Timo Lehne, Managing Director for SThree’s DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) region, looks at the challenges freelancers face during the pandemic and shares his top tips on how they can they enjoy the advantages of self-employment.

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What does the future look like for freelancers and the self-employed in the post-pandemic world? There couldn’t be a greater level of uncertainty surrounding this than at the current moment. And for many self-employed workers, freelancers, and companies, this means their livelihoods are very much at stake.

It’s difficult to predict when this will be overcome and we’ll have a clearer picture of their future.

However, freelancers are fundamental for Germany as a business location. They’re accelerators for transformation, vital for new start-ups, and also help businesses in times of need when they’re struggling to fill gaps in personnel. Yet they face a series of stumbling blocks including: fear of bogus self-employment, compulsory statutory pension insurance, and other regulatory hurdles.

That said, for many, a career as a freelancer offers more advantages than disadvantages – they wouldn’t want to give up their self-determination, or the flexibility and independence it offers, under any circumstances! This trend is growing, especially given the increase in remote-working brought about by the health crisis. The idea of having to choose between your dream job and your preferred place of residence has become a thing of the past.

So, why does freelancing remain so attractive despite the pandemic – and what should freelancers watch out for now?

(Bogus) self-employment

Self-employment is still seen as the “little sister” of permanent employment – which is why we urgently need a campaign to change the image of self-employment.

In our current ‘How Germany Works’ research series focusing on freelancers, we found that almost one in four freelancers (23%) encounter clients who cannot adequately distinguish between full-time staff and freelancers. These uncertainties hit freelancers in the STEM sector particularly hard: 25% of IT and 31% of engineering freelancers have already lost contracts because their clients was afraid of bogus self-employment. This is something no freelancer can afford in such difficult economic times.

Freelancing despite the Covid-19 pandemic

When you take a closer look at the motives for freelancing, it’s clear flexibility and self-determination are among the decisive motivators. The pandemic, digitalisation, and automation have all intensified the trend towards new working models and made agility a central issue for businesses. Freelancers can come in and act as agility drivers to react faster to problems and the needs of companies. This is able to happen because working freelance means being your own boss and enjoying flexibility – therefore make sure you’re aware of your value.

Even before the current health crisis, the demand for digitalisation experts in Germany couldn’t be fully met. This has only increased during the pandemic in certain areas of the country. According to the German Association for Information Technology, Telecommunications and New Media (BitKom), there have been 86,000 vacancies for IT experts across all sectors since the end of 2020. IT freelancers can therefore look forward to an increase in demand from the second half of 2021.

Nevertheless, despite the rosy outlook for IT freelancers, we shouldn’t ignore the immense challenges that come with self-employment. Finding assignments can be difficult, a lot of time and energy goes into tendering and ultimately there are hidden costs when unsuccessful. To avoid this, I’ve listed three “top tips” for you below.

If freelancers follow these points, they’ll be well on their way to fully exploiting the advantages of self-employment – for themselves, for companies, and for Germany as a business location.

Timo's article originally appeared on LinkedIn here.