Hand harnessing lightening boltsAs many of you will be aware, the employment relationship has been shifting dramatically in recent years. The idea of a job for life has pretty much evaporated within the Generation X and the Baby Boomer generation, while millennials have probably never even heard of it.

We are in a world of job instability, portfolio careers, multiple careers, a world where big business fails overnight, and a world where everyone wants to be the next Apprentice, Zuckerberg or the recipient of some generous seed funding. Of course, most of us would simply settle for working for ourselves or working in a self determining way. We are in the age of the freelancer and entrepreneur and one study conducted by Intuit suggests that by 2020, over 40 percent of the US workforce (60 million people) will be freelancers, contractors and temps.

This means that HR teams and recruiters are going to need to make the attraction and retention of freelancers and contractors a key and distinct part of their talent strategy. In fact, there are three areas that employers will need to focus on in order develop a more effective freelancer strategy.

1. Become a skilled user of of freelance marketplaces, today.

There are a range of online freelance marketplaces such as elance, Guru and oDesk, which employers can use to find freelancers from all over the world to do pretty much anything.  These online labor exchanges have bidding systems and sophisticated ratings systems to help you select the best value and best quality freelancer from the global marketplace. However, it does take skill to effectively hire quality staff through these online marketplaces and employers should be mastering these freelancer marketplace sourcing skills, right now, today, or they are missing out on a huge proportion of the talent market.

2. Gain a reputation as a great buyer/payer.

Freelancers are a little bit more hard nosed than employees and judge you on slightly different factors. In general, freelancers are not looking for sophisticated employer brand offerings, including pensions, career development, and  flexible working, as they take care of their own employer offering by working independently as a freelancer in a way that suits them. They are also less concerned with your culture and environment as they may only be with you for a short time, will tend to work in their own office,  and can leave if they don’t like it. Freelancers don’t see you so much as an employer, but as a buyer and they will be judging your business on buyer seller principles.

Five of the key things that attract and retain freelancers are:

  1. a competitive rate,
  2. clear buyer requirements,
  3. good communication and responsiveness,
  4. long term predictable work flows, and
  5. being a fast and efficient payer.

If you can get these five things right you will help to build yourself a great reputation as a buyer of freelance services, meaning that you will be able to attract and retain the best freelance talent. Word gets around fast in freelancer circles, and if you develop a reputation as a poor buyer of freelance services, the top freelancers with options may overlook you.

3. Build your own network of freelancers.

Not all freelancers use online market-places; many great freelancers are ‘off grid’, especially those who have built up an established network of clients during years of good service, who don’t need to actively search for new business. The best way to tap into this secret network of established freelancers is by networking and word of mouth, and ideally you should always be on the look out for good freelancers that you can add to your own database and engage with as needed. Ask freelancers to refer other freelancers with similar or supporting skills and many will be keen to oblige as there is a good sense of solidarity amongst freelancers.

Generally, if you focus on these three broad areas you will should be able to develop a high quality, high performing and dependable stream of freelance talent in your business to help your business progress effectively into the age of the entrepreneur.



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