There is little denying that the demand for recruiting freelancers has increased rapidly. Companies are rethinking their traditional staffing models to survive digital transformation. With an agile expansion of ventures, businesses must pivot quickly while keeping up with variety. Hiring flexible freelance talent helps them grow and scale dynamically.
According to Upwork’s Freelancing and Economy report, the number of freelancers has increased by 4 million since 2014. There is a clear shift in the freelance economy from temporary to long-term.
The pandemic revealed critical gaps in traditional hiring models. While the overall prospects are positive for businesses in the long run, there has been inconsistency and uncertainty about recruitment in the near future. Let us examine a few advantages that freelancers bring to the table:
Consistently better quality
The quality of work any team member offers is often individualistic. Both the in-house staff and freelancers offer quality based on their skill set and commitment. The in-house team enjoys a certain sense of security. They have multiple chances to tweak their work to make it better. There is readily available help in the form of co-workers.
However, some projects require niche expertise that is necessarily not found in-house. PwC’s CEO survey reports chief executives view the unavailability of good talent as the biggest threat to their business. This means external help from content specialists may be a valuable and an untapped asset. It is reasonable to assume that a fulfilled freelancer performing his or her choice of work will be more productive than an exhausted in-house employee. Businesses can use the diverse experience freelancers bring for attaining top-notch work.
Better return on investment
More often than not, hiring a freelancer is cost effective for a company. This is not to imply that freelancers should be paid any less. As per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70% of an employee’s salary goes to the wage; the remaining 30% accounts for the added benefits. When a company hires in-house staff, they are indirectly spending on the entire onboarding process, computer or equipment, off-days, payroll taxes, time-off, health care and several other incentives. The payroll also depends on the location since the cost of living varies significantly.
By hiring a freelancer, a business pays the individual based on the experience and quality of work he or she offers. After paying the desired wage, the business still saves up to 30% on the extracurricular expenses.
Businesses spend days or weeks training the in-house staff to equip them for their job role. In case of filling an urgent position, this may slow down the process. Harvard Business Review cites that 95% of hiring is done to fill existing positions, implying that poor retention rate accounts for significant loss of time. This results in non-strategic hiring triggering a vicious cycle.
However, seasoned freelancers have a mindset to quickly adapt after a small project brief. The time they save in commute, office politics and impromptu meetings is more or less reflected in their productivity and speed.
Businesses that love to experiment and try to explore different waters need people who are more fluid and adapt to the work requirements quickly. Freelancers, with their versatility, quickly mould themselves into what is required of them.
A case study by Upwork suggests that 46% of individuals chose to freelance because it gives them the flexibility to work since they cannot work for a traditional employer due to personal circumstances.
Businesses may scale up in a particular direction, but sometimes they need to put certain projects on the back burner because the projects are just not paying off at that point in time. Specifically, with a start-up, there is a lot of room for hit and miss. It may get a little complicated for the in-house staff to juggle between different projects and roles. A freelancer who wears different hats may be an optimal choice in such a case.
Businesses may consider hiring multiple freelancers for short projects while trying something new, rather than onboarding an in-house person that will be of very little use once those projects are over. Having a team of freelancers will offer liberty to pragmatically act out decisions or strategies that are tailored for the well-being of the business.
But when does a business need a freelancer?
Hiring freelancers provides a cost-effective way to fill the skill gaps, excel in innovation and remain competitive. The experiences and skills these individuals bring after working for multiple organisations may surely ramp up a business. But not all businesses are comfortable hiring a freelancer. After hiring a freelancer, not all businesses may be able to maximise their returns from freelance talent.
It is advisable to ask: Do we need this now? Here are a few questions to determine if the freelance hiring gig may benefit a business exclusively or in convergence with the in-house team. If more than half of the answers are "Yes", it is safe to assume that freelance collaboration must be considered:
- Do certain projects require a specific skill set that goes beyond the training offered in-house?
- The skills required for a project are more or less available in-house. Will the business benefit more from hiring an expert from outside?
- Will the business benefit by hiring someone who is self-driven and may intuitively pick up what is expected of them?
- Is it manageable to work with an individual or team without them attending frequent meetings or giving regular reports in person?
- Is the business flexible enough to allow the individuals to decide when and where to work from if they commit to offering the deliverables on time?
- Is there a well-established work pipeline and communication culture in place that allows teams to discuss and move forward with less individual attention?
Steve Jobs summed the importance of the right talent with this advice: “Go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
If businesses don’t know where they want to arrive when hiring, any road will take them there. There should be a tangible way to measure a suitable candidate.
Psychologists, while researching hiring, consider several relevant attributes to identify a potential freelance hire. The results gloss over these trivial factors that contribute to attract and retain top freelancer talent:
Determining the action plan before hiring
The action plan should determine the exact requirements of the job and the corresponding attributes the candidates must have. Ambiguity on the part of the hiring team results in poor candidate choice.
Referrals and in-house recommendations are a safe place to explore new talent. However, it is nearly impossible to select someone exclusively from this limited network. Businesses may then turn to trustworthy platforms and intermediaries to pick candidates that complement the expected requirements.
Staged portfolios and references often discourage businesses from hiring freelancers. In this case, it is difficult to confirm the reliability of a freelancer with a high rate of repeat clients. While the repeat client rate is subjective depending on the type of work, it is still a contributing factor for a recommendation.
