Benefits for freelancers are emerging as part of the gig economy conversation, as more of the workforce shifts to an independent, contract-operating model. Forbes estimates that as much as 35 percent of the workforce may freelance part of the time – and companies are working on developing the processes that let them take advantage of freelance talent in innovative ways. Paychex also recently identified that during the millennium, the freelance economy took flight — between 2000 and 2014, freelance jobs listed on resumes increased over 500 percent. What are some of the benefits of working with freelancers, and what steps can companies take to attract top freelance talent?
Freelance Talent: Keeping Your Workforce Current
For many companies, tapping into freelance talent can help control costs while addressing staffing requirements on a project-by-project basis. For example, a business may periodically need designs completed for new marketing materials, trade shows, or events, but not have the budget or workload for a regular staffer. Working with agencies can be expensive and beyond the budgets of many businesses. With a freelance graphic designer, it's possible to access skills on-demand, without committing to the overhead of a full-time employee. Today, freelancers offer their services through online platforms, agencies, and directly to companies in a number of fields, ranging from administrative support to technology services.
Attracting Top Freelancers
In some sectors, The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) notes that there's increasing demand – and even competition – for freelancers' services. Examples of in-demand skills may include technology, software programming, and marketing. How can companies work to become clients of choice for freelancers with high-demand skills and reputations?
The Challenge with Freelancers and Benefits
In looking for ways to become more appealing to freelancers, some companies have evaluated whether they should offer benefits. As SHRM reports, it's important to avoid offering benefits through the company's program in a way that could risk a freelancer being subsequently classified as an employee. Instead, SHRM provides an example where one company wanted to help their freelance workers solve the challenge of healthcare: after consulting with their legal counsel, they determined that offering coverage through the company's health care plan wasn't an option. They identified a brokerage firm that could help connect gig workers with insurance coverage to meet their individual needs instead. Identifying that resource provided value to the freelancers, while helping to keep the company's exposure to risk low.
Potential benefits can be as simple as including a contractor in a company event; however, it's important to consult a knowledgeable HR representative or legal counsel to ensure that any steps taken with contractors are appropriate and don't impact their classification under applicable laws.
Other Ways to Attract Freelance Talent
Companies don't necessarily need to consider benefits in the traditional sense in order to be attractive to leading freelancers. Instead, companies can take a freelancer-friendly approach to their business practices to help attract and retain strong relationships with freelance talent. Some examples to consider include:
- Provide a streamlined work process. Freelancers often get paid by the project, and hours spent on client management or going back and forth on project edits cut into billable hours. Being "easy to work with" may help you build a strong reputation as a client.
- Set a regular payment schedule, such as net 30 after a project has been completed, and ensure payments are made in a timely way. Reliable payments can help make you a high-demand client.
- Recognize your freelancers and value their commitments. Take the time to thank your contractors for their commitment, recognize work well done, and make them feel like a valued part of your company's network.
Attracting top freelance talent doesn't mean that your company has to offer benefits. However, if you choose this route, consult with your attorney to make sure your offerings align with your company's risk profile and worker classifications. Focus on developing business practices that are gig-worker friendly, and you'll be well on your way to a reputation as a great client to work with.