In the past few years, as the economy becomes ever more global and diversified, freelancing has experienced significant growth. Recent technological advances have made it much easier to become a freelancer, and for businesses to manage the freelance process. This ‘Gig Economy’ is a new name for a much older trend of freelance working, but certainly captures the ethos of the modern labor market.
In the Philippines alone, over half of all professionals work remotely for half of the week or more according to a recent study. Whereas previous common wisdom held that most people entered freelancing out of necessity, for example when losing their full time employment, now well over half of freelancers report choosing this type of work.
All of this means that there’s a growing pool of talented and motivated freelancers waiting for your business should you wish to partake. A growing number of businesses are in fact turning to freelancers for both short and long-term projects. Apart from the large talent pool that these businesses can draw on, their choice to work with freelancers comes with a wide range of other benefits.
The Benefits of Freelancing (and potential drawbacks)
Freelancing isn’t just beneficial for the freelancers themselves, but comes with significant benefits for your business. Before choosing to work with freelancers it’s important to acquaint yourself with these benefits, as well as any potential drawbacks. Here are a few of the key ones:
Flexibility- perhaps the greatest benefit of working with freelancers is the flexibility they provide, allowing you to access a wide talent pool for anything from a one-off project, to a long-term consistent engagement.
Expertise- freelancers can bring crucial expertise that is missing from your current team to any project. This is especially important if you’re in the startup phase of your business and still growing your full-time team.
Affordability- while top quality freelancers should still come with a top price tag, when working with freelancers you will remove many of the overhead costs (for example, renting larger office space or paying certain insurance contributions).
Freelancers certainly bring significant benefits, but as with any approach to your business’s talent, there are also some drawbacks to consider:
Building Long-term Capacity- relying on freelancers for key work streams can remove the chance for full-time team members to develop their own expertise in these areas. This can leave your team lacking certain skills in the long run.
Lower Levels of Security- flexibility works both ways, and freelancers have no obligation to stick around once their project is done. Relying on freelancers means you must live with a certain level of uncertainty as to how long they will engage with your business.
Higher Levels of Risk- initially engaging with freelancers comes with a certain level of risk. While there are ways to try to minimize this, by thoroughly checking the freelancer’s online portfolio, it’s impossible to completely guarantee that you’ll be getting what you pay for.
Know where to find them
Now that you’ve weighed the pluses and minuses of working with freelancers, and ultimately see the benefit for your business, you need to know where to find them. Luckily, recent years have seen the development and growth of many online marketplaces for freelancers.
When searching for freelancers the first, and arguably most important, step is outlining all of the details of the project. Creating a project description is crucial for finding the right freelancer and set the right tone for your future collaboration. While there are many different approaches to a project description, all good descriptions share similar elements:
- Clearly outline the project and deliverables. Take time to describe how the final products look in your mind, although leave room for the freelancer to bring in their own expert advice.
- Explain how this project ties into your larger work as an organization. Giving a clear idea as to how this project ties into the bigger picture will help the freelancer better understand their work and can help with motivation.
- Set the predicted amount of work days involved. Of course, this could be adjusted in the future, but it’s important to have a general idea from the get go so that the freelancer can plan their schedules accordingly.
- Outline the desired profile of the freelancer, including the skills and experience necessary for them to complete this project. You certainly have the ideal candidate in mind, now put it on paper!
- Set a base rate for compensation (although remain open for negotiation). Remember, you get what you pay for, so don’t try to undersell too much from the get go, or you could risk chasing away top talent.
Know how to hire them
Once you’ve found the freelancer(s) you want to work with, it’s time to hire them. It’s not enough simply to find the right talent and set them to work. If you want to achieve the best results, it’s important to invest time in the initial hiring and onboarding process.
This process should include several elements:
- Agreeing on the final project deliverables- Before the freelancer begins work it’s crucial to ensure that you are aligned on the final products. Regardless of how clear your initial project outline is, it’s important to make sure the freelancer clearly understands your vision for the ultimate products.
- Agreeing on the pay rate- Good work comes with the right price tag. It’s important for both sides to feel that they are giving and getting something, so leave room for an honest negotiation.
- Agreeing on the timeline for the final deliverables and checkpoints- Setting out a roadmap for your collaboration will help ensure that the freelancer knows what will be expected of them and when.
- Any other agreements necessary for the freelancer to begin work– Perhaps your freelancer will need access to an online database or a communication network, or maybe they will need certain resources to begin their work. Make sure you think through all of the final details necessary for the freelancer to begin work.
Remote workers will likely also have questions and concerns around their income tax status and how to file income tax. This process can be tricky for remote workers, particularly if they fall in the freelancer category as there are specific rules that apply.
Make sure that you can at least guide your freelancer in the right direction for support in their tax filing. Even if you don’t think of yourself as an expert in this field, it’s important that your freelancer at least know where and how to reach out for support.
Know how to manage them
Conventional wisdom holds that you simply need to hire the freelancer, outline the project, and let them do their job. However, this ignores the importance of things such as providing feedback, checking work status and asking questions. In short, when working with freelancers communication is key.
Even the most experienced and talented freelancer needs some guidance at times, and benefits from sharing status updates. Given that your freelancer will likely work in another location, it’s important to have the right tool for keeping in touch. Using tools such as an Instant Messenger, for example, can provide you the right forum for communication and collaboration with your remote freelancer(s).
Apart from setting up clear channels of communication, it’s also important to agree on certain expectations of your work together.
- Is the freelancer expected to interact with other team members?
- How often should you hold progress check-in meetings?
- What should the freelancer do if they have questions?
Answering these questions will give both sides a clear idea of how you want to manage the freelancer’s work. Apart from these mutual expectations, you should also practice the art of giving feedback during your collaboration. Ultimately the freelancer is there to fulfill your goals, but in order to do so they need to hear from you. Don’t hesitate to share your feedback, both in the form of praise and constructive criticism.
Working with freelancers can be highly beneficial to your business, but only if you take the appropriate steps to make the most of the process. It’s not simply enough to find the talent and set them to work, there’s a lot of preparation and follow up that goes into effectively utilizing freelancers.
The flexibility, expertise and cost savings that freelancers can bring to your business can significantly help your bottom line. By first finding the right talent, then managing them effectively, you’ll be able to take advantage of the modern ‘Gig Economy.’