Freelance work has become far more accessible, connecting temporary job seekers with hiring companies via apps and specific websites that focus on this sector of the workforce. For an employer, apart from solving the gap in skills, hiring an independent worker for short-term engagements is more cost-effective as it eliminates the need for a permanent worker and the continuous payment of a salary. Although locating and recruiting freelance talent is just one stage of the hiring process, the real test is knowing how to retain the top part-time employees and creating a stable of gig-workers that can be relied upon.
According to Darren Kall, managing director of Specific Clarity, a UX design consulting company, employing a staff of full-time workers would limit their resources as they would be confined to different levels of ability as far as skills, disciplines and experience is concerned. Accepting client work would depend on the expert capabilities of the available staff and a project would not be assigned to a person that does not have the qualifications to deliver. Instead, having a pool of freelancers means that a specifically skilled team can be put together to complete projects for clients. Freelancers also help to lighten the workload of firms that are understaffed or have a smaller staff complement. However, if a group of selected freelancers is to be maintained, employers need to create an environment that encourages the best workers to return.
Firstly, it is necessary to identify which skills are required on a regular basis that are lacking in-house. According to Kall, this means getting to know your freelancers, their areas of expertise and specific experience, as well as the kind of work they are interested in doing. By creating a spreadsheet of every freelancer, an employer can keep a record of their relevant skills, making it easy to carry out quick searches for specific matches. Continual updating of the spreadsheet with additional information helps to develop a generous database from which to draw.
Despite the flexible working pattern of freelancers, they also desire a regular income just as much as full-time workers. Because they do not have a main HR facility to administer their payments, they often have to deal with different payment systems and methods applicable to each client that employs them. Streamlining the whole process would make it easier and offer more stability. Brandy Benefield, a senior content developer at Postali, a PR marketing firm for attorneys that relies heavily on freelancers, said that the primary focus should be on keeping work and pay consistent. Providing steady work to freelancers means they are not worried about where their next wage is coming from, with some of them taking on enough assignments to keep them more or less in the equivalent of full-time employment. Offering competitive remuneration and consistent work provides more security that can lead to better quality and productivity.
To retain freelancers it is important to set clear expectations about what is required. Because they are probably hired by several clients wanting different jobs done, being able to communicate exactly and clearly what is required of them, can be advantageous. However, it is better to refrain from creating too much organisation around your expectations of freelancers. After all, the majority of them have opted for freelance work to escape the usual corporate structure. It is also important to keep the lines of communication open and provide feedback to freelancers. An employer may be uncertain about doing this as a freelancer is not a traditional employee, but giving constructive feedback helps to establish expectations and gives freelancers the opportunity of improving their skills for future projects and other clients. Benefield also recommends that a freelancer should be treated in the same way as a permanent employee, with an employer always being available via email, a messaging platform or phone to answer any queries or allay any concerns that they may have.
Because of the nature of their work, the schedules of freelancers can be erratic and their changing workload can mean them having to turn down some projects. According to Kall, these circumstances need to be taken into consideration, especially in the case of last-minute assignments. Also, freelancers frequently return to full-time employment and this adds to the difficulty of knowing who would be instantly available from the talent pool. To give a better picture of who is likely to take on a project at a moment’s notice, freelancers are often requested to provide their availability on a three-month basis and to keep their schedule updated. If someone is not available, Kall makes sure that as backup, there is more than one freelancer with similar skills waiting in the wings to take on the task. However, as soon as a freelance pool has been set up it is best not to become too complacent. Because people’s circumstances change, prospective workers need to be continually evaluated before being added to the pool. The search for freelance talent should be ongoing – an overstaffed freelance base gives more leeway when it comes to hiring part-time workers.