In case you haven’t yet hired a freelancer, you probably will soon — as within the next 10 years more than half of the workforce is expected to be working on an independent, project-basis.
Today there are still preferences within more traditional and conservative companies to hire and retail full-time employees — the perceived advantages of doing so are based rather on myths and misconceptions than actual facts. Let’s look at some of the ways in which freelancers are better for your business than permanent employees and dispel some of these outdated beliefs.
- Freelancers are up-to-date: Unlike many salaried employees, freelancers need to stay on top of the latest trends and developments in their industry to stay competitive and to continue getting clients. They do so by regularly partaking in continuous education opportunities: skills courses, webinars, online trainings, forum and social media group discussions, offline conferences, meetups, certifications and many others, often investing their own time and paying for all this additional knowledge out of pocket.
- Freelancers will get the job done: Because their livelihood depends on the quality of the work they produce, freelancers aren’t there to beat around the bush or do a crappy job. They will want to continuously impress you and because of this you will be able to reap the benefits of their hard, qualitative work. The latter, sadly, isn’t something that is often expected of permanent employees in today’s working environments — after all, they usually get paid regardless of the volume or quality of the output they produce.
- Freelancers’ results can be easily measured: This type of workers often work on project or results basis, meaning their remuneration is usually tied to specific, measurable results, which have been agreed to with the client beforehand. Being conscious of this, they go out of their way to ensure business objectives are met according to the clients’ specifications and needs.
- Freelancers will tell you the truth: Because independent workers are often in a consulting or an advisory position, they are much less afraid to blow the whistle, burst your bubble or tell you the honest, sometimes ugly truth, about a certain business decision, plan or other members of your team. This type of honesty is priceless and hard to come by in today’s corporate world, which is still largely based on doing good lip service.
- Freelancers are flexible: With independent workers you often pay for what you get and what you need, when you need it, avoiding the need to keep people on staff just because they are on a contract or a part of a union.
- Freelancers have good manners: Unlike some fixed-term folks, freelancers have a reputation to maintain and they know that losing their temper or being less-than-nice to a client can have long-term negative consequences to their bottom line. So, whatever happens, we tend to stay polite and respectful with our clients, keep smiling and work hard to maintain a good relationship with them long after the assignment’s end. We then often follow-up with our clients at no charge, just to make sure they are doing well and their needs are taken care of.
- Freelancers can help you find other resources: Because freelancers are largely self-reliant, they are also well-connected and excellent at networking. They have ears on the back of their heads and they are often aware of other professionals who may be available and looking for work. So, before you spread your own webs, check with your favourite freelancer — they might be able to help you secure the resources you need before you’ve had a chance to put together a job ad.
- Freelancers are perfect for startups with small, variable budgets: Startups can hire freelancers when they need them, without having to provide them with a certain number of hours or a fixed amount every month. Additional savings result from the fact that freelancers are responsible for covering their own holidays and sick leave, elective social, pension and health security contributions and taxes, which removes significant overhead from the employer’s balance sheet. This presents a sizeable advantage to companies who are just starting out and may not have fixed budgets or consistent income streams, and who may otherwise be hard-pressed to secure the help they need.
- Freelancers can help you get funded: Speaking of startups, I have worked with a number of founders who were able to secure early-stage funding thanks to a bootstrapped team of freelancers that they were able to present to investors. Those teams were made up of independents who weren’t being paid (yet) but who vouched to support the startup and be a part of its management team, which is often an important prerequisite that investors look for when deciding whom to hand over their dollars. You, too, can put together a virtual team of freelancers that can tie you over until much needed financial reinforcements arrive, and then of course, you’ll also hire them for real, because they will help you grow your startup like no one else could.
- Freelancers can be hired for longer-term projects, too: Last but not least, even if you need a full-time resource you can still hire a freelancer who is open to working exclusively for you for a certain period of time. In some cases temporary workers end up working for clients for years at a time, making them just as stable as permanent employees but often much more valuable.
Why shouldn’t you work with freelancers exclusively?
Of course, there are also downsides when working with very hot or popular freelancers, including lack of continuity (longevity) and lack of availability. Your favourite consultant might only want to work on a 6-month basis or happen to be occupied with another project or client when you need them most. That’s why it is recommended that you keep in touch with consultants whom you use often and whose work you are satisfied with, so both sides can better plan their availability when the need arises.
In today’s ever-changing business reality, is expecting people to stick around the same employer for many years realistic, be it permanent resources or freelancers? What is your experience when working with freelancers? Let me know in the comments, or, if you’re already convinced: learn how to find freelance work or hire a freelancer.