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Create a Successful Environment for Freelancers

By: Susan Marshall, CEO/Founder of Torchlite

Over the past decade, the rise of marketing clouds, technology-fueled creatives, and AI-powered insights have given rise to a new class of individuals who are no longer seeking full-time work with a single employer. Rather, they are charting their own course in the gig economy and deepening their technical expertise by working for companies that value their contributions without restricting their movements.

Since 2014, an additional 4 million workers have joined the freelance economy, which now represents 35% of the U.S. workforce. The number of those freelancing long-term has also increased by 10 million, jumping from 18.5 million in 2014 to 28.5 million today.

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Due to the fast and furious flood of marketing technology solutions, there’s a serious skills gap in the world of marketing. In fact, a Google study showed that only 26% of marketers believe their marketing analytics tools are well-integrated and work seamlessly.

So, who can keep up? Digital marketing freelancers. These individuals spend their professional careers immersing themselves on platforms, skills, and solutions that are valuable to a business’ ability to market themselves and grow. With freelancing becoming more of a long-term career choice in today’s ever-changing economy, executives and companies must accommodate and be open to the idea of welcoming independent workers within the traditional structure of full-time employees.

Below are a few ways executives can create a successful work environment for freelancers.

Change your hiring strategy 

A recent U.S. jobs report from the Labor Department showed a devastating loss of nearly 51 million positions from payrolls as a result of the pandemic and related shutdowns. Even as the nation reopens, companies are playing it safe with their hiring practices, especially as coronavirus cases continue to rise in various states nationwide.

With a recent survey showing 45% of hiring managers expecting freezes on new staff, close to three-quarters (73%) of hiring managers are looking to maintain or expand their hiring of independent professionals. Nearly half of all hiring managers surveyed said that they are now more likely to use these freelancers as a result of COVID-19.

Executives that worry about a tight budget with high expectations can feel comfortable hiring a temporary employee with no long-term commitments or contracts. Overall, hiring freelancers saves money by forgoing interviewing, onboarding, training, development, or employee benefits. In short, there’s no overhead. Additionally, freelancers and temporary employees bring a renewed sense of innovation, experience, and a quick turnaround to match.

Be flexible 

Both companies and freelancers are looking for an opportunity to be flexible and agile. According to a report, the top reason full-time freelancers choose to freelance is scheduling flexibility. In fact, 46% of freelancers agree freelancing gives them the flexibility they need because they’re unable to work for a traditional employer.

Executives must keep in mind that most freelancers are working on several assignments with different employers and possibly in different time zones. Establishing a schedule that is controlled enough to ensure success while also flexible to meet freelancers’ needs is vital.  While the employer provides the tasks and the deadline, the freelancer works on their own time to meet that deadline. In essence, both have flexibility – in terms of when an employer needs the work and the when and how a freelancer completes a task.

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Make it personal 

COVID-19 has undoubtedly changed the way we’ll work forever, especially as employers implement more permanent remote work practices. The worst thing executives and company leaders can do is micromanage their freelancers. Instead, companies need to trust them to work from home and manage their time effectively.

Managers should set goals, check-in on their well-being, and use tools like Slack to streamline communication. Encourage freelancers to connect on a personal and professional level to keep everyone rowing in the same direction. These actions can result in better outputs and happier freelancers.

For example, executives can make freelancers feel like part of the work-family by including them in everyday discussions and training opportunities, as well as sharing feedback from managers. Additionally, consider offering an opportunity for freelancers to share their experiences in a “lunch and learn”, so employees can achieve a greater understanding of their background and levels of expertise.

Concluding thoughts

There’s never been a better time for a company to rethink a talent strategy and determine if a mix of contractors and full-time employees makes sense. When doing so, make sure to stay open to new ideas, as well as remain nimble and agile. Don’t make long term commitments – but strategize. And lastly, coach managers and employees to engage with freelancers like they’re part of the team.

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