Will ChatGPT Kill Freelancing? No They’re Allies Not Enemys, Says Upwork CEO

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Upwork’s CEO spills the beans on the future of freelancing in the age of AI-driven communication, and whether ChatGPT is friend or foe for the gig economy. Keep reading to learn why freelancing will actually benefit from the recent AI disruptions!

As ChatGPT is now able to do much of the work freelancers provided to clients, many people wonder: How do generative AI and ChatGPT disrupt the freelancing industry?

Well, this woman should know: 👇

In a recent company presentation, Upwork’s current CEO Hayden Adams paints an optimistic picture for freelancers, especially those that integrate AI and prompting into their own work: 👇

  • They plan to establish Upwork as a leading option for AI-related work
  • Supply and demand for AI talent and work growing rapidly
  • 1,000% increase in AI search queries in Q1 compared to Q4 last year
  • 600% increase in weekly AI job posts in the same time period
  • Talent Marketplace updated with new AI skills and roles
  • Bringing benefits of AI technologies to talent across all categories

From the earnings call transcript, highlights by me:

“We are establishing Upwork as a preeminent option for finding and hiring specialized skilled talent for the full range of generative AI-related work. We have identified and are pursuing multiple dimensions of this opportunity for talent, clients, and our own teams through our own product development, unique research, and partnerships.

Both supply and demand for work and talent related to generative AI tools and technology implementations continue to climb.

The average weekly number of search queries related to generative AI in the first quarter increased over 1,000% compared to the fourth quarter of 2022 and the average number of weekly job posts related to generative AI increased more than 600% over the same time period.

To serve this explosive demand, we have continued updating our Talent Marketplace to reflect exciting new skills and roles like prompt engineers and added new project catalog categories of work, bringing the total number of categories on Upwork to over 125. Our own development teams have also been innovating and testing new interfaces and experiences made possible for our customers by generative AI technology and large language models.

We are testing generative AI-powered solutions for transforming core customer experiences like getting started, posting jobs, receiving support, and having questions answered. We are working around the clock to bring the benefits of these new technologies to talent on Upwork in every category we serve.”

So prompt engineers and ChatGPT skills are in high demand. Explosive demand, to be exact.

💡 If you want to become a highly demanded prompt engineer, consider reading this Finxter blog post that shows that prompt engineers in the US earn multiple six figures, sometimes $500,000 per year and more.

Any many of those well-compensated prompters work as freelancers on Upwork!

What Does Generative AI Mean For You as a Freelancer?

As a freelancer on Upwork, the evolving landscape of AI and remote work brings significant opportunities for you.

With companies like IBM rethinking their workplace and workforce strategies, they are increasingly looking for flexible, cost-effective, and on-demand solutions. This shift in how work is delivered and what tools are critical for it means that businesses are more likely to engage with platforms like Upwork to fulfill their needs.

As a result, you can expect a growing demand for AI and alternative working models, providing you with more opportunities to showcase your skills and secure projects in these emerging areas.

The transformation in the way work is done positions Upwork freelancers at the forefront of these changes, making it an exciting time to be a part of the platform.

All of the previous statements are not my opinion but pointed out in a Q&A by Upwork CEO Hayden Brown (highlights by me):

Nat Schindler — Bank of America Merrill Lynch — Analyst

Yes. Hi, Hayden. Thank you. The CEO of IBM recently said that they could see 30% of back-office jobs replaced by AI in the next five years.

Obviously, we’ve heard all kinds of predictions like this before and from other people, but it was an interesting one that just came out. And a lot of people are thinking about AI disruption in the market in the last two days. On the one side, you can help companies find AI contract work. But on the other side, you have a lot of contractors who do what would be often called back-office work or short-term labor that would be in that category.

What do you think happens to the entire staffing industry, online and offline competitors, as this evolves?

Hayden Brown — President and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. Nat, thank you for the question. I think it’s a really interesting sea change that’s happening in the environment right now with the advent of AI and this announcement from IBM because, frankly, we all know that the old ways we’re working are out the window. And this started before AI.

