As freelance workers have become more common in workplaces, the roles they take have gradually evolved in recent years. Today’s freelancers can fit into an organization in a variety of ways, allowing them to either operate independently from employees or work side-by-side with their salaried colleagues.
Whether you’ve already made freelancers a part of your team or you’re merely thinking about it, there are many options open to you.
“The use case for freelance talent has really grown in recent years and we are seeing virtually every scenario imaginable,” says Michael Solomon, Co-Founder of tech talent agency 10x Management. “We see ‘on-site embedded in a team,’ ‘off-site embedded in a team,’ remote teams in one location, remote distributed teams, fractional CTO’s. It’s the wild west on solving problems with freelancers, whether you’re using them to address mission critical problems or lower priority items that internal teams can't find time to complete.”
Here are a few freelance work models to help you decide on the one that works best within your environment.
Multiple Freelancers Under One Manager
Organizations with freelancers often face a variety of challenges, especially if managers are expected to oversee both salaried and contract workers. Failure to follow freelance employment laws can result in hefty fines for businesses. Businesses must find a way to separate the requirements they have in place for full-time workers from those for freelancers to avoid a visit from the IRS.
To accomplish this, many businesses appoint the task of recruiting and managing freelancers to a particular employee. This external talent manager will be tasked with developing and nurturing outside talent to help grow the organization. Since freelancers are managed separately, businesses also avoid the temptation to require them to work set hours or complete their work in a specific way, both of which can serve as red flags to governing agencies.
The requirements that freelancers be treated differently than employees shouldn’t stop an organization from encouraging them to work alongside salaried workers. Whether they operate from home or in the office, leaders can still set up a team that blends full-time workers and freelancers. There are many collaboration tools that can keep an entire project team in touch throughout the day to encourage communication.
As valuable as freelancers have become to the workplace, the nature of their role within an organization can be isolating. It’s important that businesses take measures to include freelancers in meetings and day-to-day operations, even if they aren’t on site. This will help break down the barriers between salaried team members and contractors. That said, don’t burden them with too many meetings or you may lose the added productivity and value that the freelance model offers.
Freelancers for Support Tasks
In many cases, organizations are investing in business process outsourcing, which separates certain tasks from the workplace. A business may choose to send all of its bookkeeping and accounting to a freelancer, for instance, allowing salaried employees to focus on tasks related directly to client and customer needs. When a business chooses this option, it’s still important to have someone assigned to managing these freelancers, since they’ll often be out of the loop regarding the day-to-day activities of the business itself.
Outsourcing also gives businesses the luxury of reaching out to service providers outside their immediate geographic area. They could choose an overseas provider, for instance, and find a lower rate than if they’d found someone locally. Sometimes, these offshore options work well but it is important to be careful because, they often turn out to be a “you get what you pay for” scenario. Using a trusted source who helps vet them goes a long way toward protecting against those pitfalls.
When a business hires a salaried employee, it implies at least a short-term commitment. If, for some reason, that employee doesn’t work out as expected, the employer will often have invested significant money into training the employee, in addition to the salary and benefits that have already been paid. That doesn’t include the stress that comes with the employee termination process, as well as the additional cost of recruiting and training a replacement worker or even paying unemployment.
As contract work has grown in popularity, businesses have discovered it’s a great way to find potential full-time employees. In fact, many job ads for freelancers promise that the position may become either part- or full-time if the worker does a great job. It’s an ideal situation for both hirers and freelancers, since they’ve already worked together and are familiar with the company culture. Trying before buying can be a wonderful step.
Freelancers can be a great complement to any business environment, and are being hired more often because of it. Whether they work remotely or spend time in the office each day, organizations can benefit from their hourly rates, higher efficiency and specialized expertise and possibly even move them into full-time positions eventually. It’s important to find a way to nurture freelance workers while still creating a positive environment for the salaried employees a business has on staff.