A new era in employment is here. With growing e-commerce and other changes to the economy, more people are moving toward freelancing for long-term careers. The words of Bob Dylan are apt: “The times they are a changin.” These changes will shape the current job market and staffing possibilities for many years to come.
More than 1/3 of Americans engaged in freelance work during 2020, a 22% increase from 2019. With many companies not rehiring staff, retooling their employment structures and reaping the advantages of hiring freelancers, this trend will likely continue.
Businesses are embracing this opportunity to manage expenses cost-effectively. They see the returns from not having to pay for employee downtime and expensive benefits packages. While there are issues to work out in structuring self-employed persons into company workflows, the many rewards of these relationships are increasingly apparent.
Flexibility and Talent
Hiring freelancers gives companies access to a new pool of talent, and there are no geographic limits. According to an article in the Journal of Accountancy, “By 2025, hiring managers expect 22.9% of teams in the United States will likely work remotely, more than double the figure in 2020.” The reasons to work with freelancers is clear:
They have immediate availability to take on time-sensitive projects.
They meet needs that in-house teams can’t handle.
They have specializations in their fields and multitask well.
They offer expertise to businesses not found within their own teams (ex. IT)
They take on more projects than traditional employees.
Hiring full-time employees is a costly endeavor, and companies are no longer assured of years of loyalty. The future of employment for businesses is fostering relationships with people who work alongside you and understanding the value they bring to the table.
Most businesses need niches filled, but it's not cost-effective to create specific positions where there is not steady work. This is one of the advantages of hiring freelancers that is invaluable to companies and startups. Businesses have access to highly skilled workers and can determine how long to retain a person's services. It’s a win-win situation for both parties, as both get to set workable parameters.
Most self-employed persons have skills in several areas and use these skill sets regularly. Website Planet notes this in a recent gig economy survey: “61% of freelancers claimed they use two to three skills in their weekly work activities, while 34% rely on more than three.”
To make the hiring decision easier, most freelancers have detailed resumes and portfolios to highlight their abilities and use this information to attract clients. They can provide professional references and reviews of their work that help employers prioritize candidates for projects, which is another of the advantages of hiring freelancers.
Initially, employers worried that a remote workforce would be difficult to supervise or trust to get work done on time or at the standards they require. Statistics show the opposite is true: “People who work from home are, on average, 13% more productive than those who do not.” The quality of work is equally as impressive.
These burgeoning relationships throughout the workforce meant freelancers contributed $1.2 trillion to the economy in 2020. Even with companies rehiring workers, the freelance trend is still experiencing explosive growth.
The gig economy is shifting the burden of overhead away from companies. Here are just a few ways businesses feel the relief:
- Reduction in salary and benefit costs
- Savings on infrastructure
- Fewer IT costs
- Decreased need for office space and supplies
- Lower recruitment costs
- Lower employment taxes
One of the greatest advantages of hiring freelancers is that companies get quality and value with a reduced overall investment.
Employers bear many risks by hiring full and part-time employees. Even in relatively safe working environments like an office, there are workers’ compensation concerns. Employers must consider the costs associated with long-term disabilities due to injuries or exposure in the workplace.
Many companies have come to appreciate the efficacy of remote work. They understand that many individuals are happier and just as productive working from home. They also have seen the advantages of broadening their team's expertise by hiring freelancers from the savings in their budgets.
While this may not seem like a net positive for workers, companies like the idea of fewer of the commitments that come with full-time employees. They can work with different freelance workers and get the right fit for projects. They can access a broader range of skills without having to invest a lot in training.
While this may seem skewed in the employer's favor, it really means there is movement toward autonomous employment. Employers still need an experienced workforce. As expertise shifts toward freelancing, people have increasing leverage to negotiate contract terms. These changes should be viewed as important gains for all. Typically, balance within the workplace inspires innovation, and, with technological advancements ever-increasing, there needs to be a motivated workforce to meet those challenges.
For companies committed to an in-house staff structure, one of the advantages of hiring freelancers is the possibility of recruiting qualified employees. Some freelancers may want to have a full-time position. However, companies could find it difficult to offer people the same value they get from self-employment, especially when salary caps and benefit reductions eat away at the perks that make traditional jobs enticing.
Companies need to consider that most freelancers may choose to keep their side gigs, as there is growing insecurity over long-term employment. This is so prevalent that 51% of freelancers no longer want traditional jobs.
Special projects are typically time- and money-consuming efforts for companies. Employees must take the needed amount of time away from their normal workload and managers are overwhelmed with looming deadlines. Freelance work is easing this burden for companies.
Freelancers have the qualifications to take on additional responsibilities a team can’t manage alone. They can take time to upskill and stay relevant in today’s fast-changing industries. An interesting development in the gig economy is that project fulfillment is evolving into a necessary arm of companies with limited resources to meet demands.
Companies can give customers a better experience given the advantages of hiring freelancers. A business is not limited by defined business hours or time zones. As more companies turn to ecommerce, this is an essential consideration. Freelancers work from different locations and fill needs at varying times of day.
Freelancers appreciate the ability to work flexible schedules and designate their own work hours. With a large pool of individuals to choose from, a company can offer 24/7 customer support.
Additionally, being self-employed allows people to work on projects outside traditional work hours and still tend to their personal lives. There is no need to request time off. If deadlines are met, employers don’t need to be concerned with fixed schedules. This is a huge relief for already-overtaxed managers.
Companies and business owners know the advantages of hiring freelance workers involve better integration and workflow. The key is to establish an effective management system to support freelancers, and these are five effective steps businesses can take:
- Create policies and procedures designed for freelancers: Freelancers bring so much to the table for companies that need qualified talent. Develop easy onboarding and offboarding policies to speed the process. Having a system in place helps you cycle in experienced individuals and attracts them to your company.
- Utilize collaboration tools: Collaboration is important for all workers, whether or not they are full-time employees. Establish open lines of communication among all team members when it is important to a project’s outcomes. Take advantage of online tools and apps to streamline interactions and promote the best dissemination of information.
- Design specific payment standards: Freelancers are obviously concerned about getting paid for their services. Consistent payment practices go a long way for your reputation among non-staff persons. This is how you communicate value. With the job market moving to accommodate more self-employed individuals in the coming years, it’s essential to get payments and contracts right.
- Make regular contact: It is good practice to have consistent contact with freelance talent and establish a good working relationship. Having self-employed team members allows for extraordinary benefits with few risks, so fostering communication with these individuals should be an important goal.
- Set goals and expectations on a timeline: Goals and expectations are necessary for project timelines. Be sure to communicate these expectations to all workers and not just full-time employees. This ensures a much smoother workflow.
Bottom line, as the employment landscape shifts to new possibilities for companies, the development of hiring and management practices for independent contractors and adaptation to the gig economy are important to the future of business.
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