5 Things Your Freelancers Want You to Know
The number is massive: Nearly 17% of the U.S. workforce, or approximately 27 million Americans are now part of the corporate on-demand economy, according to our recently published 2016 Corporate On-Demand Talent Report.
But what do you need to know about this new class of independent professionals? And more importantly, what do they want you to know about them? Here are five facts most independents want you to know about them.
1. They’re not all the same.
You can’t lump all independent workers into the same category. According to MBO Partners’ State of Independence in America 2015, they self-identify as everything from contractors, freelancers, consultants, temps, self-employed, solopreneurs, side-giggers and on-call workers.
There are those who are full-time independent workers, while others may have several part-time jobs with independent contractor status. Still others may moonlight on the side while holding down a traditional full-time job.
Their motivations may also differ: For some independent workers, the primary goal may be to earn supplemental income, or to create and control their own schedule. Others may be angling to start their own company, while still others may simply be looking to improve their work-life balance.
Finally, there are significant differences in how people arrive at their decision to become an independent worker. Some get into the gig economy by choice, with many planning for years for the time when they finally feel comfortable making the leap from full-time staffer to long-term freelancer. On the other hand, for others it is not a choice — they land in the on-demand workforce because of layoffs, or company policy.
2. They want to be seen as more than vendors.
Few independent workers want to be thought of as just another cog in your supply chain, equivalent to the vendor that keeps the soda machine stocked or provides the company Internet. After all, freelancers bring their long-honed skills, depth of knowledge and specific expertise to your organization and while they may not be on staff, most wouldn’t mind feeling appreciated as an integral part of the team.
There are certainly many ways for companies to invest in their independent workforce and make them feel appreciated and validated, which can contribute to long-term loyal contractor relationships. That can include helping them understand your company’s policies, processes and overall goals, offering common courtesies such as “please” and “thank you,” and sharing compliments about their work — rather than just criticism.
3. They want to get paid easily and on time.
For any independent worker, cash flow is extremely important. After all, unlike full-time employees, independent workers don’t get consistent paychecks every two weeks like clockwork. They don’t get taxes magically taken out and benefits magically added in. With payment typically by the project, by the gig or by the hour, the goal for most independent workers is simply to get paid an agreed-upon fee on time, without any fuss.
But, doing so is more easily said than done. In a recent survey by the Freelancers Union, nearly half of participants reported problems with getting paid. It’s common for freelancers to be owed thousands of dollars in unpaid invoices and spend dozens of hours tracking down missing payments. The Freelancers Union even came up with the #FreelanceIsntFree campaign, and New York City recently invited freelancers to City Hall to speak about the importance of stronger protections for the freelance workforce.
4. They want to communicate easily.
When it comes to building relationships with independent workers with specialized expertise, good communication is key. The typical freelancer wants to make their client happy — after all, keeping a client satisfied can result in repeat business and more money. But that can only happen successfully if you set clear expectations, provide all the project information they need and give them the opportunity to share the status of their work. Today’s cloud-based work management platform offer a centralized way to do all of the above.
And keep in mind, your method of communication matters too: Email is great, but picking up the phone to have a voice-to-voice chat can also be helpful. In addition, an online work management platform is a terrific way to cut down on inbox clutter, keep deliverables organized and collaborate on projects.
5. They want enough work and as predictable an income as possible.
Being an independent worker comes with a host of challenges, from setting up accounting and invoicing systems to budgeting and time management. But, getting enough regular work and keeping income on track are probably the biggest challenges in the freelance sphere: According to an Intuit study, Dispatches from the New Economy: The On-Demand Workforce, 57% said the top challenge is getting enough work, while 50% said getting a predictable income is a top challenge. The study found that the majority of on-demand workers are seeking more money or supplemental income.
You may never hear about or see the stress your independent workers are under when it comes to work and income challenges. But while you may not be able to guarantee them a specific amount of work or income, today’s workforce management platforms can take at least some of those uncertainties away — with visibility into how much money they have made and what they are owed, as well as into what assignments are available and when work will begin.
Keeping Independents Happy Is a Must In Today’s New Economy
There seems to be no stopping the growth of this new class of independent professionals. Some industry pundits estimate that another 10-20 million Americans could go “solo” within the next 2-3 years. While not all of those will actually join the ranks, it’s clear that the number of “indies” will continue to trend upward. And they want to be known and understood: Now is the time to dig deeply into the wants, needs and priorities of independent workers of all kinds, so you can keep them as happy, satisfied and productive as possible.