Businesses of all sizes, from small to multinational sized are starting to realise that in order improve their bottom line; they need to take advantage of the globalisation of labour, remote working (to improve employee morale), and hiring freelancers to reduce ongoing employee costs (especially during downtime/off-peak periods). The key challenge is how to balance rising costs with employee satisfaction; after all one of the key resources that enable a business provide services or manufacture a product are its employees. A happy employee usually translates into a happy customer and happy customers are usually a source of revenue, so indeed there is a huge correlation between sustainable income and employee management regardless of the size of the organisation.
With the world fast becoming a highly connected global village, it is often the case that the race is no longer for the fastest nor is technology for biggest. Small sized businesses can achieve what only the biggest companies previously had access to because of financial resources and global branches, etc. Today, small businesses can tap into the global pool of virtual workers to get projects delivered (modern day outsourcing) without even moving beyond the four walls of a home based office (virtual working). A medium sized company might not be able to hire the big names in consultancy to help with restructuring or defining and implementing new processes, but they can engage the services of freelancing consultants who can provide the same outcome for less than half the cost. Raising finance no longer needs to be done the traditional way, and you don’t usually need to have to pitch to the big names (or go to the Dragons Den/ Shark Tank) to get the investments. These days, it can be achieved through crowdfunding.
I guess the question then is “how would my organisation benefit from this new trend, especially when it comes to hiring freelancers”?
Freelancing as a way of working is steadily becoming a trend, with a growing number of individuals becoming freelancers either by accident or by choice. As at 2015, there were about 15.5 million freelancers in the United States and an estimated 1.6 million freelancers in the UK. A freelancer is someone who can independently provide their services to different organisations at different times, without being employed by the organisation. They are not your regular full-time staff, and their work patterns are usually very flexible.
Some of the benefits of hiring freelancers include cost saving especially if the alternative is to hire agencies or “consulting firms” that in turn may hire freelancers to do the job and then bill you for the “total cost of ownership”. Your company is also able to build a direct relationship with the individuals as opposed dealing with different people (from account manager to analysts, etc.) when you hire agencies. Although freelancers are hired for a short period to fulfil specific obligation(s) to your organisation, you still get some level of camaraderie from them. You also enjoy the same level of expertise (in many cases) that you would if you hired the big players. By embracing technology and globalisation, you are also able to hire industry specific expertise regardless of their location, thereby saving a lot of money because you don’t have to pay any of the associated costs that would have been passed down to your organisation by agencies or bigger companies. Your organisation also benefits from ongoing cost savings during downtime or off-peak periods, because you only hire freelancers when there is a demand for their skills or during peak periods of operation.
Technology has also made it possible to be able to locate and hire freelancers from over the world, thanks to the gig and sharing economy. There are many platforms strategically developed to draw you closer to a pool of freelancers with diverse or niche skill sets. It implies that access to highly skilled professionals is no longer coveted and it is also a more affordable means of hiring to fulfil a particular purpose or requirements.
Having mentioned all these wonderful reasons for hiring a freelancer, organisations also need to be aware of some of the challenges that they may encounter. Due to the globalisation of skills, you may sometimes hire the best freelancer out there, but communication becomes an issue if they do not speak the language fluently. It could sometimes mean wrongly captured requirements because both parties are interpreting outcomes differently. You can mitigate this risk by ensuring there are adequate confirmation and validation of the requirements by both parties and there is constant communication between both sides. The alternative might be to hire someone local with similar experience who speaks the same language.
There is also the issue of time differential; you may be hiring a software developer from one part of the world operating on a 6 hour time difference, and then you need to either stay up late or wake up early if you need to speak to them. However, you can mitigate this by using other mediums such as emails, instant messaging, or schedule a time frame that’s neutral to both parties, etc. to close the time gap. What about the quality of work? The best way around this is to ask upfront for references from satisfied clients; most technology platforms that bring employers and freelancers together usually have some form of normative control in place, where both parties (employers and freelancers) can rank/score each other. The ranking can automatically act as a reference for completed projects. The good thing about this form of referencing is that freelancers usually don’t want to experience any downtime and therefore, work extra hard to ensure the quality of their delivery is up to (or exceeds) the agreed requirements. Employers/customers are more willing to re-hire or refer freelancers with an excellent score, and newer businesses would use the ranking as a filtering mechanism.
Bigger companies can hire freelancers as a means of complementing the skills of existing employees. It would enable permanent employees to tap into the experience the freelancers who over time, have worked on different projects in different companies. It also helps employers reduce the amount of pressure on permanent employees during peak periods or cover for short-term openings arising as a result of one issue or the other, for example, an employee going on maternity leave.
So if you are thinking of where to find specific freelancers to hire for short term projects (or gigs as it’s now commonly called), there are many technology platforms out there. These platforms cover general, or niche freelancers such as software developers, strategy consultants, dog walkers, house cleaners, handymen, taxi drivers, business analysts, bookkeepers, and the list goes on. The platforms also provide a secure environment for hiring, paying, resolving a dispute and scoring/ranking; the list is endless.
One of such platforms is Analyst2Hire, a platform dedicated to a growing number of freelancers who have years of experience as Business Analysts, Data Analysts, Systems Analysts, Process Analysts, IT Consultants, Strategy Consultants, and Business Architects. The platform connects these highly skilled professionals from around the world with small to large businesses. Employers can benefit from reduced fees charged by freelancers, hire experienced professionals on demand, and monitor work by setting and approving milestones; release payments only when milestones are completed or projects are delivered and save approximately 60% on recruitment expenses.
In conclusion, organisations need to start taking advantage of hiring freelancers because it can provide the much-needed support to their internal staff, reduce recurring costs, enable them to be competitive and help them remain flexible. The decision to hire freelancers must not be taken lightly as there are inherent issues that could be encountered and decision makers have to ensure that if these issues arise there are ways to mitigate it.
About the Author:
Emma Dabor is the VP of Marketing and Communications at Analyst2Hire.