Brian Pickering and Darja Reuschke
Freelancing in general might be assumed to require the freelancer to juggle the benefits of autonomy and freedom with the additional work of self-promotion and all the administrative functions provided by traditional companies. Move this to the virtual world, then the question is whether ‘eLancing’, as we call it, imposes other constraints or offers more opportunities for the freelancer. Does the eLancing world, for example, allow greater freedom of location and increased reach? After all, the eLancer can be based anyway whilst bidding for gigs all over the world. Provided, that is, that they are willing to adapt work times to suit their clients. On the other hand, this means there could be increased competition from those who may be cheaper. And, of course, would working online increase feelings of isolation? Or would this force eLancers to work extended hours?
In an attempt to get some answers to such questions, we have been running a number of workshops and individual interviews to better understand the perceptions and concerns of eLancers themselves and those who have an interest in freelancing in general and the challenges of moving online. We recently reported some of our findings, based on a qualitative analysis of two focus groups based on thematic analysis, supplemented with a narrative analysis of a series of one-to-one interviews. The work was initially presented at the 2021 virtual conference of the Cyberpsychology Section of the British Psychological Society in July (link to PDF). The results were presented in the context of different social psychological models. One of the main takeaways was further evidence that, like attitudes to technology, users of the virtual world will find and then exploit the affordances of the online environment. But also – whereas freelance and work experts were concerned about the lack of professional support for eLancers – the eLancers themselves had found a prosocial community of eLancers.