Freelancers Make Up 34 Percent of the U.S. Workforce. Here’s How to Find, Hire and Manage Them.
Are you looking for a new hire? Or new talent in a specific area of expertise?
Maybe you’re just wondering why it’s so difficult nowadays to find the right employees.
If you have these or other related questions, then we have the answer for you.
Many, if not all, of these questions can be answered in just one word.
That’s the new buzz word.
It’s being talked about everywhere. In campus, business offices, homes, bars, everywhere. The reason is simple. More and more people are becoming freelancers.
In a span of 5 years, the non-freelance U.S. workforce grew by 2% (from 103 million to 105.3 million). Over the same period, the freelance workforce grew by 7% (53 million to 56.7 million).
WHY DO PEOPLE CHOOSE FREELANCING?
The number of people choosing to become freelancers is going up. Upwork, a leading freelancing platform says that freelancing is a movement. And that might be right.
But what is it that makes freelancing so appealing?
What benefits does it provide to make more people ditch the traditional 8-5 job?
We have the answers.
Need for a Better Work-Life Balance
If there is one reason common among freelancers about their move from the 8-5 job, is this one. Anyone who feels like he is not getting enough time for himself is choosing the only alternative.
The study which showed the 7% freelancing growth also found out that those freelancing out of choice are more than those doing it out of circumstances.
That is a big sign of the freedom being desired by many and chosen by those who really want to “have a life.” And once they get a taste of it, they cannot even think of turning back.
51% of freelancers say that they cannot go back to the traditional job no matter how much money they are offered. This is because of the flexibility they enjoy.
With flexibility, you get the perfect, or almost perfect, work-life balance.
Freelancing jobs allow you to plan your own schedule and work at your own pace.
And this is not something you may lose simply because a manager doesn’t like you. This is simply the norm and clients understand that.
At the same time, you get to have time to improve your skills as you see fit.
In the traditional job, your employer may ask you to take the training which is relevant to his company.
Although you may take it to stay competitive and grow your career, it’s obvious that not all employees love their jobs. They therefore don’t really want those trainings.
Unfortunately, they can’t take the training they want.
But with freelancing? You can do that.
As a freelancer, you almost always offer services which you’re naturally good at.
The skills improvement you undertake is in line with what you want and love doing.
Companies Seeking to Cut Costs
As freelancers enjoy the freedom and all the benefits it comes with, companies are also enjoying it.
This is however true only for those who have already adapted. Others are still looking from the other side of the fence.
More and more companies are realizing that the traditional process of hiring and maintaining employees is costly. And since one of the ways of being profitable is by cutting costs, why not stop doing the traditional?
In the traditional, a company would pay to run job ads and spend money with recruiting agencies.
In the modern, it’s cheaper since it only posts a job ad on a freelancing platform and gets all the details of the freelancer in one place.
Also, every freelancer is responsible for his own skills development. The clients on the other hand, are free to work with different freelancers.
Therefore, a freelancer has to get better so as to become competitive. And this is at his own expense. The client doesn’t spend any money or time to improve the freelancer.
There are thus some savings for the companies working with freelancers. And money saved can do many other things.
So, as companies grab the opportunities offered by freelancing, the numbers can only get bigger.
Growth of the Collaborative Spaces Industry
There was once a big challenge for freelancers and it revolved around working from home.
Working from home had several challenges such as:
- Too many distractions (TV, bed, fridge, kids if any, neighbors etc)
- Lack of motivation
- Boredom etc.
That second challenge on the list was a big one for many. And as entrepreneurs always solve problems, someone came up with a solution. The solution actually exceeded expectations.
The solution was shared work spaces or collaborative spaces.
These are public spaces designed to serve as offices for individuals who are not working for the same employer. These spaces will typically have different offices, shared internet and office equipment like printers and even a cafeteria.
The goal is to make the freelance work interactive and in the process, also more productive.
In such spaces, freelancers will interact, share ideas, and maybe even form a company by bringing their strengths or skills together.
Here is a video of one such spaces which shows how much this has been embraced.
And the number of collaborative spaces has been increasing.
It’s no longer difficult to find such places and so having a fully-functional office as a freelancer becomes easier.
Freelancers don’t have to spend much money setting up a home office. And with the additional company, that means more people opting for this alternative.
Technology Favors It
Technology has proven to be a big player in determining the direction life takes. From industrial revolutions to how we communicate. And there is no stopping it.
At the moment, there are many fears that technology will take away jobs.
It has been argued that those fears are unfounded. The counter-argument is that the only thing to change is the kind of skills required.
But there are more changes than those about job types.
