The gig economy has become a big buzzword over the past few years. The rise and success of Uber, Upwork and even Etsy has made it easier for people from all fields of work to create a side hustle, another way of making a living. However, when talking about the gig economy, this not only refers to a person taking on food delivery routes over the weekend to make ends meet. There is so much more to this phenomenon, such as companies hiring temporary workers, contract workers and consultants. This trend also includes freelance workers, entrepreneurs, and solo-preneurs — almost anything that is not your regular, 9 to 5 full-time employee
The gig economy is only growing and showing no signs of slowing down. A 2018 survey from Upwork and Freelancing in America found that more than one in three Americans freelanced that year. Another report from Hired has determined that over one-fifth of US tech workers will prefer freelance work over full-time work. In fact, Upwork predicts that within a decade the majority of the US workforce will be freelancers.
This is something that companies should keep in mind when they start recruiting new freelance talent and try to think of ways to retain the best freelancers. Even if a company decides to hire a contractor for one specific project or for a limited amount of time, understanding the best ways to retain freelance tech workers and others will guarantee that person will agree to come back for other projects and also recommend working with the company to their peers. So what are the best ways to attract and retain freelancers?
1. Technology Will Make Your Life and Their Lives Easier
One main reason for the growth of the gig economy is technology becoming so commonplace. According to the Upwork survey, 64% of freelancers in 2018 found their work online. This was a 22 point increase from 2014. The use of mobile devices and social media is making it easy for freelancers to both find work and do the work remotely. If you want to be able to attract that talent and understand how to retain freelancers, you need to adopt the same technology in your company.
For instance, making sure that your company website is mobile-friendly is a must. Also make sure to advertise jobs on social media, on different freelance platforms and apps. If you plan on recruiting a team of freelancers, use a platform where you can assign them tasks, communicate, track deadlines, provide easy access to invoicing and more. Interviews will probably require you to use video software such as Zoom, Skype, or FaceTime. Those can be used later on to make sure the team has an efficient way to conduct meetings, as well as opening a Slack channel — anything they need to feel like a part of the company, and that they are not working in a void.
2. Think Benefits, Not Just Money
Going back to the Upwork survey, 51% of freelancers polled said that no amount of money would get them to take a full-time job. This means that there’s something about the freelance life that is more appealing to a lot of workers. Flexibility around the work week and work hours are major components in a person’s decision to become a freelancer. For example, research shows that tech workers put in an average of 22 hours per week, as opposed to over 40 from their full-time counterparts. So if you’re looking for ways to retain freelance tech workers start with not expecting them to work long hours, even if you have a tight deadline.
Another great benefit will be to allow the contractors to work from home, or at least give them the option of only checking in at the office once or twice a week. Most freelancers appreciate their freedom, and that includes the ability to choose their workspace. Get to know your freelancers and try to provide them with perks related to the position. And most importantly, try and give them everything you give your permanent employees, so they don’t feel “less-than”.
3. Invest In Training, Even If They Are Not Full-Time
Freelancers spend most of their time changing positions, therefore, they value the ability to learn and add new skills to their toolbox. Upwork found that in the span of 6 months, 70% of full-time freelancers participated in skills training but in full-time employment, only 49% did. If you offer your consultants and contractors the opportunity to train in new skills, even if it’s with online courses, the chances are they will appreciate working for your company more. There’s an added bonus — if they learn a new skill, they may stay in your company after the project is finished, with the new skill they’ve learned.
4. Just Because They’re Freelancers, Doesn’t Mean They Don’t Matter
It is important to remember that if an employee is a freelancer, it doesn’t make them a less integral part of the company, and it shouldn’t impact the way you or the rest of the staff treat them. It starts with the interview process, by making sure there’s a right cultural fit with the team, that the employee matches the company’s values and that the position matches their goals for career development.
Later on, in order to retain the best freelancers, make sure to include them in all of the staff meetings, brainstorming, decisions regarding the project and even company outings. The more you treat them like a member of the staff, the more they’ll want to come back for other projects and recommend your company further.