Running a business today is a lot different than it was only a decade or so ago. The spread of the gig economy has changed the employee-employer dynamic, work environment, and what we want from work.
Today, 35% of the global workforce are freelancers, and companies are increasingly relying on their services. Some organizations have a core of in-house employees and outsource any peripheral tasks, whereas others rely on independent contractors entirely.
However, freelancers are not permanent employees, and they can leave whenever they want. So how should leaders entice them and make the collaboration with them work?
What Do Freelancers Want?
Freelancing has numerous benefits compared to traditional work. If you think only people who can’t find traditional employment become gig workers, you are sorely mistaken. In fact, 61% of freelancers say they’re independent workers by choice. Most of them wouldn’t go back to the nine-to-five grind if offered the opportunity.
Hiring independent contractors is therefore much different from recruiting traditional employees. You need to cater to an entirely different set of needs. Well, almost.
First of all, freelancers value their independence and flexibility over everything else. A survey has found that the top three reasons people turn to freelance work are work-life balance (70%), flexibility (62%), and freedom (56%).
Once you hire a gig worker, you can’t expect to boss them around or micromanage them. You have to respect their time and trust their skills. It’s in their best interest to do a great job.
Of course, if a client is fair and respectful, freelancers are happy to start a lasting business relationship with them. If you’re striving for this kind of arrangement, there are several things you can do to make freelancers happy to work with you.
Streamline Your Recruitment Process
If your talent acquisition funnel is too lengthy, clunky, and tiring, you will deter many potentially amazing freelance workers. They’re not looking for steady employment at your company, so they probably won’t waste their time going through numerous steps and waiting forever to get a yay or nay.
You need to make your recruitment process for contractors much more efficient than that for your regular employees. In other words — speed it up! Think about any redundant steps and leave them out. Also, be sure to let the candidates know what they can expect and when. Eliminate the guesswork, and they’ll be much more likely to wait.
Be Clear About What You Want Them to Do
Again, independent contractors are not your full-time employees, i.e., they don’t know how your company does things. So when you reach out to them, they don’t care about the job title you’re advertising — they want to know what kind of work they’ll be doing and what you expect of them.
Once they start working on your project, you should provide them with detailed instructions and make sure you’re on the same page from the get-go. This will eliminate the need for intense supervision and room for mistakes.
Consider Offering Employee Benefits
Now, just because freelancers don’t want a traditional job, it doesn’t mean they wouldn’t like the opportunity to enjoy some standard employee benefits. They’re just rarely offered any, so they need to fend for themselves. By extending your healthcare insurance, for example, to your contract workers, you’ll get much more than a job well done — you’ll get loyalty. Here are some benefits you could offer them.
Health Insurance Coverage
Having health, vision, and dental coverage is a freelancer’s dream come true. They have a much more difficult time finding these options for their type of work, and they’re indisputably extremely important to everyone.
You can buy them insurance or offer to cover the health insurance plan they already have. This move will undoubtedly make you a much more appealing client than the competition. You can also provide access to your group plans and even reduce your benefits premiums this way.
Planning for retirement is another pressing issue freelancers tend to face. They need to set up their own pension plan and try to contribute toward it as much as possible if they want to be able to comfortably retire one day.
You can offer them a savings plan and contribute to their accounts. This type of care on your end will make them much more likely to stay with you for a long while.
Certification and Training
As self-employed and often self-taught people, freelancers are always on the prowl for new opportunities to further their knowledge and marketable skills. Therefore, another great way to incentivize them is to offer some sort of educational resources to them.
These could be seminars, training, various programs and courses, and anything else you might be able to offer. This way, you also show that you don’t think about them as disposable and you value their work.
If your business enjoys any kinds of discounts, such as those for travel expenses, gym memberships, professional equipment, or anything else, you could extend this benefit to your contractors as well.
They may find these incredibly useful for their own professional development, and it once again shows that you value them and consider them part of your business ecosystem.
Build a Strong and Inclusive Company Culture
Thanks to advanced software options for small business communication and smooth operations, you can make even remote-working contractors feel part of the team. If you nurture a culture of diversity and acceptance and give opportunities to a variety of people, you’ll build a strong company core.
Your core is what keeps all the different elements of your organization together and unites them. You might have outside partners, full- and part-time employees, independent contractors, office and remote employees working for your brand. The best way to have them all working as one toward the common goal is to have strong company values they can relate to.
Ultimately, a strong leader in times of the gig economy doesn’t rely on rigid authority and hierarchy but rather on the ability to unite the fragmented workforce through the understanding of everyone’s needs.