3 Ways the Gig Economy Should Be Changing Your Workforce Planning Now

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Oct 27, 2016

Freelancer. To some, the word sounds like a synonym for someone too lazy or unqualified to work a ‘real job.’ But I’ve found that working with freelancers has been integral to my success as an entrepreneur.

And as millions of Americans swap the traditional 9-to-5 work environment for flexible hours and nonexistent commutes, the term ‘freelancer’ has taken on new power and meaning in the American economy.

Today, freelancing is one of the fastest rising sectors of the American workforce. An Intuit study projects that by 2020 more than 40% of the American workforce — 60 million people — will be freelancers in some form — contractors, temporary employees and independents.

With the rapid expansion of the freelance marketplace and more and more established and cutting-edge companies enjoying the benefits of freelancers, you don’t want your business to get left behind. I believe that adapting to this new freelance economy is vital for entrepreneurs who want to see their business grow and thrive.

When should you hire a freelancer?

The best time to hire a freelancer is when you need a specific skillset for just one project or for a limited time frame. Freelancers are also a great option if you need help on a project but cannot yet afford to hire a full-time employee.

When should you hire a freelancer?

Thanks to general freelancing market sites like Upwork and specialty, quality-assured freelance markets like Toptal, connecting with and hiring high-quality freelancers has never been easier. And, the explosion of online collaborative tools like Slack and Trello and increasingly omnipresent WiFi means that working with the right freelancer is effortless, whether that freelancer lives down the block or across the world.

How will working with freelancers benefit your business?

1. Hiring freelancers will significantly reduce your company’s expenses

Compared to permanent employees, freelancers can save businesses 20-30% in payroll costs. Where do those savings come from? Since freelancers work short-term contracts, you don’t have to worry about paying them additional benefits like insurance and paid-time-off. And in many cases, freelancers will work remotely, which means that you save on paying for office space and office supplies.

As if that wasn’t good enough, freelancers also save companies money on costly employee training. In 2015, American businesses spent over $70 billion on employee training, but freelancers alleviate that drain because they already have the skills needed for the job and can add value to a project immediately.

2. Freelancers will increase your company’s productivity and efficiency

In addition to saving your valuable dollars by reducing your overhead costs, freelancers will also save you time by increasing your business’s efficiency.

Freelancers have the benefits of working from home (or another preferred location) and setting their own schedule, allowing them to work where and when they are most productive. A study published in the Harvard Business Review found that workers who were afforded more flexibility and were able to work from home were more productive than their office-bound peers.

Another reason freelancers can save time for your business is that they are incentivized to finish work as quickly as possible. Unlike standard, salaried employees—many of whom waste hours at work waiting until they can punch out—a freelancer’s business thrives on repeat customers, positive reviews, and producing excellent, high-quality work in a short time frame. Therefore, it’s in their interest to complete projects in the most efficient and effective way possible.

I’d also add that freelancers are themselves a type of entrepreneur. As such, they are usually highly driven and self-motivated and are likely to understand the entrepreneurial mindset.

3. Using freelancers will make your company more adaptable

Because freelancers can be hired on a project-by-project basis, using freelancers enables businesses to easily transition from one expert to another as the situation demands. For example, let’s say you hired someone to create a standard web page, but have now switched your priorities to building up your mobile presence. With a full-time employee, you would have to consider training that employee or hiring someone new with the skill set to bolster your mobile presence. If funds are tight, the latter option could mean firing your web developer.

However, with freelancers, you can augment your team with the skill sets you need as new projects and initiatives arise. Dealing with freelancers allows you to quickly address new problems at times when using a standard employee could create significant time delays and higher costs. Adaptation and iteration are keys to survival for any entrepreneur, and it is often easier to adapt and change when using freelancers as opposed to standard employees.

Overall, using freelancers can transform your business into an efficient, adaptable, productive machine. Hiring freelancers to help you tackle short-term projects will dramatically reduce your overhead costs while increasing your business’ productivity and allowing you the flexibility to adapt to the new needs of your company as they emerge. The next time you have a specific project that requires a specialist or expert, I’d strongly recommend considering a freelancer. The results will speak for themselves.