In a recently published report, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that 16.5 million people are now actively contributing to the gig economy.
This growing number of freelancers across the world indicates only one thing - a steady rise of an alternative economy that is based on demand-supply scenario. This means companies need to change their HR strategies to fully capitalize this evolving workforce. However, are companies equipped with all the strategies that they need to build a freelancer friendly company culture? The best way to do that is by developing an ecosystem which benefits both the freelance workforce and the companies that work with them.
Table of Content
- Learn to Adapt
- Open Up
- The 11th Hour
- Stay Young
- Build Relations
- Technology Booth
- Pay on Time
- Leave Your Mark
- Offer Steady Work
Learn to Adapt
The first step towards building a futuristic work model that accommodates contingent workforce is understanding that your regular HR policies are not enough for freelancers. Freelancers are not part of your traditional 9-5ers' team and as such shouldn't be subjected to the same rules and policies that apply to them. Create HR and employment terms and policies that are made with freelancers in mind so that they can truly benefit from it. Refer to this Upwork article to understand the latest rules and regulations for freelancer. Since freelancers do not receive any of the benefits that a permanent employee enjoys, create policies that make payments, reimbursements and taxes easy and fast. Once freelancers know that your employment policies are considerate towards freelancing hassles, they will be keen on working for you and also spread the word in the freelancing community.
The second step towards creating a freelancer inclusive work-space is to create a career page that invites freelancers as much as full-timers to apply for open positions. The best thing about freelancing work-space is perhaps the fact that it allows you to hire and work with the top talent pool without having to exhaust your budget. However, most companies do not even have a career page that is specifically designed for freelancers. Worse still, there are generally no touch points on company websites that allow freelancers to proactively apply to work with them.
Our pro tip: Open up your company career page for freelancers so that vacancies and roles are applicable to them as well. Additionally, set up a sign-up form to create a touch point where freelancers can submit their resume and profile details for future openings. This also ensures that freelancers come to you instead of you going looking for them. Not only does this save time and effort on the company’s part but also makes sure that you have access to the top freelance talent.
Since freelancers might not come with recommendation or cover letters that are so typical to traditional employees, make sure that your career page has sections which allow them to share their client reviews and ratings. You can even ask them to upload samples or snippets of their work. Use softwares like Freework to create an internal CRM pool of your own which stores all the freelancer database. Browse through this pool to check for freelancer availability, skill sets, expense rates and more to understand who can handle your projects.
The 11th Hour
The third step involves being time-conscious. Those last-minute changes, odd hour requests, late project assignments- whichever of these you got away practicing, stop. Time crunches has never done anyone any good. Avoid the 11th hour, both literally and metaphorically. Post for job openings while you still have ample time in hand so that your schedule can accommodate freelancer availability. Understand that your freelancer might be working from a different time zone. Plan your projects accordingly so that the time difference doesn’t affect reporting and further planning. Before demanding ad hoc changes for an ongoing project, check for the time in the freelancer’s part of the world. You can even schedule regular project reviews so that both parties know that they are on the same page with the project progress and end result. Respect your freelancer’s time, don’t make them rework on the same thing time and again because of feedback discrepancies from different teams.
Time is money- this couldn’t be more relevant in the freelancing space. If your project needs service around the clock, make sure you compensate your freelancer well. This is also true for projects requiring rework because of no miss from the freelancers end.
Calculate your project deadlines with some buffer time in mind. Freelancers might work on weekends to fast track project proceedings but what happens when they fall sick? Instead of pushing their limit, give them the time to get back to work so that when they do, they have the best quality to offer. Considering your deadline with these facts in mind will not help you plan your projects better but also build trust in the freelancer fraternity.
Apart from being time-conscious, companies also need to be time-efficient. Use time trackers (check out Freework’s time tracker for a better understanding) to gauge the amount of time spent on projects to optimize resource per project. Time tracking sheets are a great way to propel transparency in the work culture. If both your freelancer and you have a clear understanding of why certain projects take longer than usual, there will be no unnecessary pressure. It’s all about building a professional space which isn’t affected by geographical distance or lack of physical communication.
Yes, you heard that right and yes it has everything to do with creating a freelancer-friendly environment at your company. Companies are constantly overlooking fresh graduates in favor of experienced professionals and that's not a very good thing to do. Youngsters might lack experience but they compensate by bringing a fresh approach to work which is equally valuable to any project. Thanks to specialized courses, fresh graduates too come with all the expertise you might need for your project but for them it’s not so easy to get that first chance - give them that.
“Beginnings are always difficult”, most freelancers say. Be a company that helps young freelancers take on more responsible roles. Let your company be the platform that encourages young talent and helps them build a sustainable freelance career.
If it is possible, meet your freelancers at least once, especially during the onset of the project. Technology is great and is definitely bringing the world together but unfortunately, no amount of text message or video calls can replace the good old cafe meeting. Of course, there’s no denying that physical meetings are not always possible in intercontinental businesses but try and meet whenever possible.
Invite your freelancers to your team meetings (in person/through phone calls) to help them understand your company culture. Encourage them to share their suggestions and be open to constructive criticism. Freelancers come with their share of client experience which can benefit your company and also add value to the ongoing project.
If you starting out as a company who wants to work with more and more freelancers, it’s a good idea to invest in a technology booth. It will pay off in the long run. Ask your freelancers if they have all the apps and gadgets required for a particular project and if they don’t, then make it available to them. Freelancers can use the company assets for the project duration and return it when the project gets over. This might be a small step on the company’s part but a huge one for freelancers. When freelancers have access to the best technology that's sure to reflect positively on their work and morale.
Pay on Time
Perhaps, the most step important of all - Payment. Have a routine in place so that you never miss a payday. Don’t create a payment process that involves freelancers filling up too many forms or requires too many details from the freelancer’s end. Use mobile-friendly payment platforms so that freelancers can access or check it whenever and wherever they want. Softwares like Freework and others allow you to pay through Stripe which is an excellent option for multi-currency payments. With Stripe you can automatically pay in different currencies without manually converting the amount.
Leave Your Mark
Rate and review your freelancer after they have finished working for you. Ratings and reviews are the true testimonials that clients refer to while hiring a freelancer. Feedback is the only thing that you can leave your freelancer with (apart from payment) which has a really high impact on his/her career. Good reviews will help them secure more clients and negative feedback will help them improve their work. If possible refer them internally within the company to other departments (Check Freework’s internal talent pool functionalities) and externally in your peer group.
Offer Steady Work
One of the biggest challenges freelancers face is dry patches where they receive no work offers. If you are not in a seasonal business, strategize your freelance projects in a manner so that freelancers are not overworked for a certain period of time and then left with no work at all for other times. Keeping a steady flow of work will help freelancers to secure their finance and also build a positive client experience.
The road to a freelancer-friendly company is long and at best through a Freelancer Management system (if you need an introduction to it, download the Freework comprehensive guide to Freelancer Management). It might take some time for companies to grasp all the essentials of a freelancer-friendly environment, but once they do, it is going to be worth all the effort.
Let freelancers know that they are in safe hands. There’s nothing like professional reassurance to boost productivity and quality of work.