Recently, there has been a push towards more teamwork and technology has faithfully worked hard to facilitate this. It is in this facilitation that freelancing has benefited.
Some companies have expanded to remote regions and have needed to collaborate with their remote staff. Others have simply eased up to the requests for work-from-home options.
Those employees working from home still need to be in touch with those in the office.
With necessity being the mother of invention, solutions were developed. Today, remote teams can work together so well as though they were in the same room.
Group collaboration tools are available to help teams work efficiently together despite the distance. Internet speeds have also been increasing making communication easier.
This is the environment freelancing needs so as to flourish—and it’s getting it.
As big companies get their needs met by technology, freelancers also get sorted by the same technology.
If they had to develop their own, that would be a big challenge for the industry. But riding on the existing technology, things happen faster and easier.
Protections Through Legislation
As freelancers began offering their services to clients, they faced more challenges than that of getting contracts.
One such challenge was working and not getting paid.
With vague laws concerning freelancing, many clients took advantage and occasionally exploited those venturing into the field. But things have changed.
Freelancers have increased in number and one of their biggest unions, the Freelancers Union currently boasts of over 450,000 members. With a union comes strength. And when the union has many members, the strength is increased.
This is probably the reason the union was able to get the New York state to pass the Freelance Isn’t Free Law in 2017. This law introduced measures to ensure freelancers got paid for the work they do.
This is encouraging because it means that the industry is being recognized for the contribution it makes to the economy. With over one third of the workforce freelancing, they are sure to be recognized.
When recognition gets to the point of protection by law, you can be sure there’s no stopping.
WHERE TO FIND FREELANCERS
If you are a business owner or work in the HR department of a company, consider tapping into this mass of skill. And to help you do so, here are some of the places you can find freelancers. But of course you can also check out dedicated freelancing job boards and platforms.
Some of these places are already known to you. But if you were never familiar with the freelancing style of work, you may have failed to notice them.
This is a social media platform primarily designed and intended for networking. On LinkedIn, interactions are usually business-oriented though not lacking the social aspect of life.
Users of this platform create a profile, provide some details about themselves and stay open for connections.
The amount of details you can put in your profile is a lot. In fact, recruiters and HR managers often look up a job applicant’s LinkedIn profile as part of the screening process.
The same way the traditional professional has an account on this platform, is the same way a freelancer does.
For freelancers, they use this as a marketing tool, pretty much like everyone else. From the connections they make, it is their hope that business opportunities may arise.
You can search for freelancers on this platform, check out their profiles and if you’re happy with what you see, connect with them.
Upwork is one of the most popular platforms for freelance work. It provides both freelancer and clients an environment where they can build a business.
Upwork freelancers create a profile which gets populated by the jobs done.
Client reviews are provided to help other clients decide on who to hire. The platform provides a built-in communication and payment system to make running the business both secure and convenient.
There is also a community area to discuss anything from platform issues to success tips.
Toptal is another platform for those seeking freelance opportunities and services.
One unique feature of the platform is that it’s not open for all the masses like Upwork. Toptal specializes in the best of the best of freelancers.
They seek to have only 3% of top freelance talent. That means that joining as a freelancer is not easy.
It offers five areas of services: developers, designers, finance experts, project managers and product managers.
This website targets the companies looking for the best talent. The screening has been done and businesses can be sure that the person handling their project is both skilled and experienced.
Remote-only Job Boards
Another place to find freelance talent is on job boards specializing in remote jobs. These have cut out a niche for themselves and are providing interested members access to specific types of jobs.
Different from the traditional job board, these center on freelancing jobs.
Companies posting jobs on the traditional job board require face-to-face interviews and reporting to an office. On the other hand, those posted on remote-only job boards are purely of the freelancing type.
Whether the company hiring is located next door or in a different state, freelancers will be working from a location of their choice.
HOW TO BEST WORK WITH FREELANCERS
Once you choose to have a freelancer join your team or work with you individually, there are some things you should take note of.
Freelancers work with you and not for you. As such, it would be inaccurate to think of them as your employees.
This shift in mindset should guide you to treat them differently from how you would treat an employee.
Although the normal employee should also be treated with respect, freelancers can more easily terminate a contract compared to an employee.
Moreover, on the freelancing platforms, any review you get from a freelancer is visible to others.
If you therefore had a bad working relationship with one, another freelancer may read the review and decide not to work with you.
To help you have a good time working with them, here are five things to remember:
1. Communication is Very Important
Communication is not only important in romantic relationships but also in business relationships. And communication is not merely passing the message. Good communication includes ensuring the other person understands what you have to say.
That means you have to use the right words, check the tone of your voice, avoid capital letters when typing etc. And just as you seek to ensure they understand you, also ensure you understand them.
