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Has AI Made Freelance Work More Attractive?

With fresh layoffs and the rise of AI, 67% of knowledge workers find freelance work more attractive than before.

The Big Idea: The Great Betrayal is back

The social contract between companies and workers is broken.

It’s not just about the end of the ZIRP-era, the layoffs, and the rise of Generative AI—although it is all those things. Something deeper has changed. You can see it in on the call with HR that Brittany Pietsch, an account executive at CloudFlare, secretly recorded.

Two anonymous HR people she had never met before unceremoniously told her she was being let go for performance-related issues.

“I’m gonna stop you right there,” Pietsch said, before defending her performance, reminding them that she had only been on the team for three months—a period that included the holiday break—and suggesting that the real reason she was being fired had more to do with CloudFlare “overhiring.”

When she posted the story to her thousands of TikTok followers, the video went viral, tapping into the frustration that many tech workers feel right now. About 100 companies—including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon—have cut 25,000 positions this year, according to

Last year we surveyed 500 knowledge workers to find out how the massive wave of big tech layoffs impacted employees' feelings about their jobs. The results were dramatic: respondents resoundingly wanted more flexibility and autonomy and did not feel secure committing to one employer. Our findings sparked a viral workforce trend, The Great Betrayal.

As the layoffs tapered off slightly over the course of 2023—and AI emerged—we wanted to return to knowledge workers to see if their sentiments had changed.

This time we surveyed 1,000 knowledge workers and right away it was obvious that the trend was entrenched. The results from this year were almost exactly the same as last year—within the margin of error. The appeal of freelance work for knowledge workers and the push away from full-time work are both enduring.

Key Findings:

  • 86% said they would like to have more control and flexibility over their work schedule than traditional full-time employment can offer.
  • 73% said that the waves of layoffs over the last two years have made freelance work more attractive than before.
  • 61% said that the waves of layoffs have made them feel less secure committing to one employer.
  • 64% said that the waves of layoffs have made them lose trust in the stability and security of full-time employment.‍

Read the full story in Fast Company.

Missed last week’s issue of Build Mode? Read it here.


Gen AI is making freelancing more attractive

67% said the emergence of generative AI technologies has made freelance work more attractive.

Depending on who you ask the emergence of Generative AI is either great for freelancers—or terrible for them.

Some studies last year suggested that companies were automating tasks they formerly outsourced to freelancers—like copywriting. Anecdotally, we’ve heard examples of people having their freelance gigs dry up in the age of AI. That’s one side of the story.

But there’s a counter-narrative here, and it’s being led by freelancers themselves. Sixty-seven percent of knowledge workers we surveyed said that generative AI has made freelance work more attractive.

Part of the story is adoption. Freelancers are embracing this new tech and upskilling faster than the rest of the workforce, according to a recent Upwork report.

We have some internal research—forthcoming next month—which suggests that the overwhelming majority of freelancers in the tech space think that Generative AI will allow them to increase their earning potential.


How much will AI actually reduce headcount?

One in four anticipate reducing headcount by 5% or more in 2024 due to generative AI

This is the topic that all executives are dancing around—how much will AI actually reduce headcount? No one has a precise answer. And some of the reductions won’t come from layoffs but harder to perceive factors like fewer hires.

Either way, it seems clear that in the next few years companies scaling to $50M won’t have 400 employees, they’ll have something more like 200.

A new report from PwC found that a quarter of all companies plan to reduce headcount by 5% or more in 2024 because of Generative AI. That number especially weighted toward white collar industries like media and banking.


AI Leaders Roundtable: Build vs. Buy

We're entering a crucial new phase of generative AI's evolution within organizations — one in which we need to move past the hype and find real, practical, transformative use cases. One of the critical evolutions we're seeing is the shift from a "buy" mindset to a "build mindset."

Join us on February 9th for an insightful discussion with Allie Meng, Director of Product at Newmark. Allie will share her experiences in leveraging Generative AI to drive efficiencies in a traditionally structured industry, shedding light on the practical applications of this transformative technology.

Reserve Your Seat Here


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