their first step to come out of their comfort zone and showcase their skills.
Continuous skill development would take you on the journey of entrepreneurship. Initiate it, take risks, upskill yourself, make decisions, and build teams to excel in this journey.
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