In the preceding year, the American workforce witnessed a historic surge, with 39% engaging in freelance work, as revealed by Upwork, a prominent freelance platform. However, this year brings forth a burgeoning challenge as the exponential rise in the adoption of ChatGPT is casting a shadow over certain freelancers’ roles.
The landscape of work dynamics is evolving rapidly, compelling freelancers to confront a new competitor—ChatGPT—a sophisticated AI model capable of performing tasks traditionally handled by freelancers. This paradigm shift raises concerns about the potential displacement of freelance jobs, posing a significant threat to their livelihoods.
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As the prevalence of ChatGPT continues to grow, the intricate balance between human freelancers and AI-powered solutions is poised to redefine the future of work in unprecedented ways.
ChatGPT’s Impact on Upwork Freelancers’ Earnings
Researchers from New York University and Washington University in St. Louis investigated how the November 2022 launch of ChatGPT, a generative AI tool, would impact Upwork freelancers’ incomes in a research paper they published in July.
The most important discovery was that, in April 2023, freelancers whose work was most exposed to AI made over 5% less than they did just before the release of that ChatGPT. Furthermore, workers who worked on writing-related tasks were among those most affected, according to the researchers.
Not just freelancers on Upwork are losing money. Freelancer Sheraz Shoukat, an Australia-based freelancer offers a range of writing services on Fiverr, claims that the use of ChatGPT and other similar tools has decreased demand for his services.
It has a negative impact on freelancer’s earnings. According to him, he has witnessed the monthly income of some freelancers drop from about $2,500 to per month.
Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey claims,”Specialized freelance workers face the highest automation risk,”. They highlighted ChatGPT’s potential to assume freelance roles, especially in marketing, media, writing, and advertising.
This AI technology poses a significant threat to the existence of freelance jobs due to its adaptability. Experts foresee ChatGPT being utilized extensively, potentially diminishing opportunities for specialized freelancers.
Oxford economist Carl Benedikt Frey warned that freelance workers, often specialized in narrow tasks like copy editing or web design, face significant automation risks.
He highlighted that generative AI, particularly in a specific task context, could potentially substitute for these roles. Mark Muro, a technology and workforce development expert at the Brookings Institution, echoed concerns, stating that AI tools empower in-house workers to handle freelance-type tasks, potentially reducing demand for such roles.
Muro emphasized ChatGPT’s role in substituting freelance jobs, especially in fields with high exposure like marketing, media, writing, and advertising. The ease with which AI like ChatGPT can perform these tasks raises concerns about a decline in opportunities for narrowly specialized freelance workers. The trend suggests a potential shift where integrated, multifaceted roles within organizations might be less susceptible to automation compared to the comparatively isolated tasks of freelance professionals.
An Upwork representative remains optimistic, saying that the advantages of AI for their customers and marketplace as a whole exceed any drawbacks. They acknowledge that some jobs may be more impacted than others, but they assert that they have seen job creation rather than job loss as a result of AI.
Insights from Freelancers
In the era of artificial intelligence, providing expertise that AI does not possess is crucial for freelancers such as part-time writer Ben Baker. Baker highlights the significance of giving writing life, exhibiting subject matter expertise, and fusing genuine human experiences with information. To be competitive in a changing market, he suggests independent contractors need to identify features that AI cannot match.