Conceptual Research

In this short essay I will provide justification of the decisions I have made in the proposal of my product and give an analysis of the potential societal and political impact of my product. It is crucial in any project, whether it be on a small or large scale, to carry out extensive, relevant research in order to develop ideas, define the liked and disliked features, but most importantly, whether the current market has a need for the product. Using both my own research as well as academic readings, I will find supportive evidence, and perhaps improvements, that I will apply to my product.

The academic readings regarding the freelance industry highlight various different themes. It is made evident that the freelance industry is increasingly growing; yet there remains to be several areas for concern surrounding the profession. Research also proposes some potential solutions for these issues, such as the implementation of co-working spaces. It is these solutions that I will incorporate into my website. I have particularly investigated the networking activity for freelancers in a global sense. The literature I have read provides me with the positive indication that the website I intend to make will hold commercial value and have validity in its practicality.

First of all, I will provide hard evidence I have found for the growing number of freelancers, despite the current economic climate, which was seen taking a turn for the worst in the last decade. Freelancers “contribute 8 per cent of business turnover” (Kitching et al: 2008: 5). In the United Kingdom alone, the profits are staggering, with the freelance industry generating “an estimated £222 billion in sales during 2006” (Kitching et al: 2008: 4). In some ways this does strike me with surprise, however with the increasing transition into a digital world and a more creative industry due to the Internet, it would be expected that the freelancing industry would flourish. Mettler et al. (2011) supports this claim with the statement that “entrepreneurs, freelancers and the self-employed are in a position unlike ever before to become the engine of jobs, growth, innovation and future prosperity.” (Mettler et al: 2011: 4).

I believe that the reasoning behind this is the power of what the Internet has given us and this is what Mettler et al. goes on to validate by stating “there has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur, to write your own job description, to create a profession for yourself and to find your own way forward in a highly diversified modern economy that puts so much power at the mere click of a keyboard. And that is exactly what more and more people are doing” (Mettler et al: 2011: 4). The resource of the Internet, as talked about, can provide opportunity for revolutionizing and the research I have analysed offers great support for the type of new media artifact I intend to create i.e a website. As we are already aware the Internet caters for a huge audience, and the benefits to its users are extensive, “but also [for] the economy at large” (Mettler et al: 2011: 6), therefore there is no doubt that a website hosted on the Internet is the correct platform to target freelancers. They can use the Internet to “tap immediately into a global customer base of seven billion potential consumers” (Mettler et al: 2011: 7). In specific relation to freelancers, the Internet has proved “increasingly important in finding new clients and matching talent pools with job opportunities” (Mettler et al: 2011: 6). Collectively, this evidence for the growth in the number of freelancers, along with the support for the Internet platform, gives me a strong indication that my project will have a substantial societal impact.

The term co-working is a “distributed, interorganizational, collaborative knowledge work: work that includes independent contracting, freelancing, virtual teams, and peer production (Spinuzzi: 2012: 400). Leforestier (2009) explains that co-working spaces “consists in renting a desktop in an open space for a very flexible period” (Leforestier: 2009: 3). It’s inevitable that these co-working spaces vary in terms of facilities, space, and the number of independent workers, but the intention behind the method is the same for all. This relatively new concept has proved an effective method to reducing feelings of isolation and loneliness in freelancers. Much of the research into freelancing discusses these effects and evidently proves that it is a very common effect of the job- “freelancers generally work alone from a home office, and the result can be a lack of colleagues to consult with and very real social isolation” (Leventhal: 2009: 137). Co-working spaces are a means of gaining financial benefit for those renting out the space, however they are “essentially dedicated to lonely entrepreneurs seeking socializing opportunities” (Leforestier: 2009: 6). Further supportive evidence for this is given by Spinuzzi (2012) where he explains that freelancers were miserable with their own working environments, “reporting that they experienced distractions, self-motivation problems, and feelings of isolation” (Spinuzzi: 2012: 421).

