Before the beginning of 2020, you could make the argument that attempting to set up 42% of the U.S. workforce to work remotely would NEVER work. But Nicolas Bloom, a Stanford economist, gave us some insight in June of 2020. Stating that, “by sheer numbers, the U.S. is a working from home economy. Almost twice as many employees are working from home as at work." If anyone of us heard those numbers prior to last year, we would have never believed it. The thought of setting up 42% or the workplace from home would have any IT department big or small shaking in their boots.
We are now at the beginning of the new year and the nation has adapted, companies have adapted and so has the workforce. The cold cup of coffee, the e-mails, and the headaches are still there but the landscape has changed. The Monday morning board room meeting is now the Monday morning Zoom meeting. Where in between the excel spreadsheet presentation and you muting the call because your dog is barking for more “pets” you begin to wonder. When will this end? How will this affect employment moving forward? Will any of us even have a work place to go back to? And will we even want to go back to the workplace?
As of this writing, I currently work a traditional 40 hour a week desk job, and freelance part-time. I have not abandoned my full-time job as of yet. The long of it is that I have just started freelancing a few months ago and am just getting my feet wet. So, I just want to take my time. The short of it is unpredictable income and lack of benefits in the transitional period. In the beginning, I always ended up asking myself, “if I could only put this much energy into freelancing, then it would move a lot faster”. I am sure I am not the only one who feels this way, and I am by no means the first person to act on this. Just look no further than this article written by CNBC in October 2019, 3 months prior to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world. They cite a study released by Upwork and the Freelancers Union where out of the 57 million American’s freelancing 51% of them have said that no amount of money would ever entice them to take a traditional job. As an “employee”, we are becoming less invested in working a traditional job and looking outside of the work bubble many of our parents were caught up in.
Like many, we grew up with parents who worked traditional jobs, had weekends off, and typically 2 weeks paid vacation. Which meant one trip to Grandma’s for the holidays and one for the summer road trip. So as we entered the workforce, our tale was already written and all we had to do was read the story. But the great thing about stories is that some are meant to be incomplete. Eventually, someone got to the first blank page and started rewriting the story. For me, freelancing is about feeling fulfilled in my work, fine-tuning my specialized skills, and having the ability to set my schedule and be my own boss. I write this from a first hand perspective to give you an understanding of my circumstance as I feel it pertains to why companies would look more towards someone who is a freelancer. Whether they are thinking about hiring a freelancer or have already made the jump but wanted a bit more reassurance, I have compiled a list of reason as to why companies will be more inclined to hire more freelancers moving forward.
The first thought that comes to mind with hiring any future employee is, “how much is this going to cost us?” When you hire a full-time employee, you are responsible for providing benefits. Healthcare, Dental, PTO, sick time, are all expenses that a company has to provide for a salaried employee. That’s not even including the cost to train your new hire.
The upside of employing a freelancer is that they are what the sports world calls “free agents”. Meaning that they do not belong to any one company or are part of permanent staff. In 2017, Code Mentor surveyed over 5,000 freelance developers from around the world to see how much it costs to hire someone remotely. In the United States, the going rate was $70 an hour whereas in Canada the rate was $5.00 less at $65.00. Go down the chart a bit further and in Latin America, the going rate is $51.00. So it is not a far enough stretch these days to hire someone just as talented just a little bit farther across the world. I wanted to start with this because as a company, sometimes you will need to think outside of the box to stay successful and relevant. If you look at cost-effectiveness from a traditional workforce perspective, the employer does not need to provide benefits to the freelancer which works to their advantage and saves money in the long run.
Unfortunately, this is a downside for freelancers. But, going into this type of profession, that is one of the main cons that you will encounter. So when companies are looking to get a project completed right and have a set budget, there is always room to hire a freelancer somewhere. The main point to get across from this is that you will have the benefits of having a full-time employee but not having to pay the same amount of money.