Even, I mean, as we’ve gone through the pandemic, with the advent of remote work, companies absolutely need to be rethinking their workplace and workforce strategies, and we are a part of that. The fact that IBM is rethinking their workplace and workforce strategy with AI is actually a huge opening for a company like Upwork because in the past, when they weren’t thinking big about having need to redesign work and who and how work is getting done, including the technology and the tools to deliver that work, it was a lot harder for a company like us to get into that conversation and have a really strategic conversation about how they need to shift from full-time employees to fractional work, to project-based work, and a different model is just really what we deliver. In a world where they are now really rethinking things and shifting to AI and alternative models of working and old staffing models and old full-time employee models are out the window, it is a lot easier for us to have the conversation that we should be having with the IBMs of the world about how we can help them with the flexibility, the cost savings, the on-demand model that we offer them. So, I think the advent of companies really shifting their entire thinking about how work is delivered and what tools are critical for that is an enormous opening for Upwork now and in the future.

So, this is really interesting for freelancers and remote workers. Like the pandemic, the recent shifts in AI pushes traditional companies out of their comfort zone. They realize that they need to be more flexible and adaptive. And as a result, the demand for freelancers will explode.

🚀 Freelancers may be among the few winners in the shift towards an AI-driven world!

While AI might seem to reduce the need for hiring people, there’s actually an increasing demand for professionals in fields like data science, analytics, and AI-based modeling work.

Upwork is actively expanding its job categories to include these emerging areas. Interestingly, even job categories such as writing, which might appear more at risk from AI, are still showing growth.

In fact, AI tools are being used across various categories to augment workflows, improve value, and deliver better solutions for clients. With 85% of Upwork’s GSV coming from longer, complex projects, AI seems to be complementing the work rather than displacing it.

Upwork is focused on both helping talent directly access AI tools and embedding AI functionality into the platform, making it a great time for you to be part of this rapidly evolving space.

Don’t believe me? Here’s what Brown argues: 👇

Bernie McTernan — Needham and Company — Analyst

Great. Thank you for taking the questions. Hayden, I guess demand looking for people who can do AI jobs is, I think, a bit counterintuitive. I think part of the allure of AI is not having to hire as many people.

So, can you maybe just describe what you’re seeing from the demand perspective?

Hayden Brown — President and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. I think some of the growth we’re seeing is definitely in categories like data science and analytics, which you can imagine why that would be applicable in this environment. In that area, we saw job postings growing 33% year over year and 22% sequentially as one example. We’ve also been adding new skills and categories to the platform, which got us to over 125 job categories, including some areas that are very relevant to the work that people are undertaking to implement, train, and do other AI-based modeling work.

So, I think that’s a piece of it. And then I think the other thing I would mention in this area is as we drop off the tail for this new job in this area, we also have additional categories like writing, which you might think, to your point, is going to be more at risk. It’s a very small category for us today. I mean, it’s pretty tiny.

But even in that category, we actually saw sequential growth quarter over quarter. So, I would just underscore, we’re not seeing any negative impacts from AI today. And as we look across the work that’s happening in the platform, some of the more interesting things we see is in pretty much every category we serve, talent are using AI tools to augment their workflows. And I think this is where they’re now delivering better value and better solutions for their clients.

And so, I think to the extent that that’s happening, we can also help that happen because we can give them insight into what tools to be using, give them access to tools and things like that. That’s improving their outcomes, improving satisfaction for the clients that are buying work from them, potentially driving our prices but also just getting the clients to come back to the platform again and again. So, with all of that happening, I think that’s a plus. And then the final thing I’d add on this is 85% of our GSV today actually comes from longer, complex projects and jobs on the platform.

So, again, I think the thing we see here is AI augmenting the work over time more so than displacing the work altogether. So, we’re very excited about what that’s going to unlock for our customers. I think directly with talent using the tools, as well as us embedding a lot of the AI functionality directly into the site, we’re executing on all fronts to really take advantage of this exciting opportunity.

So, Upwork doesn’t see negative demand from AI tools. Instead, they see lots of growth and opportunities for freelancers who are willing to adopt AI tools into their workflow. Great news for workers and freelancers! 🚀

If you want to become a freelancer, consider joining the Finxter Academy with many courses on building your own business empire as a remote freelance worker in the tech space.

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