Whether you’re a fast-scaling start-up, a leading consultancy or large corporate, you might be thinking about how to embed freelancers into your business. Although many businesses still operate an employed only model, others maintain a lean or hybrid structure, working with freelancers to support their project flow or skills gaps when required.
Self-employment numbers are set to continue to rise and are no longer contained to the creative industries, with interims operating across strategy, insight and analysis. A report from ISPE and Kingston university on the self-employment landscape shows that there are currently over 5 million self-employed workers in the UK, contributing around £305 billion to our economy.
With the current level of uncertainty in the market, more and more businesses are reviewing their operating model, including making considerations about how to effectively work with freelancers on their projects. This could either be for the first time or looking at how to improve their current processes and outputs.
With this in mind, here are some pros and cons to think about when embedding freelancers into your business as well as some core ways you can start to engage with this model in an agile way.
What are some of the benefits to using freelancers?
Access to skills and expertise: Engaging with freelancers can quickly open up your pool of talent, allowing you to incorporate expertise into your client projects or for your own in-house improvement projects.
Staff projects as needed: Never turn down a project again because you don’t have capacity in house to deliver it. Manage your peak activity levels by upsizing the team and then downsizing again as you enter your quieter quarters. Freelancers can help accelerate your work to ensure deadlines are met for your clients.
Cost-effective: You can keep your fixed cost-base low by working with freelancers with skills that you don’t necessarily need throughout the year. This could lead to significant cost savings and avoid overhead costs or benefits. If you don’t run the freelancer’s payroll it can also be hassle free for your finance department.
What should you be aware of?
Defining the output: First determine what you need – is it fresh thinking and advice or to complete functional tasks? Then take the time to kick-off the project and brief the freelancer on what they need to do to reach your goals. Set out a feedback structure to continuously align on the output throughout the project and provide clear timelines and deadlines.
Delivery quality: When working with a freelancer for the first time you will need to talk them through your house style and methodologies. Assign a single point of contact to review and realign the freelancer’s work; don’t wait until the final day. You will begin to build trust in your relationship with the freelancer and bring them back for additional projects.
Contractual details: There are different types of employment contract options for freelancers: Pay As You Earn (PAYE), Limited Company, Umbrella Company or Sole Trader. It’s important to know how your freelancer is operating and agree on your terms of engagement before starting work; this should include confidentiality and intellectual property rights as well as the employment status for tax purposes. You can find out more about IR35 regulations here.
How can you start engaging with freelancers?
Platforms: There are a number of automated talent platforms or job sites where you can post about the role you want to fill or project you need support on. You can then work through direct applications or a ready-made shortlist provided to you.
Agencies: You can partner with trusted agencies that have a network of freelancers that are screened in-depth and immediately available for work. They partner closely with freelancers and their clients so they can act quickly to provide the right solution. The closer you work together, the better they will get to know your business and freelance needs to provide consistency for your projects.
Manage in-house: Hire a Resourcer or Operations Manager in-house to build and manage your own small network of freelancers that you can tap into as required. If you need support immediately, you can also have them manage the relationship with agencies.
Since 2000, Freshminds has worked closely with many businesses that operate a hybrid model of utilising both permanent staff and freelancers to support their project flow. It can be a low-risk, high value option for businesses looking to tap into expertise and skills on-demand.
So, if you’re looking to build resilience into your business in order to adapt and respond to a changing market and are considering freelancers to do this, then get in touch with Freshminds to discuss the ways you can embed this flexibility into your operating model.