2023 Gig work boom…
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Gabriella Steed

2023 is shaping to be quite the freelancer first environment. According to Fiverr, a global online marketplace for freelance services, around 78% of companies will rely on freelancing in 2023, rather than adding permanent staff to their existing headcount.

Aside from the stats, as a Talent Partner at Alderson James, I too have seen the freelancer boom occurring. More of our clients are now opting for a provisional solution to support with driving scale within their TA & People functions. And there are many reasons why! The obvious being to save costs. With freelancers typically being paid on a project basis, business’s can take advantage of obtaining an immediate set of skills to support as an interim solution where fluctuating workloads or limited budgets prove to be an issue. You then have the perk of scalability – bringing people in to help scale the workforce quickly based on the company’s need, which may simply involve supporting on a short-term project to kick-start ongoing success. It’s all about short-term impact for long-term gains. So it poses as a logical solution!

The pro’s don’t just extend themselves to a business, however. According to Thrive my Way, out of 2.2 million freelancers in the UK, 1.9 million now freelance full-time and this figure is growing! More and more people are welcoming the rise of gig work, largely due to the flexibility, autonomy and variety these opportunities present. Let’s also not beat around the bush, with wide-spread layoffs occurring across the market, people are now looking for an interim solution themselves, to support with their immediate financial commitments. So it seems to be a win, win, for some. Understandably, the rise of gig work is not as attractive to all. Naturally these raise challenges surrounding a lack of stability, saturated opportunities, less access to benefits and cut-throat competition. But not to worry too much, traditional employment is resilient, so the usual 9 to 5 permanent opportunities will not be eliminated just yet! 

But with the gig economy only growing and showing zero signs of slowing down, there are key areas that companies should keep in mind when they’re starting to recruit new freelance talent as well as retaining their best freelancers. Even if a business decides to hire a contractor for one specific project or for a short period of time, you want to be able to instil confidence in them that you’re a good option for future work. With endless gig work opportunities available, the competition is fierce!

So let’s get into it…

Jump on the tech wave… NOW!

Firstly consider where the freelance talent hangout. Silly question… online of course. It comes as no surprise that the main reason why the gig economy is growing is because technology is now the ordinary. Freelancers have endless tools online to source for new opportunities, including freelance platforms/apps (e.g. Fiverr) and social media, like LinkedIn. How many times do you see recruiters advertising freelance opportunities on their LinkedIn profiles? I see at least 10 per day, this is now the norm. But to do this well, you’ll need to ensure you have built a well-branded company page, filled with employee content creating a mirror into your organisation. Express your brand voice and image, showing that you are a great company to work for and an even better company to work with. Perhaps also consider showcasing freelancer reviews on your platform, demonstrating a positive experience working with your company.

When advertising your position online, keep it short but sweet, providing all the necessary information surrounding your company, the opportunity, the pay (leaving out the pay is a massive put off), the logistics, the length of time the contract is required and any other information you feel is required. Also consider the device freelancers will be regularly using to track down opportunities. You want to make sure that your company website is mobile-friendly, allowing freelancers to find gig work on the go. Again, this is now the norm, so if your website looks slightly skewed on a mobile, you seriously need to explore your options surrounding this, it’s a no brainer. 

Invest in training opportunities for your freelancers

Now this could be seen as a tricky one. Usual train of thought is to invest in learning and development opportunities for your permanent staff, which is completely understandable and a valid thought process. However, doing this for your freelancers will be an extremely attractive proposition and will also support with re-engaging them for any future opportunities you may have. If a freelancer already knows your brand, ways of working and have built relationships with your employees, it would be advantageous to have them back, providing you were impressed with their work! By investing in training opportunities, you demonstrate a commitment towards their professional development, helping you foster a sense of loyalty and engagement. It’s also extremely beneficial for collaboration. Unfortunately over 60% of freelancers feel there is a general lack of respect for the freelance community. So if your business is able to change the narrative on this, provide training and open the door for a more respectful collaboration, you will promote a seamless working relationship for all parties involved in a project.

Let’s also look at the figures, freelancers crave these opportunities! According to Upwork, 70% of full-time freelancers engaged positively with training in comparison to 49% of full-time, permanent employees. Given that freelancers bounce between opportunities, they will most definitely value the ability to learn and grow their skills. Investing in training opportunities, therefore will be an extremely attractive selling point for freelancers who are looking for their next gig amongst endless opportunities available to them. So if budgets permit, be disruptive in the space and consider the value of this. 

Consider engaging with a Specialist Recruitment Agency

Partnering with a recruitment agency to help you source for top tier freelancers can be extremely valuable. First reason being, you will gain access to a wide pool of freelancers within the industry you are looking to source within. Typically, freelancers will engage with agencies to help find suitable opportunities, so you will have visibility of available talent, their skillset, their schedules plus specialised knowledge of freelance recruitment including complex legal and tax requirements.

Recruitment agencies will also have an enormous network of available talent plus would have built strong relationships with candidates, providing you with confidence that the right person will be matched with your opportunity.

Aside from quality, a recruitment agency will also help save you time. They will handle the recruitment process for you from start to finish, allowing you to carry on with BAU. This includes screening candidates, conducting initial interviews and negotiating contracts!

Be human

As mentioned already, a large majority of freelancers feel as if there is a general lack of respect for their work in comparison to their permanent counterparts. Just because they are being employed on a freelance basis, does not mean that their role forms as a less integral part of your company. Make sure to signal this within the interview process. Let them know how they will be welcomed within the team and ensure that are included in all of the staff meetings (if applicable to their role of course). Allow freelancers to feel valued by including them to any company outings or social initiatives. The more you treat them like a member of staff, the more likely they’ll want to work on future projects with you as well as recommend your company to others within the freelance community. This is how you attract top tier gig workers to your organisation.

I once worked for an organisation who went above and beyond to ensure our contractors felt welcomed. As a permanent Talent Partner sitting amongst the people team, I was also responsible for ensuring that our employees felt valued and looked after. So it was extremely refreshing listening to the positive corridor chat about how welcomed our freelancers felt! Remember, the way in which you treat your freelancers will also be picked up by permanent staff, so if you are breathing an environment of respect and loyalty, this will pay off.. massively!

And finally, but most importantly – Pay your freelancers on time!

Here’s a mind boggling statistic for you… according to IPSE, nearly one in five freelancers have reported having to wait over three months for payment. I repeat, be human. This is completely unacceptable and if you to delay payment, you will deter your existing freelancers from ever working with you in the future. More importantly, you massively risk tarnishing your reputation as a business. With regards to compensation, I’d also consider engaging in some competitor analysis. With the rise of gig work, opportunities are endless for our freelancers, so providing a competitive compensation in line with industry standards is a huge must! 

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions or comments, contact me on [email protected]

Gabriella is a MSc graduate in Clinical Psychology from London, who has worked within the Recruitment and Talent Acquisition industry for 4 years. Topics of interest surround Global Talent Trends including but not limited to Company Culture, the Candidate Experience, Diversity and Inclusion, Employee Well-being and many more! Gabriella holds a deep interest into Psychology and Human behaviour and how these can be best applied to the world of work.

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