Freelancer, gig-worker, independent contractor… Why are more and more businesses hiring third-party workers in addition to or in lieu of hiring full-time workers? Get a grasp on the pros and cons of your worker-status options to see if it’s in your organization’s best interest to engage freelancers.

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What Is a Freelancer?

A freelancer is an independent contractor who is hired for specific projects or limited time frames. They complete work for multiple different clients or companies. Different freelance workers have different areas of expertise, but there are freelancers working in virtually every field. Therefore, depending on the project, there is likely a freelancer who specializes in the type of work your company may need.

DDIY reported that in 2022, there were 57 million freelancers in the US, accounting for almost 5% of the total US GDP. Globally, freelancing is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 15.3% between 2021 and 2026.

Should Your Company Hire a Freelancer?

There is no cut-and-dried, one-size-fits-all solution to every company’s needs. The answer to this question varies from business to business and project to project. Let’s consider some basic pros and cons to help you determine if a freelancer might be right for you.

Pros of Hiring a Freelancer

  • Flexibility. As a freelancer is not typically restricted to the 9-5 schedule, a certain time zone, or a specific language, freelancers offer more flexibility than a full-time employee. This means if you are in a time crunch and the needs of the business exceed the time availability or know-how of your current staff, a freelancer can step in to make sure projects are complete and deadlines are met.
  • Cost efficiency. For smaller jobs and temporary projects, hiring an independent contractor may prove to be less costly. At surface value, this may not appear to be the case, since a freelancer will likely charge a higher hourly wage than what you’d pay a W2 employee. But in light of the costs that come with providing benefits, the hiring process, induction, training, etc. for a full-timer, a freelance worker will likely cost less overall.
  • Management efficiency. As freelancers are self-employed, they are also self-managed. With a high-quality freelancer, you’ll be able to hand them the work, provide any needed resources (such as access to a certain program), and walk away assured that the work will be completed with the deadline met.
  • Speed. If you experience a sudden increase in your business needs, hiring a gig worker is a great option to get the work done while skipping lengthy hiring and onboarding processes. They can also be a great option when it comes to intermittent work that may not require the attention of a full-time employee, as well as smaller fill in the gap kinds of tasks and projects.

Cons of Hiring a Freelancer

  • Short-term relationships. As an independent contractor, a freelancer comes and goes with the start and end of each project and contract. This can make for a less cohesive environment for employee relationships to be built. This can also cause a lack of customer relations (though freelance positions are rarely front-facing to the customers).
  • Not exclusive. An independent contractor likely works with multiple different organizations at the same time they are working with yours. This may or may not have any notable impact on the quality of their work or the time they invest in project completion. A successful self-managed gig worker will not let their contracts conflict with one another. (See the “Be Picky” section below.)
  • Availability varies. A freelancer who manages their time and schedule well understands what projects they do or do not have time for. This means there are projects they will have to turn down and times they are not accepting new contracts. (See the “Build a Team” section below.)
  • Lack of an insider’s understanding. For highly involved or lengthy projects, a freelance worker will likely not be the best option. In comparison to your full-time workers, they will likely lack the understanding of your company’s inner workings. This understanding can be of tremendous value for the more complex processes involved in certain business needs.

Best Places to Find Freelancers

There are many different ways to find freelance workers. Be warned, however, that not all freelancers are equal, and where you find them contributes to your ability to make a well-informed decision.

Classifieds

Though less common in our digital age, posting in the local classifieds can turn up freelance workers who live in your area. This may be a good option if you require someone to work in person (such as in cases of manual labor).

Word of Mouth

Take this method with a grain of salt. Finding a worker based on a referral from a trusted source can be an excellent way to find someone reliable. Freelance workers agree with this; 41% of freelancers report that they find new work through their past clients. However, even trusted sources can be biased, such as recommending their family friend who has never done freelance work. Scrutinize the referral source and don’t skip any processes you’d utilize to hire a freelancer elsewhere. Depending on the worker’s experience, it might be a good idea to add an additional interview to make sure they will handle your business needs with a high level of care.

The Internet

The fastest growing and most comprehensive way to locate and hire a freelancer is the internet. There are multiple well-respected platforms offering a transparent view into the work quality and reliability of each worker. With access to reviews, references, and ratings, using websites such as Fiverr, Upwork, or Oyster can give you access to a wide variety of workers in different areas of expertise. Moreover, with access to a verified rating system, you’ll be able to get a feel for if they’ll be a good fit before even speaking to them. The pay visibility is an added bonus, letting you hire someone within your budget without the hassle of getting multiple quotes from multiple people.

Tips for Working With Freelancers

Just like any employee, the process of working with freelancers varies from person to person, from the way you select them to the way you communicate needs.

Tip 1: Be Picky

Be highly selective when hiring freelancers. Look for workers who have experience in your area of interest, and check all of their references to ensure they are reliable. And with 57 million freelance workers to choose from, you’ll likely be able to find a good one quickly. Additionally, don’t hesitate to request an interview, physical resume, or to speak to a reference before deciding to work with them. There are high-quality freelancers out there, but there are also gig workers who are just trying their hand at freelance work and may not be reliable. Also, be wary of scammers looking to get paid without doing any work.

Tip 2: Build a Team

As you dive into hiring freelancers, you’ll find that there will be times your favorite worker will be unavailable. It’s a good idea to build a rotating team of dependable contractors so that any time your business has a need, you’ll have a collection of workers to pull from.

Tip 3: Opt Into Their Method of Communication

Each freelancer runs their business uniquely. They may have a certain platform on which they like to communicate. Some may prefer email while others suggest video meetings to hash out the details of what you’re looking to accomplish. Many will be flexible with the method of communication, but it’s never a bad idea to opt into their preferred method to ensure no information gets lost in the shuffle.

Tip 4: Stress the Details

In cases of more involved projects that have many moving parts, don’t be afraid to offer any and all details or insights to your business processes they might find useful. By no means overwhelm them with irrelevant information, but as an example, if they’re in charge of entering data given to them by a specific team, it might be useful to open up channels of communication between the team and the freelancer in case the freelance worker comes across an error or something that needs clarification. Moreover, ensure they always know how to reach out to you if they have any questions, concerns, or would like more information on your expectations.

Questions You’ve Asked Us About Freelancers

Freelancers are typically responsible for finding and funding their own insurance. There can be exceptions in cases of large projects (such as hiring an app or website developer) where the time allotted is longer than your average contractor project. In such cases, benefits can be negotiated as a part of their contract.
This varies depending on the freelancer’s experience, references, skills, area of expertise, and so on. In order to get an idea of the charges of a freelancer who specializes in the kind of work you need, check out the places listed in the “Best Places to Find Freelancers” section above. A quick search should give you a general price range.
Freelancers are 1099 Independent Contractors and are therefore technically self-employed and considered a third-party entity. This shouldn’t keep you from inviting them to the office Christmas party or involving them in any rapport-building training sessions or activities. Just keep in mind that where some training may be mandatory for your full time employees, it cannot be mandated for your freelancers.
Kayla Farber
Kayla Farber

Kayla is the Chief Innovation Officer at Hero Culture, where the passion is to create company cultures of retention using the power of personality.

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