Follow these four simple rules and your freelancers will keep coming back for more, says Peter Johnston.
As the world moves towards the freelance economy, gig or ‘temp’ work is rapidly becoming the new normal, with estimates expecting freelancers to make up half of the professional workforce as soon as 2020. Right now, there are two million freelancers in the UK and the growth statistics show no sign of slowing down.
Year after year, a ballooning number of skilled workers choose the freelance lifestyle over full-time work to be their own boss, create their own schedule, and focus on what they love to do.
With more companies onboarding freelancers across every sector, it’s important for employers to manage these workers in an efficient and ethical manner. Yet, most employers struggle with this.
As it stands, the top ten companies to freelance for are: Airbnb, Amazon, Walmart, Google, Ideo, Vice, Apple, Apartment Therapy Media, Group Nine Media and McDonald’s.
Freelancers value companies that treat them not as peripheral but as key participants.
So what makes these businesses freelancers’ top picks and what lessons can employers learn from them in being more freelancer-friendly? The likes of Airbnb and Walmart have four things in common when it comes to managing freelancers; clear communication, utilisation of skills, timely payment and inclusion.
Talk to your freelance workforce
One of the first lessons we can learn from superstar hirers like Airbnb and Amazon is top-notch internal communication with not only their full timers, but their freelance workforce as well. Since freelancers work from outside an organisation, they can often feel out-of-the-loop with day-to-day goings on in the business, which their full time counterparts tend to take for granted.
It is common for freelancers to have to wait up to three days for a response to a simple email or for them not to be given all the information needed to get started on a project. Bad communication is not just frustrating and stressful, it can prevent a freelancer from getting the job done.
That’s why communication is at the top of the list, as companies that communicate not only consistently but also clearly are highly prized in the freelancer community.
Create a productive working relationship that gets the most out of the freelancers’ skill set
Utilisation of skills is important because freelancers are interested in doing what they love. These freelancers may have left an office job because they didn’t want 50% of their time getting sucked up in meetings and admin work. If an employer only doles out menial tasks or assignments that don’t align with a freelancers’ skill set, that doesn’t create a productive working relationship.
Pay your freelancers on time
Timely payment is essential because it’s an area that so many companies struggle with. A 2015 Freelancers Union report revealed that 44% of its members have experienced issues getting paid. On average, its members are owed over $10,000 in unpaid invoices and spend 36 hours tracking down missing payments.
Even companies with workforces that are more than 25% freelance are still working off of a net-30 or even net-60 day schedule.
Companies that make an effort to recognise freelancers for their contributions, thank them for their work, and provide constructive feedback come out on top.
Failing to pay in a timely manner is inexcusable – especially when freelancers don’t have salaries to fall back on and need timely payment to cover essentials like rent and food – and freelancers talk. That reputation for failing to deliver payment on time can have a negative ability on a company’s ability to attract top talent.
Include freelancers into your company culture
Freelancers value companies that treat them not as peripheral but as key participants. Up until now, larger companies have simply decided to put freelancers at arms length to their core business by implementing a third-party staffing agency or managed service provider to take care of the freelancer workforce, leaving them feeling like second class citizens.
Even as a part-time worker freelancers can still make valuable contributions, and they prefer to give those contributions to companies that treat them as one of the team. Companies that make an effort to recognise freelancers for their contributions, thank them for their work, and provide constructive feedback come out on top.
Inclusion can also mean integrating freelancers into company life, whether it’s adding them to a team Slack channel or inviting local freelancers to an office happy hour.
So next time your organisation works with freelancers, think about these four lessons and how you can implement these learnings to be more freelancer-friendly. In the meantime, the full top 50 list of best companies for freelancers is here.
About the author
Peter Johnston, founder and CEO of freelancer management platform Kalo