The “gig economy” has grown far beyond a buzzword. More than one-third (35%) of Americans freelanced in 2018, reaching a record 56.7 million people. In 2016, 20% of organizations reported that their workforce comprised at least 30% contingent workers in 2016.
Workers want a better work-life balance; 53% say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and that better personal well-being is “very important.” For some, freelancing answers this struggle, allowing ultimate control over their schedules and workload. 81% of people who pursue flexible work styles say it’s a choice, not a last resort.
While freelancers most likely don’t want to become a full-time member of your company, they do have similar needs to any other employee. They need to understand the company’s mission and values, have easy access to necessary resources and be able to communicate effectively with the appropriate teams.
As this flexible work culture becomes increasingly popular, how can businesses adapt their workplaces to attract and accommodate these temporary hires? Follow these do’s and don’ts to set your own freelance guidelines.
Centralize resources and information
Freelancers should undergo an onboarding process similar to non-contract employees. This ensures both parties have a mutual understanding of the expectations surrounding their work.
- Do: Set up payment information immediately. This is a big pain point for freelancers; more than 70% have had trouble collecting payment for their work at some point in their careers. You’ll establish immediate trust by setting up direct-deposit payments for freelancers, and making that information available in your digital workplace to those teams that require it. Clearly communicate your invoicing and payment cycles as well.
- Do: Make contracts and company policies clear and accessible. Just one-quarter of freelancers say they always use a contract, and 42% always rely on a verbal agreement. This practice sets a dangerous, potentially expensive and litigious precedent for both parties. Your contracts and policies shouldn’t be mired in legalese; instead, they should clearly spell out terms and guidelines for your freelancers.
- Don’t: Treat contract workers like full-time employees. It’s best to leverage an extranet solution or secure project spaces in your digital workplace to share information and collaborate with freelancers. Don’t just open up your company’s internal workspaces and applications like your intranet, employee directory, or any other system where potentially sensitive information exists. A good digital workplace will allow you to set permissions and grant individuals an appropriate level of access. Depending on your industry, it may also be smart to require that freelancers sign a nondisclosure agreement, which bars them from revealing confidential details.
Organize projects and workflows
Don’t just set a freelancer loose into the void once they’re assigned to a project and ready to start work. Regular check-ins, a project dashboard, and a clear workflow process help freelancers avoid confusion about your expectations and produce great work.
- Do: Be clear about due dates and processes. Do you expect to review several drafts throughout the project, or will the freelancer just turn in a finalized product? Will multiple people be reviewing the work? Do you allow any flexibility around deadlines? Answering these and other process-related questions before starting a project will avoid headaches down the line.
- Do: Let the freelancer apply their expertise. Your company hired a specific freelancer because of their experience and knowledge (or should have). Be open to their suggestions for how to improve or expand a project; their experience in different industries and companies means freelancers bring a different perspective from your full-time employees.
- Don’t: Let your company be blindsided by conflicts of interest. Your company should communicate the importance of disclosing conflicts of interest from the start. Work for a competitor can cause issues, and freelancers should have a clear idea of what is and isn’t a conflict.
Maintain regular contact
- Do: Respond promptly to email and chats. A freelancer’s work day can be completely stalled if he or she can’t get the answer to a critical question. Establish your channels of communication early on, including regular check-in, and don’t shrug off questions that come at an odd hour. Remember, most freelancers aren’t working a traditional 9-to-5.
- Do: Create accessibility between freelancers and internal stakeholders. While the freelancer will have a main point of contact within your company, it’s important that departments like legal, human resources or management can reach them in case of a question or issue — and vice-versa. Use permission controls within your digital workplace to give access to appropriate stakeholders.
- Don’t: Be too informal. If your primary communication with a freelancer is electronic, it may be easy to fall into the kind of conversations you’d have with a friend via chat. But your relationship with a freelancer should be even more structured than those with an internal employee.
If your company applies thought and care to its freelancers and keeps them well-informed, you’ll build solid, long-term relationships that produce quality work that both parties can be proud of.