Offline networking, such as, co-working, can be considerably advantageous to freelancers, as indicated in my research. This face-to-face communication is a powerful technique for building strong relationships. With this in mind, I intend to incorporate a ‘co-working spaces near you’ feature in my website. Using GPS functionality, or perhaps a Google maps API, I will effectively show the user where their nearest co-working spaces are. Whilst offline networking is important, it is hard to say that online networking isn’t just as important. The opportunities that the online world bring to a user are vast- “evidence shows that heavy technology users create more jobs, grow faster, have more international connections and a far superior track record on innovation” (Mettler et al: 2011: 21). It is the international connections part to this quote, which is particularly important. Many of the questionnaires I distributed to creative freelancers came returned with a result of less than 5 for the number of global connections they had. This is a considerably low number, which I aim to improve with a site dedicated to the creative freelancer. The map of the world on the site should emphasis the ‘global opportunity’ and should entice and bring excitement to those users contacting other freelancers on the other side of the world. By creating global connections a freelancer can increase their network, create potential future job opportunities and learn about different cultural working standards and regimes.

The rise of the Internet has restructured our economies, but it’s the political regimes that haven’t kept up with the digital age. “Collectively, these developments are reshaping our economies in fundamental and lastly ways. But our political institutions have been slow to adapt. Precious financial resources have been poured into propping up yesterdays industries and political capital has been spent on maintaining the power of economic incumbents, while Internet-empowered start-ups like the micro-multinationals described in these pages have largely been ignored, even though they are amoung the only kind of companies creating market driven jobs these days.” (Mettler et al: 2011: 9). What Mettler et al. (2011) is saying here is that the Internet is changing business models, but politically the funding is being implemented into the wrong things. They explain that instead, money and resources should be focused and invested into the micro-nationals, i.e freelancers/independent professionals.

The political impact that my website could potentially have on its users could result in a changed opinion regarding copyright policies. The creative industry has boomed from the rise of the Internet. The Internet is a platform for free speech and free creation of content. The origin of creativity comes from a freedom of expression, spontaneity and the act of sharing creative pieces. The current tight regulation rules regarding copyright seem to be confusing and users are finding them increasingly difficult to comply to. My website will have one simple rule for copyright in that the user is provided with one link when they desire to use, modify or share another users work. This enables users to give credit to the original authors work by simply providing just one line of a URL given by the website. Users that sign up to the website will be made aware of this, and the openness and morals for using creative works featured on the website. It is unlikely that the concept of intellectual property would ever be abolished- the term was never used in previous years, however creative works in the present digital age hold a considerably higher value. My website might cause the strict term to be relaxed however intellectual property rights will always remain, otherwise there would be no incentive for creative professions to produce creative work.

The societal and political impact is evidently vast. The notion of ‘connectedness’ brings influence to both. The opportunity to be part of a global community such as ‘Creative Connections’ provides a sense of belonging to not only to those in the freelance industry, but for society as a whole. When a society at large is affected, the political aspect is one that is inextricably linked.

I intend to solve many of the problems that remain, despite the success of the industry. One of these being that freelancers struggle with managing different time zones and “some freelancers avoid incurring this problem altogether by limiting their clients to manageable time zones” (Rubin: 2014). I find this shocking that independent professionals, where their income is totally reliant on their own actions, would restrict their job opportunities to a national level as opposed to a global level. I believe it is instances like this in the creative industries that are responsible for the lack of work that freelancers sometimes experience. To conquer this fear of conflicting time zones, I intend to create a ‘live chat’ feature to my users, encouraging fast and instantaneous communication, which consequently will aim to increase productivity and effective exchanging of ideas between various users.

‘Creative Connections’ looks to be a huge success in the near future. I will ensure that my website meets the needs of the several freelancers that have highlighted issues and struggles within the industry. With the inclusion of specific features in my website that will meet many users requirements, this will entice them to sign up and begin to grow an inspirational digital freelance community.

Reference List

 

Spinuzzi, C. 2012. Working Alone Together: Coworking as Emergent Collaborative Activity. Journal of Business and Technical Communication. Volume 26 (4) 399-441.

Leventhal, P. 2009. Freelance or employee: Which is better? The Journal of the European Medical Writers Association. Volume 18 (2) 137-138.

Leforestier, A. 2009. The Co-Working space concept. [No place]. [No publisher].

Mettler, A. et al. 2011. The Rise of the Micro-Multinational: How Freelancers and Technology-Savvy Start-Ups Are Driving Growth, Jobs and Innovation. Belgium. The Libson Council.

Kitching, J et al. (2008) Defining and Estimating the Size of the UK Freelance Workforce: A Report for the Professional Contractors Group. Kingston, Kingston University, Small Business Research Centre.

Rubin, N. (2014) Seven Solutions to Common Problems Freelance Professionals Face. [Online]. [Accessed 8/11/14]. Available from: https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140508182927-30264189-seven-solutions-to-common-problems-freelance-professionals-face

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