Businesses today are challenged by shifting market demands and competitor growth. Sales teams become particularly pressured to close more deals by understanding their clients better, while the challenge for operations is to ensure there’s enough support on-ground to deliver products and services promised by the sales and marketing team. Quite often, the pressure on operations becomes too great that staff are pushed to perform different roles outside of their skills and interests, that they end up too stretched until they break. Managers and HRs then scramble to find talent to replace the leaving heads, doing no good for business operations as they begin training from scratch, still with the same number of heads from where they started, instead of adding more to the support base.
Why freelancers provide a strategic advantage
To address this challenge of keeping current employees engaged and “not-too-stretched”, businesses may consider shifting the focus from hiring full-time, full-stack employees to engaging output-based providers, also known as corporate freelancers. This growing trend of outsourcing output to virtual staff among small to mid-sized businesses is proving to be cost-effective and efficient, both in the short- and long-term. Businesses save costs on space, equipment, and benefits provided to full-time employees, while getting the expertise of a large pool of talents. These freelancers are eager to partner with organizations providing a solid structure for output-based delivery and compensation.
Guiding points to succeeding with freelancers
Employee outsourcing is an attractive alternative to traditional workforce solutions.Businesses, especially small entities, should understand that many of these freelancers do not have a solid background on actually “doing business”. The usual expectation from businesses is that most freelancers are used to “freelancing”. Unfortunately, many of these freelancers do not have the understanding and commitment to do business as a solo enterprise dealing with real organizations. These five tips could help businesses start engaging freelancers while meeting objectives and keeping business interests protected.
TIP #1: Look at freelancers as business partners, not as staff
Freelancers know their expertise and are confident in delivering quality service to the business based on these skills. They are not the typical employee who usually needs guidance and directions to perform a function. Freelancers usually come with an actual expertise on the area that you need a solution for. Thus, it is ideal to treat them as business partners, instead of a “paid laborer”. Maximize their experience in delivering the output you expect by collaborating with them, instead of dictating one-way instructions.
TIP #2: Provide initial briefing, and then clarify scope of work and expectations
While keeping in mind Tip #1, businesses should still remember that freelancers come in without knowledge of your business and with the commitment to deliver only the output which they will be paid for. This should not discourage businesses. This is a reality which should be countered with one-on-one briefing about the nature of business which the freelancer will be supporting and a clarified scope of work and expectations laid out to both parties.
TIP #3: Create clear channels for communication, online and offline
There are different types of work that may be delivered by a freelancer -- and not everything will be online. While technology has made communication through email, chat, and video calls easier than ever, remember that freelancers also take time out and are not available 24/7, unless stipulated in your agreement with them. It is best to have a system of communication that will allow you to reach your freelancing partners online and offline, while respecting time and agreements. This will also manage expectations of your freelancers and your own staff, creating an effective relationship to ensure outputs are delivered as needed. These channels of communication should be agreed upon by both parties.
TIP #4: Clarify payment terms at the onset of the engagement
One bottleneck for freelancers is “collection”. Small to mid-sized businesses sometimes do not know how to record payments that freelancers receive under their accounting books, and freelancers, on the other hand, do not usually have official receipts or tax numbers to provide. While this is not always the case, businesses should keep in mind to clarify payment terms at the start of the engagement so as not to encounter questions that may lead to disagreements later on. Clarify with your accountants the best approach to dealing with freelancer payments and discuss with the freelancer the arrangement. This also gives business the security of “firing” or terminating the contract with the freelancer in case the freelancer fails to deliver, despite clear agreements on payments.
TIP #5: Offer flexible options for the workplace
One of the most attractive benefits that may be offered by businesses to finding the best and “quality” freelancers is providing flexible options for their workplace. Often, freelancers work from home to save on costs. This is not usually the most ideal arrangement for freelancers, despite the direct benefits on their take-home income. Freelancers could be uninspired, stressed from isolation, or too comfortable without really becoming productive. Add to this the issues of bad internet connection at home, impacting online-based work.
Businesses may take control of this situation by securing a spot for their freelancers in coworking spaces inside flexible offices which are now growing in numbers across the metro. These coworking spaces provide the infrastructure for productivity at significantly lower costs versus adding full-time staff and manpower to the headquarters -- clean and bright workstations, fast internet, and sometimes, even free coffee! It also encourages freelancers to mingle with like-minded individuals (fellow freelancers) who are also delivering services to businesses. If businesses can provide this flexibility to their freelancers, they can be assured of a long-term productive partnership with their freelancers.
These tips are just some of the basics of establishing a system to achieve business goals with freelancers and outsourced staff. There are more areas to cover, depending on the roles and tasks required and expected from the freelancers. To cover Tip #5, talk to KMC Solutions and learn how to start arranging for coworking space solutions for you and your freelancers.
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