The fluid new age of the e-lancer is upon us

Taken from a speech by the founder of www elancentric com to the Social Market Foundation, in London

Share

In medieval days, knights who didn't want to be tied down to one particular army or location would hand in their standard-issue lances, buy a brand new one of their own and start a new, freer life of hiring out their fighting services on their own terms. They were known as freelancers and the term still exists today to describe anyone who has given up the restrictions of nine-to-five office culture and branched out on their own. The only difference is that we don't use lances anymore; increasingly, we use the internet. Hence the emergence of a new breed ­ e-lancers.

E-lancers are internet-enabled home and mobile workers who rely on the internet to organise their work and communicate with colleagues. They are distributed between training and recruitment, the professions, consultancy, sales and marketing, financial services, journalism, writing and editing, as well as IT, broadcasting, the arts and the therapy movement.

Their defining experience is that they either work from home or on the road, and are reliant on the internet ­ PCs or even WAP mobile phones ­ to organise and run their working lives. So, while the quintessential e-lancer is a "SoHo" worker ­ self-employed and working from home ­ remote workers for large organisations are also e-lancers.

According to the Institute for Employment Studies, "knowledge work" is forecast to increase its share of work distribution from 37 per cent in 1996 to 40 percent in 2006. The growth sectors of the economy are small businesses and self-employment, and, partly because of this, work is being relocated nearer to the home or is going mobile. E-lancers are not just micro-businesses, they are also pioneers of the new economy, establishing new ways of working and redefining relationships at work and at home, between organisations, freelancers, suppliers and consumers.

For Generation X ­ the twenty- and thirtysomethings ­ self-reliance through self-employment, entrepreneurship and e-lancing has often seemed more desirable than selling their soul to large organisations, and is a means of creating some semblance of security in a risky and volatile world of work.

E-lancers, by definition, move fluidly across boundaries. Some people will take to e-lancing like ducks to water. For others, e-lancing is always likely to be an interim solution, a time of transition before moving on to the next big thing. But the point is a simple one: the route into and out of e-lancing and back again is likely to become a well-trodden one.

There is now a considerable amount of élan in e-lancing. It's a sexy way of working but it's also practical and in tune with the lifestyle to which more and more people aspire.

Today, the typical e-lancer is a white, male fortysomething mobile self-employed professional. With the advent of WAP technologies, tomorrow's e-lancers are as likely to be cleaners as creatives, and plumbers as knowledge professionals, in an entrepreneurial and thriving e-lancer-to-e-lancer service economy.

At the last industrial revolution, new associations ­ trade guilds, mutual associations and unions ­ emerged to represent and advocate for the lifestyle needs of the industrial worker. We too are living in a watershed era: we need new networks, new associations and new organisational forms to reflect the new world of work and the role e-lancers play in it. At a time when more and more organisations are becoming elancentric™, it is vital that the learning, knowledge and experience of our pioneer e-lancers is tapped and harvested.

By promoting cross-fertilisation we will also be able to foster a vibrant business-to-business, e-lancer-to-e-lancer service economy. If the new economy is to live up to its potential, government and business together must respond to the needs of this crucial group of change agents.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, RSPSS, R, AI, CPLEX, SQL)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Law Costs

Highly Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - This is a very unusual law c...

Junior VB.NET Application Developer (ASP.NET, SQL, Graduate)

£28000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Junior VB.NET ...

C# .NET Web Developer (ASP.NET, JavaScript, jQuery, XML, XLST)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Web De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Ellen E Jones
Scientists have discovered the perfect cheese for pizzas (it's mozzarella)  

Life of pie: Hard cheese for academics

Simmy Richman
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor
She's dark, sarcastic, and bashes life in Nowheresville ... so how did Kacey Musgraves become country music's hottest new star?

Kacey Musgraves: Nashville's hottest new star

The singer has two Grammys for her first album under her belt and her celebrity fans include Willie Nelson, Ryan Adams and Katy Perry
American soldier-poet Brian Turner reveals the enduring turmoil that inspired his memoir

Soldier-poet Brian Turner on his new memoir

James Kidd meets the prize-winning writer, whose new memoir takes him back to the bloody battles he fought in Iraq
Aston Villa vs Hull match preview: Villa were not surprised that Ron Vlaar was a World Cup star

Villa were not surprised that Vlaar was a World Cup star

Andi Weimann reveals just how good his Dutch teammate really is
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef ekes out his holiday in Italy with divine, simple salads

Bill Granger's simple Italian salads

Our chef presents his own version of Italian dishes, taking in the flavours and produce that inspired him while he was in the country
The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

The Last Word: Tumbleweed through deserted stands and suites at Wembley

If supporters begin to close bank accounts, switch broadband suppliers or shun satellite sales, their voices will be heard. It’s time for revolution