What will AI do to the freelancer market?

AI tools, especially generative ones like ChatGPT and Dall-E, are one of the biggest topics in tech right now. One of the big conversations surrounding them is whether they can replace human workers. Especially the freelancer market seems under threat, as business owners might turn to AI tools to generate the same work that a freelancer could, without the associated price tag.

An often-repeated wisdom among the freelancers is that the solution lies in embracing AI. While it erases some jobs, it creates new opportunities for work and new employment niches which need filling. The question then remains, whether the AI gold rush will last, or whether it will soon wash away.

Adapting and Building Trust

As freelancers begin integrating AI tools into their work, freelancing platforms must adapt. Fiverr recently added a new vertical for AI services, with subcategories for AI applications and artists, as well as factchecking, editing and even voice synthesis.

While Fiverr is creating new infrastructure catering specifically to AI freelancers, other platforms are taking steps to stabilise client-freelancer relationships.  Although AI can be an incredible asset to freelancers, not all clients appreciate it being used in their work. They see themselves as paying for the expertise and creativity of a person, not the outputs of an AI tool. This has led to the growing appearance of no-AI disclaimers by clients.

The primary AI freelancer categories on Fiverr.

Upwork recently updated their terms of service to reflect this. One of the edits clarifies that “freelancers can use any tools, which includes generative AI tools, unless expressly restricted by the client”.  They also highlighted that using such tools where prohibited is now classified as acting in a fraudulent or misleading way, breaking their terms of service. These changes are a symptom of a growing trust issues between clients and freelancers. If you have specified that no AI is to be used, but you suspect that the work being delivered is AI-generated, what do you do?

By now there are many tools to detect AI-written texts, but none are entirely infallible. In fact, while there can be red flags, we are currently unable to definitively judge whether a text had a human author, or not. As a result, we will see erosions of trust between freelancers and clients who feel they have received AI-generated work. In fact, there already are threads on the Upwork community forums, discussing how to approach freelancers over suspicions of AI use.  

The AI goldrush

While some clients expressly forbid the use of AI, others have begun to embrace it. In fact, one of the primary fears around generative AI tools is that it might replace human writers, artists, and programmers. Some small business owners have already begun using ChatGPT as cheaper alternative to using a freelancer who might produce better work, but with a higher pricetag.

But just as artificial intelligence might be erasing some jobs, it may also be creating new ones. A popular wisdom that is often repeated among freelancers is that you must either definitively distinguish yourself from AI, or harness it. AI freelancers, who specialise in working with AI, are increasingly on the rise as a distinct category of freelancer. Among them are AI artists, factcheckers, and even “prompt engineers” who specialise in feeding prompts to generative AI tools to produce the correct result.

Responses to whether AI will replace freelancers from a freelancermap survey. Source

Freelancermap, another freelancing platform, recently conducted a survey about artificial intelligence among its users. Over 60% of the surveyed users reported to already be using AI, anywhere from sometimes to very often, and another 17% said they would do so in the future. Their results also show that 55% of their respondents did not believe AI tools would replace freelancers. When asked about the greatest benefits of AI, the top scoring answers were improvement of efficiency/productivity and process automation.

They conclude that there are plenty of opportunities for freelancers despite the potential threat of AI tools. Indeed, the high AI adoption rate among their survey respondents certainly seems to indicate that many are at least trying to harness AI.  There are also reports of people putting the title “prompt engineer” in their LinkedIn profiles, landing them well-paid jobs which don’t so much require a technical background, as a knack for language.

The Future Awaits

Whether you “believe” in AI tools or not, they are likely not going away anytime soon. From new and improved developments to cultural responses and legal challenges, artificial intelligence will remain at the forefront of technological developments. Freelancing as a professional niche is also not going to vanish from one day to the other, and many freelancers are crafty folks, who will know how to adapt to a changing market.

What might however become more and more of a pressing issue, which is already becoming apparent, is how to definitively distinguish AI work from that of a human person. The potential harm malicious actors can cause with AI is immense, from impersonation and misinformation to outright fraud. For now we can simply marvel at AI creations, and work to account for how AI might modify our business and social relationships.


‘I’ve Never Hired A Writer Better Than ChatGPT’: How AI Is Upending The Freelance World

“Don’t Fear AI, Embrace It” – Goodbye Job Satisfaction & Creative Process

Can AI detectors save us from ChatGPT? I tried 3 online tools to find out | ZDNET

Freelancer provided AI written content – Upwork Community

How AI Is Revolutionizing The Freelance Economy

Trust and Safety AI Update | April 2023 – Upwork Community

Writers Are Becoming ‘AI Prompt Engineers,’ a Job Which May or May Not Exist