A lot of times, companies have projects that require specialized skills. Whether it’s copywriting, advertising, film editing, or graphic design, we all have our expertise. The problem is that when it comes time to create a 60-second ad with cuts and music, typically the project will get “handed off” to the graphics department. Because “hey, they are good with computers they can edit a 60-second video right?” So they will take extra time out of their normal work schedule to research how to edit on youtube and try to figure it out from there. Only a small portion of them will get it right. Whereas, you can hire a freelance editor who just needs the footage and some direction on what the client is looking for and can take it from there. This saves you time and money and can have your permanent staff occupied on what needs to get done in-house.
With the accessibility to technology that the general public did not have years ago, freelancers are able to leverage their specialized skills. Anyone today can purchase a camera or learn web design online and getting efficient is getting a lot faster. If you look at the list of 15 freelance skills that will get you hired that USA Today put out in 2019. Going down that list, just about everyone of these skills you can pick up online and work on your craft.
The upside is that you do not have to either have someone in-house figure it out themselves or hire a full-time employee for a specific skill. A freelancer can get the project done, get paid, and move on. To the freelancer, they are paid to use their specialized skills so there is no downside. There is a double upside if the freelance and client build a great rapport and can work again in the future or refer each other to others in the industry.
Many times, you will have a project that needs to get done months down the line. Let’s say it’s March and you have a copywriting project that you need to get done in early July. Rather than going through the hiring process and finding a copywriter, you can take your time and hire a freelance copywriter in or around July when it is truly needed. In some cases, you can write out contract-based work for certain months out of the year, as freelancers have the flexibility to change their schedules often. Going back to rapport with clients, you may notice that a lot of one-off projects will turn into contract-based work if the two parties work relationships goes well.
With all of the upsides, there can also be a few downsides to hiring a freelancer. With no traditional workplace, freelancers can work from anywhere and at any time. They are not attached to one certain geographical area. This can sometimes mean that if no contracts were involved in the agreement you may run into the issue of getting ghosted. Sometimes, a freelancer can disappear on the job leaving without a finished product and no guarantee it will be completed. However, it’s best to ask for references or a portfolio of work to determine if they are right for the job. Or as in the opinion of many freelancers I have spoken to personally, contract-based work will start to become more of norm even for one-off projects. This is to help protect both the freelancer and client in case any issue arises.
With my freelancer having so many projects, he must do really good work, right? One of the downfalls of working as a freelancer means unstable income. This means that they often cannot depend on only one business or individual as a source of stable income. What this means for businesses hiring a freelancer is that they may take on multiple projects at the same time, which could slow down the progress of completing your assignments. They may be working on your project, receive another project elsewhere and push your assignment to the bottom of the priority list.
It’s best to discuss timelines and completion ahead of time so that there will be no confusion moving forward. It’s not unusual nowadays to have a contract with completion date so that everyone knows when things need to get done.
The task of hiring a freelancer can be a very quick process, however, it may take some time to find the ideal person for the job. Typically for a bigger project, you will want to find someone that fits the certain criteria for the work. Let them know what you are looking for and what the time frame is to get things done. It gets a bit tougher when you have a quick turnaround for a project like a 24-48 hour time frame. It’s best to find someone who has experience with quick turnaround and knows exactly what you want. That way, if the situation arises again for a quick turnaround project, you already have someone you can count on.
This all my sound daunting to companies but to be completely honest, most if not all freelancers do quality work and are willing to go the extra mile to keep clients coming back. With just a little over half of the freelance workforce in the U.S. in 2019 stating they will never go back to a traditional job, you know they will work hard for you to keep that flexibility we all want out of freelancing. To put things into perspective, between 2000 and 2014, the freelancer workforce has grown by 500% according to an article written by the Great People inside. They also list, “the rise in startups and millennial and their pursuit for a more flexible work schedule. Even baby boomers have turned to freelancing to earn extra income to bulk up retirement funds." There is great article on why baby boomers make good freelancers that only backs up what I have written in this article.
With all of this information, you should be able to make the right choice and go with a freelance agency rather than a full time worker. There are sites now like Freelance Crew that can pair you with talent all across the world. Whether it’s graphic design, IT, videographers, marketers it's all right there at our fingertips. The talent pool has grown so exponentially that within a day you can meet someone, agree to terms, and begin work the same day if desired. Happy Hunting!
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