Are horizontal networks key to web work success?

Web work may be the future, but at the moment it’s still the exception rather than rule, with many more people wanting location independence than actually having it. Given this reality, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if competition between web workers is fierce, with those with a super flexible gig or a fabulous freelance client fighting tooth and nail to keep rival workers away from their plum assignments.

But is this really the case? Not according to new research from oDesk. The flex work site conducted a survey of 16,065 employers and contractors this month and concluded that far from being cut throat, the world of web work is characterized by “horizontal networks” and loyalty to fellow contractors. Specifically, the survey found:

  • 35 percent of contractors primarily find work from other contractors
  • 59 percent participate in online groups/forums around work

oDesk concludes that “workers have shown increased interest in growing their own horizontal networks and building reciprocal networks that lead to job opportunities.”

So why this counter-intuitive reliance on networking and collaboration among web workers? oDesk looks to Daniel Pink’s book Free Agent Nation for an explanation. In it, the bestselling author predicts this very phenomenon, saying:

Horizontal loyalty (is the) successor to vertical loyalty, which flowed upward — from an individual to an institution or authority figure…. By contrast, the new loyalty flows laterally. It is a fierce, and usually reciprocal, allegiance to: teams, colleagues, and ex-colleagues, to clients and customers; to industries and professions; and to family and friends.

In the world of web work it pays for to harness your horizontal networks for support and to find new opportunities.

Is horizontal loyalty a better bet for success as a web worker than traditional vertical loyalty?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tomasz Stasiuk