Qualities to consider in the ideal candidate
It’s wiser to dig deeper into their portfolio and to ask for referrals. Looking at the candidate’s previous work will give a clear idea of their skills. Even a highly skilled freelancer may not match the style of work one is aiming for.
Being proactive is a rare skill and an important one to look for in a freelancer. It is easier to work with someone who is willing to ask questions and understand the project and the bigger picture. Interviewees with absolutely no curiosities or doubts generally lead to a subpar addition.
The style of communication must be one of the minimum skill requirements. Businesses prefer working with freelancers who actively keep them in the loop. When someone responds promptly, it shows they value their work relationships. Long response time is a major red flag, implying there may be potential delays in the deadlines.
Consider hiring a seasoned expert who is mindful of project deadlines. In plenty of cases, freelancers collaborate with more than one business on multiple projects. It is crucial to establish an emphasis on strict deadlines before finalising an offer.
A freelancer should be self-driven and flexible to make the work agile. But it is crucial to seek out someone who is equally willing to follow instructions. An individual may get carried away with what he or she feels is the best rather than strictly adhering to what is specifically requested. If there is resistance during the initial stages of an interview when it comes to following protocols, they may not be the best fit.
Some freelancing projects are a one-off gig. But when hiring to fill the talent gap for a long-term position, it’s important to determine the motivation and ambitions of the prospects. When a freelancer takes a transactional approach to their project, it is reflected in the deliverables. If money is the only intent to work, they may fulfil the minimum requirements but fail to meet overall quality standards. An ideal freelancer is not someone impeccable but one who is willing to go above and beyond to produce flawless work.
Things to actively take care of post-hiring
To attract and retain the right talent, there must be a clear and transparent exchange of business values, expected work, timeline, payroll and other necessary factors.
A freelancer will be engaging with internal teams on multiple levels. It is good to know a freelancer’s experience with collaborative tools like Google Docs, Slack, Trello, etc. Having prior knowledge of these tools will make the work process cohesive for everyone.
Once the hiring is done, it is advisable to take down the job ad from the company website as these ads are scooped by online recruiting companies and continue to be pushed out to potential job seekers. Some businesses do it deliberately to create a passive talent pool, which is frustrating for active job-seekers. Freelance collaborations are at the heart of modern hiring processes, yet businesses are still in the dark about how to manage such associations. Here are some ways to do freelance collaboration the right way for maximum efficiency.
1. Having a collaboration agreement in place is a way to ensure all the rules communicated are put to action. It is predictable to go wrong with certain hires, in which case the agreement stands as a fair basis to take action.
2. Introducing freelancers with the business values, vision and ethics accentuate their motivation to work. Knowing a company’s values will bring a mindset shift, and they will absorb these qualities and reflect them in their future dealings.
3. Giving the freelancers a brief walk through a business’ targeted clients, future plans and their contribution to it. Though a freelancer may serve a short term, this will give them a sense of belonging.
4. The initial period of working with any freelancer may be complex. Having someone exclusively available to assist them in the beginning phase helps. Once they adjust to the workflow, there will be increasing stability and less dependency.
1. Being clear about their work responsibilities to the granular level. A lot is left for assumption, and freelancers may not work on par with the expectations simply because they were not fully communicated to them.
2. For a dynamic collaboration, the preparations must be put in place for the freelancer to start the project at the earliest. This requires the business to furnish any information, data, programmes, resources and tools that the freelancer will need for the project.
3. Rather than isolated interaction with individual freelancers, bringing them together in the commonplace to discuss projects may be a good idea. As different thought processes, skill sets and personalities combine, they offer an impressive synergy effect.
Regular assistance and considerations
1. Freelancers at times may have to handle too much work unexpectedly. If it is evident that the project is too big for one person, giving them a couple of extra hands on deck will be helpful.
2. Scheduling regular feedback sessions on project progress assessment helps both the businesses and freelancers to stay on the same page, exchange views and meet mutual expectations.
3.Aside from these fixed specific feedback sessions, both freelancers and businesses do benefit from less structured exchanges. External hires have an objective view of work processes and structures. Businesses may significantly benefit from their overall input.
4. Encourage and allow a team of freelancers to dive deep into their area of expertise and shortcomings by sharing valuable resources, course works and webinars with them. This will inspire them to achieve excellence in their work.
5. Corrections conveyed in the wrong tone may be catastrophic to the morale of the freelancer. The approach of understanding the reasons behind the mistake and the solution thereof is more effective in the long-run.
1. Freelancers are more likely to break ties with a business that tends not to recognises their hard work. Well-deserved accolades and recognition where due are a tried and tested way of retaining top talent.
2. Avoiding micromanaging freelancers is advisable since they have been assessed during the interview process. Freelancers are self-employed, and not giving them room will only build tension. It is preferable to provide them with the necessary tools and institutional knowledge.
3. Untimely payment is the most basic yet top area of misunderstanding between businesses and freelancers. It is self-explanatory that freelancers may be disappointed by delays in payments. Both parties must be clear upon the compensation, be it an hourly or fixed price, along with the time and mode of transaction.
While finding, hiring and managing freelance talent may be uncharted territory for many businesses, the benefits of hiring top talent are indisputable. Here is our key takeaway: meet the professional freelance team members halfway by being willing to understand this setup's limitations and harness the rewarding aspects of this collaboration.