What You Can Learn From Freelancers Right Now
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If recent global events have taught us anything about business, it's that millions of people were ready to work remotely. Sheltering in place isn't much different from what many freelancers were already doing.
For years, I’ve been writing about how freelancers are armed with the tools and best practices needed for productive remote work. And according to a recent freelance economic impact report by Fiverr, the future of our workforce may already be staring us in the face.
Seven of 10 skilled independent workers surveyed indicated they are highly satisfied with their work, compared to just 54 percent of all U.S. workers. Companies like Twitter have already announced at least part of their workforce can continue working remotely on a permanent basis.
Here's why freelancers are perfectly adapted for the times we’re living in, and what entrepreneurs can learn from them to benefit their own businesses.
Freelancers know about work-life balance already — don't hover
Most freelancers understand work-life balance because their schedules have been flexible for many years. They could probably write a book on how to stay productive, focused and disciplined to get their client work done while they still stay on top of personal responsibilities and enjoy downtime.
Micromanaging these freelancers is counterproductive. They know what they’re doing when it comes to staying productive. You might be new to the remote work environment and understandably concerned about whether everyone will get their work done. Instead of hovering, give employees room to explore and create a schedule that works for them.
To encourage the team to create this balance while working from home, try creating some remote-work guidelines. Within these guidelines, make sure to emphasize an alert system on various tools that help communicate when certain team members may not be available.
For example, with tools like Microsoft Teams, users can set alerts for online working and away times. Pay attention to these so your team members don’t feel guilty for getting some fresh air and exercise, helping their kids with online school assignments or taking care of personal tasks.
Ask freelancers what tech tools they recommend
Freelancers know what technology works and what doesn't. Tools like Zoom that freelancers discovered long before this crisis have recently enjoyed a massive increase in use. According to the most recent report from cloud identity company Okta, unique users on Zoom grew over 110 percent from February to March of this year.
If you already have some freelancers on your team, get their advice so you don't have to reinvent the wheel. Freelancers can provide recommendations on tools for collaboration, virtual meetings and communication that they’ve used for all types of projects over the years.
Moreover, because they often operate on tight budgets, freelancers also can point you toward the best free or low-cost software, apps and digital platforms. They may also understand how to get by with the least amount of software so you don’t add anything you don’t need.
Freelancers can also share what they learned from using these tech tools and how to get the most out of them.
They know remote-work best practices
Freelancers can help you establish and frame your company's new work environment. Leverage them as consultants and trainers to help those that haven't worked remotely before. They understand the challenges of setting up a home office, navigating the home environment and its distractions and feeling compelled to work 24/7.
Have freelancers on your team work with you to develop a formal remote work guide and policy. They may pinpoint issues or concerns that you wouldn’t think of if you have never worked on or led a completely remote team.
For example, you’ll have to consider issues such as how to provide remote access to office equipment or change how the team retrieves and shares files or projects. Security and social sharing may also become even more critical in the work-from-home environment.
Freelancers can also explain some concepts and perceptions that people working from home may experience. This might be a greater need to feel connected, or for increased communication, guidance and human interaction — much of which someone working or managing a physical location might take for granted.
Freelancers know their value
Freelancers will tell you what they need and know their value. Don't be cheap or flippant about what they are worth. Working from home does not make anyone less professional, skilled or knowledgeable.
Their contributions are the same as anyone that might work at a company’s physical location. If you view them as less valuable, you won’t be able to retain their talent — nor will they recommend your organization to their freelance colleagues.
Despite the growing ranks of freelancers, some offer a level of talent and loyalty that provide a company with an exceptional return on investment. Retaining these freelancers, offering them steady work and paying them a fair rate may actually reduce a company’s costs. The savings could include fewer recruitment and training expenses.
Moreover, their skills, knowledge and productivity levels are already helping to generate revenue that can drive local economies, according to the aforementioned Fiverr report.
The freelance mentality advantage
Imagine how much your company can accomplish when you encourage everyone on the team to develop that “freelancer” mentality. With overhead costs going down and productivity likely to rise, you’ll also have a workforce that is satisfied with the flexibility, job security and contributions they can make in this new work environment.