Give them as much information as you think they need and be open to any questions they may have.
Explain whatever needs explaining so that whatever work is being done can be done as per your needs.
2. Set Clear Expectations
As you discuss the job itself, it’s a good idea to give a background of where your company is at. Let them know what necessitated the project you’re undertaking with them.
With the background info, now tell them what you expect their work to look like. Whether it’s a written work or created image, it will only be beneficial to you if it’s made with the bigger picture in mind.
Be very specific about the deliverables.
If it’s a magazine for example, specify the number of pages designed, the layout and even colors used.
If it’s writing, specify the length of the writing, the perspective, references, fonts, formatting etc.
When you have clear expectations, you minimize misunderstandings and avoid unnecessary conflicts.
3. Build the Relationship
Despite the relationship between you and the freelancer being contractual and often short-lived, it can still be cultivated.
As long as you want the best results from the work, you should consider developing a good working relationship.
Many freelancers are skilled in more ways than one. They often have skills which they don’t publicize because those are not their main ones. But these skills can be used to improve the quality of the work.
If you have a good relationship with the freelancer, it’s easy for him to do a little more than the contract demands. If the relationship is not good, why should he do more than is expected of him?
Consider the below tips for building the relationship:
- Talk about non-work matters – as you talk about work, deliberately but gently switch topics to social matters. If he lives in a different location, ask him about life in his location. Tell him some of the things you like e.g. sports and find out what he loves.
Just because you’re looking for his services doesn’t mean that is all you can talk about.
- Listen actively – as he tells you about himself and anything else he says, be attentive. Do not ask to be told about something then interrupt when being responded to. Furthermore, people love talking with people they know are sincerely listening.
- Show appreciation – for any good work done, always appreciate the effort put in. This is one way for you to develop value for people. Appreciating people helps you see the importance of working with others.
Being appreciated will make them like you more. And the more they like you, the more likely they are to go the extra mile in the work they’re doing for you.
- Develop emotional intelligence – emotional intelligence plays an important role in good communication. Essentially, it is the ability to be aware of both your emotions and those of the other person. This helps you be sensitive towards them and avoiding to say or do what may be hurtful towards them.
4. Provide Feedback
Feedback is always welcome, especially in the freelancing world. Whenever you have received the finished work, tell the freelancer your thoughts of it.
If you’re happy with it, go ahead and make it known to him. In case you would like changes to be made, let him know it.
The importance of feedback to freelancers helps them in at least two ways:
- Deliver higher quality work – freelancers are always seeking to provide value to their clients. As such, getting feedback from you on the work they have delivered helps them gauge your satisfaction.
In case you’re not satisfied with it and would like certain aspects worked on, go ahead and tell them. They will willingly make the necessary changes. Just remember the first two tips given in this section i.e. communicate well and be clear with your expectations.
- Improve their skills – remember that freelancers take it upon themselves to improve their skills? One of the ways they do it, or at least know which skills to improve on is through your feedback.
Consider that working with a freelancer you’ve worked with in the past is always better. This is because they already know your work and your expectations.
Therefore, if you give them feedback and they improve their skills, you’ll likely be among those benefiting.
5. Embrace Technology
Because technology favors the freelancing work style, you will have to embrace it too so as to work with freelancers.
The freelance work can be done from anywhere in the world. And with the need to keep things flowing smoothly, here are the four main ares you need to get covered for a good working relationship.
- Communication – we have already seen the place of communication in this relationship. To make communication possible and convenient, familiarize yourself with popular teleconferencing and videoconferencing tools.
- File sharing – rarely will you work with someone else without sharing files. Whether they are documents, pictures, or computer code, you must know how to get them to your freelancer.
Freelancing platforms usually provide an internal service for convenience. But if you prefer, other tools outside of the platform can also be utilized. A common way of sharing files is Dropbox. Others are Google Drive and Microsoft’s OneDrive.
- Project management – if you have a big project and several people are working on it, things can get tricky. Team members may not know what exactly has been covered and what is still pending. Other may have overlapping tasks.
- Payment – after all is said and done, this working relationship is a business transaction. You will therefore be paying for the services you are offered. How do you do it?
If by any chance you live in the same location as your freelancer, you can agree to meet and pay him by check. If that is not possible, you can use Paypal to send him the money you owe him. You can also use the payment methods incorporated into the freelancing platforms.
The freelancing work style is growing in popularity and you’re better off adapting quickly.
There are benefits for you as a business too. As there have been disruptions in industries, freelancing is definitely a disruption changing how companies acquire and retain talent.
Use the knowledge shared here to strategically position yourself for lower costs and higher profits.
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