Ready or not, the Freelance Economy is here, and the mass exodus from traditional 9-to-5 routine is only accelerating. The World Economic Forum reported that at least 35 percent of U.S. workers are independent contractors today. By 2027, freelancers will outnumber full-time employees.
One of the most common, and most disastrous, mistakes made by companies of all sizes is to treat these contingent workers like temporary workers. To work effectively with these solopreneurs, hiring managers have to shift their way of thinking. Freelancers are a very different breed than the faceless temps that companies called in to fill vacation holes or clear out a holiday backlog. The new breed are professional re-skillers, constantly upgrading their expertise in technologies and methodologies. They possess a unique set of skill sets, priorities and expectations. A great match can bring in original competitive advantages to your business, while a bad match can seriously compromise your overall productivity.
Mistakes can be extremely costly. Forty-one percent of businesses estimated that a single bad hire costs more than $25,000, and another 25 percent said it costs more than $50,000. Before your company has to learn the hard way, make the time to hire the right freelancer in the right way using these nine best practices. These will help whether you are simply looking for extra workers to enhance the capabilities of your in-house staff, you’ve had difficult experiences with freelancers in the past, or you don’t know where to start on jumping into the Freelance Economy.
1. Create a Task Database
Before you hire someone, know exactly what you need them to do. Leaders often think of objectives, while workers normally look at the same job as a breakdown of tasks. By creating an inventory of tasks that need to be completed, it will be clear what can be handled by an outside contractor and what requires special knowledge of company-specific information.
2. Identify Remote Work
The current state of mobile technology makes most office-bound work obsolete. Freelancers often prefer to work from home or a coworking space, where they can be far more productive. As long as the communication channel is clear and reliable, give them goals and let them decide when and where to get the job done in the fastest, least expensive way.
3. Go Where Freelancers Gather
Your own company’s HR page or a posting on LinkedIn probably won’t be enough to reach the very best freelancers for your needs. There are freelancer-specific sites for graphic designers, writers, software developers, cloud and security experts, etc. It’s worth spending the time to read postings on these sites about common problems they have with employers.
4. Don’t Wait Until a Crisis
Top talent is able to overcome the uncertainty of the freelance life by booking out schedules well ahead. Hiring managers must be hyper-organized, because it can be difficult to manage communications across a variety of platforms, such as email, social networks, messaging apps, portals, etc. Look as far down the road as possible and try to bring on freelance talent before there is a time crunch.
5. Hire With Care
Look over the freelancer’s work samples in detail. Company leaders should work with frontline employees to craft a detailed description of the project, with a timeline and deliverables. Include examples of what the freelancer should try to achieve. There shouldn’t be any surprises in what is expected after the freelancer comes on board.
6. Take Care of Paperwork Early
Don’t risk delays to your project timeline because the freelancers hasn’t sent back the proper tax forms or nondisclosure agreement. Once you settle on the right candidate, your paperwork should all go out and be tracked for rapid back-office processing while the onboarding session begins.
7. Make Them Part of the Team
Geographical isolation often brings emotional and professional isolation along with it. That is without question the most common seed of miscommunication and dissatisfaction that sabotages project health. Use video calling and frequent check-ins to keep the freelancer aligned with mission goals, even as they travel alone in the deep space of remote work.
8. Get End-of-Job Processes in Order
Work out the details of payment processing before the end of the job. Will your company send payment by online currency like Paypal, a bank draft or a paper check? Each one requires a different set of procedures and setup options that often take time. Problems with payments can hurt the company’s relationship with the freelancer and their private network.
9. Call for an Internal Review Post-Project
Did it work? What went well and what could go better next time? If there are significant findings, both good and bad, let the freelancer know so they can improve their performance. In the absence of employer relationship, freelancers often don’t know if they performed up to expectations of if their work was even put to use. A recommendation or suggestion sets the foundation for a new kind of arrangement on future projects.
What Really Matters Most
These nine suggestions can be boiled down to one idea: Hire freelancers with as much care and thoughtful preparation as you would for a strategic-level executive. Freelancers represent the future of work and they may know even more than you do about emerging trends in your industry. Skills and experience matter, but not as much as their commitment to helping you reach your top objective. Unlike automation, these workers tend to be extremely adaptable and prepared to develop new skills under tight schedules — exactly what businesses need in the new world of mobile, global, unpredictable markets.