According to Forbes, 16.5 million people now make up what is known as the “gig economy”— an arrangement whereby workers contract with employees for a short period of time — and 56.7 million Americans now freelance, based on a 2018 Freelancing in America study.
In fact, the number of freelance workers is growing so fast that a previous FIA survey predicted over half the U.S. workforce would be freelancing by 2027.
“It’s really becoming a normal part of the way that people work,” says Sara Horowitz, founder and executive director of the Freelancers Union, which represents millions of independent workers across the country.
Enter Upwork Inc. (NASDAQ: UPWK).
Analysts Expect Upwork’s Stock Price to Grow with Revenues
Upwork is a company that matches freelance workers with employers. The company brought in $253.4 million in revenue in fiscal year 2018 — a 25.1% increase from FY2017. This followed a 23.2% boost in revenue the previous year.
It seems fair to say the gig economy is booming.
Hence, it should come as no surprise that Jefferies analyst Brent Thill recently upgraded UPWK to a “buy” from a “hold” and UPWK surged 6.1% in premarket trading on Wednesday — and was up another 2.9% in after-hours trading on Thursday.
“With the stock down 17 percent YTD [year to date] and valuation at a 37 percent discount to peers, risk/reward has improved,” Thill wrote. “The recent IPO of Fiverr (NYSE:FVRR) demonstrated the large market for flex labour and evidenced Upwork’s leadership within it.”
Thill expects “gradual acceleration” of Upwork’s revenue-growth rate for the rest of the year and beyond and set a $23 price target on the stock. (UPWK shares have fallen 24.2% since the corporation’s IPO on Oct. 3, 2018.)
Not surprisingly, Stephane Kasriel, president and CEO of Upwork, is very enthusiastic about the freelance market and what it means for the future of UPWK.
Upwork is Growing with the Gig Economy
“Freelancers play a critical role in our economy and in shaping the future of work,” Stephane said. “Despite an economic boom, which has created a record number of full-time, 9-to-5 job openings, Americans are increasingly choosing to freelance. At the same time, technology is freeing people from the archaic time and place work constraints that are no longer necessary for today’s mostly knowledge-based work.
“This year’s results reveal that most workers prioritize lifestyle over earnings but freelancers are much more likely to actually attain the life they want. Professionals with the most in-demand skills will therefore increasingly choose to freelance.”
And while freelancing is still just a part-time endeavour for most, nearly a third of all freelancers surveyed claim to do it on a full-time basis, according to the latest FIA data — up more than 70% since 2014. What’s more, legislation is now being enacted that should only make freelancing more attractive.
For example, in 2017, a law entitled “Freelancing is not Free,” which was spearheaded by the Freelancers Union, went into effect in New York City. According to Forbes, “this law, while laying out requirements for contract agreements between freelancers and their clients, was more focused on ensuring that freelancers were paid for the work they did. It provided recourse for gig workers who were not paid and penalties for contractors who reneged on contracts.”
UPWK is trading at $16.08 per share as of publishing.
Grizzle’s Upwork Experience
As users of Upwork, we have experienced their services firsthand from the perspective of an employer. From hiring freelance writers, to developers, to data researchers, the availability of talent on Upwork is extensive. On top of this, you can also find a range of quality (price) based on your needs as it is an international web-based platform reaching all corners of the globe.
Looking at their business model from our perspective, the barriers to entry for any potential employee or employer is close to zero with a free version of the account available for anyone. A user only needs to create an account and profile and set up a process for paying or receiving funds and then they are free to enter the gig economy.
From here, Upwork collects 3% fees on every payment processed through their system. They have negative consequences — including having accounts deleted — for any users who try to circumvent their fees. They also have paid “plus” accounts (among others) for heavier users at the monthly cost of $49.99, which would make sense for any users processing more than $1,667 of payments per month.
With its well thought-out hiring and payment process, one that includes holding payments in escrow and complete transparency of the history of previous jobs completed, the platform does a good job of meeting the needs on both sides of the employee-employer relationship.
We appreciate Upwork’s service and wouldn’t be surprised to see Upwork’s stock ride the wave of the surging gig economy.