Mousetrap with a 1 american dollar as a baitReports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics tell us that there are 14.5 million self-employed people in the U.S., and although this is 2.1 million lower than peak 2006 figures, this still represents 10 percent of the nation’s population and a sizable resource pool. Figures for the UK are similar with Office for National Statistics figures telling us that there are just over 4 million self-employed in the UK, which represents about 10 percent of the population.

So, what’s the story here? Typically, freelancers are a “no go” area for recruiters when hiring; it’s much easier to move people from employed to employed than self-employed to employed. Recruiting self-employed staff into fully employed in-house roles is seen as the Path of Most Resistance – as the self-employed are thought to be self determining and happy and therefore likely to need much more persuasion not only to change their job, but to alter their entire culture and style of working.

So, is there any real point in trying to attract the self-employed back into work? Are they immovable? Of course not; if you check several self-employed profiles on LinkedIn, you’ll find professionals who have alternated between employment and self-employment many times in their career. Many freelancers come in-house from the cold.

As a starved recruiter, it may be that you have no choice but to approach and try to crack the very difficult nut of the happy freelancer; as in times of talent shortage, self-employed candidates may be your only option or part of a very small pool of prospects. In certain cases, your client may simply have identified candidates, several of whom are self-employed, and have made it your job to get them to interview.

OK, so you have to turn a freelancer into an in-house employee, how do you do it? See below for some tips and advice on how to do just this.

1. First, understand why people leave work to become freelancers

Do your research and understand what it is that motivates freelancers. Why? Because once you know what motivates freelancers you can start to address their concerns and begin removing potential barriers to re-engagement in-house.

For example, a March 2012 survey from the Guardian Online, tells us that the main reason people leave to become freelance is work life balance. An additional survey by Fresh Books reports that the three main reasons people become freelancers is to become their own boss, (66%), to earn more money (37%), and as a result of being laid off (24%).

2. Second, understand why people remain freelancers

The Freshbook’s survey indicates seven key reasons that people remain as freelancers. These are:

  • 79% Control over my own schedule
  • 74% Being my own boss
  • 73% No commute/work anywhere
  • 66% More choice over the projects I do
  • 46% No chance of layoffs
  • 38% No cubicles

3. Last, address the freelancers’ concerns and push their buttons

Now, if we pause a little and take stock of our findings we can see that there are several interventions that we can make that may help to persuade the freelancer to consider our in-house opportunity.

For example, can we encourage our client to allow full or partial homeworking and flextime to address the freelancers concern for better work life balance, self-determinism and avoiding the commute and having the flexibility to work anywhere?

In addition, would we be able to encourage our client/employer to allow the freelancer to have an equivalent to Google’s 20 percent time (or some variation of) to work on side projects that may benefit the business. This addresses the freelancers desire to have more choice over the projects that they do.

Also, research from Pew tells that the median salary for self-employed workers is only a few dollars more than that of waged and salaried workers, and that the self employed are more financially stressed than salaried workers, e.g. find it harder to meet their financial commitments. These findings present an opportunity to challenge the preconception that your freelancer may have that they will be wealthier in self-employment than in employment. Ask your client to provide you with a total reward statement so you can show the freelancer the full monetary value of salary and benefits on offer, which could turn out to the the same or more than their freelance package.

This is just an example of the kind of arguments that you can make to a freelancer to encourage him/her to consider your in-house waged role. There is no one-size-fits-all approach; it’s about finding the individual needs of each freelancer that you approach. For example, if you see someone who has just recently become self-employed they may not have built a stable flow of work, (it typically takes two years to build a steady supply line), and may be vulnerable to jobs offers that promise relative job security, steady pay packet, health insurance and paid vacation. However, a more experienced freelancer may have built more stability, and you may need more sophisticated tactics, such as offering telecommuting or 20 percent time.

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