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Over the past few years, the “freelance economy” has captured the attention of multi-national blue chip entities, and independent SMEs alike. It’s played a huge role in the success of startups across the globe, with stats commissioned by Freelancers Union and Elance-oDesk confirming that a huge 34% of the entire US workforce now falls into the ‘freelance’ category. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, with freelancers enjoying a host of benefits, and employers tapping into the following key perks:
By and far, one of the biggest benefits of hiring freelance employees is the scope to grow and shrink your business, on demand. Rather than take on a full time recruit when business picks up, hiring a freelancer will temporarily fill the gap, without having to commit to another full time salary. Similarly, when things cool down you can simply end freelance contracts as needed.
2. No overheads
Unlike your in-house employees, freelancers fend largely for themselves. This means they provide their own equipment, and demand no workplace benefits like sick pay, holiday leave and so on.
3. Minimal training
Freelancers provide a service, and usually specialize in their niche fields. This means that instead of training up a new employee which costs American SMEs in excess of US$1000, you can hit the ground running with an expert that needs nothing but a brief.
4. Tap into a global talent pool
By opening up your floodgates to freelancers, you can tap into a global pool of talent that extends far beyond what local professionals may be able to offer.
Now you have an idea of the symbiotic nature of freelancing, let’s take a look at how to make the concept work for your SME. Ultimately, effective systems are founded on good old-fashioned honesty, superlative communication and integrated workflows.
The first is easy, and can be achieved simply by respecting your freelancers, and treating them in a way that facilitates top performance. Process invoices on time, don’t make unreasonable demands, and make an effort to engage on a level that’s both professional, and friendly. For businesses, long-term relationships are far more valuable than temporary gigs. This means that investing time and respect into your freelancers will definitively pay off.
Communication is key, as freelancers generally tend to work remotely. For this reason, keeping lines open with your freelancers is a must. Issue detailed briefs, always be available, and ensure that they can connect with other key persons if necessary. This will help to minimize revisions, and help them to create flawless finished products.
When it comes to streamlining workflows, the modern market is home to a host of purpose built tools and platforms. We’re talking Basecamp, Trello and other project management services. These empower both freelancers and businesses with the means to maximize efficiency, streamline communication and meet deadlines. Most are paid services, but the investment pays for itself in the form of heightened productivity, and a workflow that mimics the tangible nature of in-house employees.
Today, the freelance economy is thriving. And growth is only set to continue. Freelance hiring isn’t for every SME, but with the right strategies in place it could soon become an invaluable part of your business model.