With the pandemic-imposed remote work considered a success, the gig economy looks promising for freelancers. Experts weigh in with tips on how to recruit and land the ideal freelancer for the job.
Early adopters to the gig economy were confident they could meet the employer's requirements while conducting business off-premises (off-prem is now a popular buzzword). The organizations that were able to hand over materials to remote workers were focused on solid results and successful completion of assignments, forgoing the more traditional micromanaging style.
It has been more than a year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, and freelancers are more valued than ever. Even if companies don't offer employees full-time remote work, hybrid and staggered schedules are likely to make off-prem more prevalent than full-time in office, which is a plus for freelancers. Even pre-pandemic, freelancers were establishing themselves as integral to the global economy. Statista noted that in 2019 57 million people worked as freelancers and predicts that number will grow to 86.5 million by 2027.
We asked experts to provide businesses looking to hire gig workers with tips on finding the best freelancers. Job seekers and established non-staff telecommuters can predict how they might be assessed by a potential employer, too.
SEE: Chatbot trends: How organizations are leveraging AI chatbots (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
1. Ask peers how they found their last great freelancer
"Chances are, some folks in your network have had recent experience hiring a freelancer and will have some tips to share," said Brie Weiler Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs and Remote.co.
2. Consider a recruiter
"If you feel you can use help in selecting the right freelancer, or you're not sure what type of skills you might need for your project, take advantage of a recruiter service," advised Sebastián Siseles, vice-president, international at Freelancer.com (which has a recruiter service). "They can help connect you to the best freelancer for your project, which may also be one of their preferred freelancers who has been vetted for quality."
3. Lay out the timeline and budget for the project
"One of the first questions any freelancer will ask about the job is: 'What is the pay rate?'" said Gabriel Luna-Ostaseski, co-founder of Braintrust. "Most freelancers have base rates for projects. Companies that set their budgets too low won't be able to attract the right talent. Set your budget too high, and the hiring benefits become less desirable. Financial budgets should also come with time and project length expectations. Freelancers want flexibility, but they also don't want to constantly have to source new businesses."
4. Be clear about the project's scope and the required work
"The more clear you are about what you want a project to look like, the better you'll be able to vet potential freelancers," Reynolds said. "Write out a clear job description, including deliverables and timelines if possible."
5. Value tailor-made proposals
"Look for a quality bid/proposal in which the freelancer has tailored their bid to address your project's needs at the onset," Siseles advised. "This shows dedicated interest in getting your project completed. Asking for specific information in your project description can also be a way to determine if a bidder took the time to read it."
6. Ask behavioral-based interview questions
"One of the most effective ways to evaluate candidates during the interview involves asking open-ended situational questions," said Vicki Salemi, career expert at Monster. "Oftentimes, past behavior is an excellent predictor of future behavior. Ask about a situation, then follow up: How did you handle it? What was the outcome? For example, 'Please talk about a time when you dealt with a difficult client. What was the situation? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?'"
7. Be flexible
"One of the many lessons this pandemic has taught us is flexibility," Salemi said. "According to the Future of Work report, remote work flexibility was among the top three policies HR professionals changed the most due to the COVID-19 pandemic--the other two were adaptable work schedules and updated health policies and protocols. Perhaps your initial plan was to have a freelancer working on-site several days a week when you fully reopen, but the best candidate for your role is not in your geographic region, or they need to work remotely. Think through how a remote situation might work for both of you before rejecting a strong candidate based solely on geography. Be flexible in terms of other things like timing, number of hours each day or week--perhaps they can work from 7 a.m. until noon rather than 9 a.m. until 2 p.m.--and assess what is nonnegotiable. Having flexibility in your schedule can open you up to a stronger pipeline of freelancers."
8. Hiring freelancers should be almost the same as hiring full-time workers
"Starting with a detailed job description, the recruitment life cycle should be treated like a full-time hire—post the job, carefully review resumes, conduct job interviews, evaluate candidates and extend an offer—the only difference is a contract or project engagement letter is negotiated and agreed upon rather than an offer letter, and there's probably a more lax background check than a full-time role," Salemi said.
She added, "Due to the pandemic, most of this is happening virtually, which can be problematic for some recruiters. According to Monster's Future of Work global report, the U.S. is leading the charge at adapting to virtual job interview practices, with 70% of U.S. recruiters using virtual technology for at least half of their candidate interviewing and new hire onboarding. So, try not to cut corners, conduct virtual job interviews and be as thorough as you would be with conducting and assessing the interviews as you would be for a full-time position."
Reynolds said, "Just like you would with employee hires, ask freelancers for references, samples and other evidence of their work product. Review their submissions carefully, and keep in mind the goals of your project as you evaluate a candidate's reference materials and contacts."
9. Give freelancers access to the right technology
"The beauty of hiring freelancers is that it lets companies tap the right talent, no matter where they are," Luna-Ostaseski said. "For most organizations, it's likely that their freelancer workers will be at least partially, if not entirely, remote. That means that hiring managers will have to manage the entire workstream virtually: invoicing, payments, technology, and collaboration."
Freelance work has its appeal for employer and employee
While the pandemic may not have specifically paved the way for freelancers to thrive, its impact on the enterprise is unquestionable; the required shift to remote and how well it worked informed organizations to open opportunities for freelancers, if only to provide employers with trust it will be completed as assigned.
Other areas of the industry are developing tools to facilitate the growing freelance population. The freelance management system Stoke Talent recently launched an accelerated payment tool to offer faster freelancer payments. They also have a Worker Classification Engine; This artificial intelligence algorithmic screening system warns employers of potentially costly misclassification penalties and possible lawsuits, as it monitors and tracks each individual relationship for full compliance with all workforce classification laws.
- Digital transformation: A cheat sheet (TechRepublic)
- Research: How 5G will transform business (TechRepublic)
- Power checklist: Local email server-to-cloud migration (TechRepublic Premium)
- What is digital transformation? Everything you need to know about how technology is reshaping business (ZDNet)
- Digital transformation: More must-read coverage (TechRepublic on Flipboard)