Yet the pros do come with potential cons. Sure, freelancers want to earn a living or earn extra money, but they also value flexible schedules and the ability to choose the projects that appeal to them. Over half of freelance workers surveyed say they accept contract work out of choice rather than necessity, which means they can more easily choose to stop working for you than your full-time employees.
Tapping into the contingent workforce is in most ways no different than hiring a consultant or service provider. The main difference is whether you’re dealing with one person to get things done, or a business with levels of admin: You define the job role and schedule, set terms and conditions, establish targets and goals, track progress and give feedback. When you think about it, managing a freelancer is almost like managing a full-time employee – without the long term-commitment.
So when does hiring a contract worker make sense?
- When you need a skill for a short time
Say you want to develop an app your customers can use to make bookings. Unless you plan to be in the app development business, hiring a full-time employee makes little sense – and possibly neither does paying ‘full retail’ to a software development firm. Word of warning, though – make sure you receive all source files, etc. at the end of the project.
- When you can’t justify a long term contract
Say your new appointment-booking app generates data that must be crunched; your current workforce may not have the skills – and it may not be cost-effective to help them gain those skills. Hiring an experienced data analyst to spend a few hours every week creating reports and making recommendations could be the best – and cheapest – way to turn data into actionable insight.
- When you want to try new things
Or say you run a web design firm and you want to start building apps. You automatically face the classic chicken-versus-egg small business dilemma: do you hire developers and then hope to quickly sell work to keep them busy, or do you sell work and then hope to quickly find skilled developers? Line up a few freelancers, sell the work, and if your app business takes off you can then decide whether to continue to use contract workers or to hire full-time employees (or possibly do both).
Here's the bottom line: Figures from Upwork show workers under the age of 30 are more likely to be casual than ever before. The contingent workforce is here to stay – the only question is whether using freelancers makes sense for you.
My advice? Pick a small project and give it a try – the beauty is in not having the commitment. Figure out what worked well and didn’t work well. As with any other aspect of your business: try, learn, adapt, and try some more.
That approach got you this far. Maybe tapping the freelance market will get you even further.