Freelancers have become a large part of the global workforce. According to one recent statistic, there are more than 56.7 million freelancers in the United States today. From a recruiter’s perspective, there are a few reasons why hiring freelancers makes sense. One study published by MRI found that a shortage of qualified candidates was the biggest recruitment hurdle for nearly 63% of recruiters.
Freelancers help fix this shortage because, for the most part, they are independent of any one location. In addition, freelancers are not entitled to holidays, corporate insurance, and many other perks that tend to inflate the cost of an employee. Most importantly, a freelance workforce is easy to scale up or down depending on your organization’s requirements. All of these are reasons the usage of freelancers has increased in the modern workforce.
However, there are a few things to watch out for when it comes to freelancer recruiting. Unlike the typical office worker, freelancers are not under managerial supervision, which can potentially create productivity issues with those workers. Also, communication and collaboration can be major hurdles if you have a large freelance workforce that is distributed across the country or the world. Ensuring that all your workers deliver and are dedicated to the project can be tough.
Therefore, establishing a freelancer strategy is a must for any organization looking to scale up with freelancers.
Create Organizationwide Recruitment Benchmarks
On a small scale, freelance hiring is based mostly on trial and error. Individual teams hire freelancers from third-party portals directly without the involvement of the organization’s HR department. Freelancers’ pay also frequently comes from the team’s internal budget. While this works for small, one-off outsourcing projects, it can quickly become expensive on a broader scale.
One reason for the expense is that members of various teams are not adequately trained to identify a candidate’s red flags—unlike professional recruiters. As a result, individual team members do not use the collective wisdom gained from previous recruitments while filling vacancies. This results in poor quality of the hired workers and brings down the overall productivity of teams. And with a reduction in productivity, of course, comes a reduction in profit.
Therefore, it is important to create a benchmark that employees must adhere to while hiring freelance workers. This could include what third-party platforms to hire from, the location of these applicants, minimum ratings, the number of interview rounds to pass, minimum and maximum pay, and so on. Adhering to these benchmarks minimizes potential bad hiring and also prevents employees from hiring their friends and families to work on company projects.
Invest in Uniform Collaboration Tools
Working with freelancers requires collaboration tools. The use of such tools, however, is often disjointed and not uniform across various teams. There are two reasons why this hinders productivity. First, collaborating with multiple tools creates “workspace islands” within an organization, which makes it difficult to monitor at a managerial level. Second, collaboration tools cost money, and multiple teams investing separately in collaboration tools can quickly turn expensive.
It is a good idea for HR teams to establish collaboration protocols at an organizational level. There are tons of great project management tools to choose from, and your team must pick one or two of the more sophisticated applications that team members may use to work with freelancers. In addition to the easier management of tasks and the reduction in costs, this strategy also improves the auditing of your projects.
Creating Freelancer-Friendly Policies
Organizations create employee-friendly HR policies to enable higher productivity and engagement among workers. Although freelancers are not technically employees and organizations have no legal obligation toward their well-being, keeping them happy is in your own best interest. Similar to hiring employees, it costs more to find a new freelancer than to work with an existing one, making freelancer-friendly policies pivotal.
There are a number of ways to achieve this. The first method is providing them with access to tools and applications that help them work better. Time management is regarded as one of the biggest freelancer challenges, and giving them access to in-house time tracking or management is imperative.
You may also look at easing your company policies with respect to payments. Many organizations work on a 30- or 60-day payment cycle. While this works with business vendors, freelancers are typically individuals with inadequate cash flow. Withholding payment for such long periods may create unhappiness, which affects their loyalty to your organization.
The freelancer economy is here whether we like it or not. It is important for organizations to chart out specific policies to help employees and freelancers work more effectively with each other. This is absolutely essential in the modern work space, where location and employment status are secondary and successful execution of projects is what matters.
Anand Srinivasan is the founder of Hubbion, a suite of free business apps and resources.