People common use the phrase “gig economy” to refer to the labor market where one can use tech to request freelance workers on short notice for a variety of services, from car rides to event staffing to data science. However, I believe “gig” undermines the careers professionals in this market build, creating a rift between employers and workers — an us-versus-them atmosphere. So, I prefer to call it “the freelancer economy.”
The term “freelancer economy” shifts the focus onto the people performing the work instead of the tasks being performed. Estimates show that more than one-third of American workers freelance. In a decade, the majority of the workforce may engage in freelancing of some kind. Eighty-nine percent of people between the ages of 18 and 26 see flexible work as a long-term career path. That’s a force to be reckoned with.
Several factors are influencing the growth of the freelancer economy, but technological advancement is a major driving force. The cloud has opened up immense possibilities for remote work and virtual collaboration. You can access data from anywhere. The only thing knowledge work requires these days is a stable internet connection.
As a result, freelance work is expanding to include a wide array of technical services, opening up new opportunities for skilled workers to take on new projects. If your department needs someone with a specific skill for a project, you don’t need a full-time specialist. A freelance worker who is skilled in the relevant area can get the project done on time, on budget, and at a high standard.
Incorporating Freelancers Into Your Team
If you’re new to the concept of freelancing, or if you’re a manager for a large and complex organization, getting started with freelance workers can be daunting. Follow these steps to incorporate freelance workers seamlessly into your team:
1. Identify Roles That Can Be Outsourced, But Proceed With Care
The first thing you need to do is think about which projects could be performed by flexible talent. Get input from the full-time employees on your team and listen carefully to their feedback in order to make smarter decisions about which roles to outsource.
A few months ago, I attended an HR conference in Amsterdam with a number of HR leaders. I gained some insights into why they don’t use independent contractors. The main reason was that their workforces felt threatened by the new workers. Being transparent will ease the integration and go a long way toward changing mindsets. Explain to concerned employees that an extended workforce will only enhance their roles, allowing them to focus on their core value-adding responsibilities. Giving your best team members access to flexible resources can yield great results with some testing and learning.
2. Create a Clear Onboarding Process and Project Scope
Members of your extended workforce should have the right information and connections to get their work done quickly and efficiently. When you bring them on board, provide them with an easy-to-understand briefing that covers the scope of the project, the expected outcomes, and the compensation agreement.
Freelancers can be paid by the hour, per day, or by the outcome, so lay out your expected time frame and goals up front and think about which pricing structure best meets your needs. Identify who in your organization will be the freelancer’s main point of contact.
3. Work With Leadership to Protect Your Company
Before you bring on any freelancers, review your company’s policies for doing so. Your organization should have a contract that specifically states any freelance projects completed either include copyright transfers or are works made for hire so that your company owns the finished result.
Then, have a discussion with the freelancers you intend to hire. Talk with them about how they’ll be paid, and assure them they will be treated comparably to your full-time employees in regard to deadlines and expectations. Some freelancers might ask for payment before beginning the project. Paying the full sum ahead of time is inadvisable, as it can expose you to fraud risk.
With freelance work on the rise and much of the US population already working on a project basis, managers should prepare to embrace the freelancer economy if they haven’t already. Take the time now to identify where freelancers could help your department or team, make a plan to onboard these remote workers, and ensure your future integration process will be seamless.