By Ian Cowley, managing director, cartridgesave.co.uk
The rise of the freelancer is one of the biggest UK success stories of recent years. Not only does the freelance economy bring in an estimated £30 billion in “added value” to the UK gross economy, it has made a significant contribution to the recent growth in employment levels.
According to the Office for National Statistics, out of the 4.63 million self-employed population, a record 1.91 million workers are now classed as freelancers. This makes them the fastest growing self-employed sector with numbers up 36 per cent since 2008.
Today, more and more businesses are recognising the potential for increased productivity and up-skilling that comes from engaging freelancers.
But is this the right move for growing your business? I’ve put together a list of the main benefits that hiring freelancers could bring to your growing business, plus some things to bear in mind for making the arrangement a win-win scenario.
Filling a skills gap.
To a start-up, freelancers can be a great tool for short term fixes.
A freelance consultant typically works across multiple projects with different clients throughout their year. This varied exposure to multiple managers and projects equips them with more diverse experience than a counterpart who has only worked for a single employer.
With this experience comes access to a wider pool of talent. Freelancers are commonly part of a wider network, which include past clients as well as freelancers in the same or a related sector. In situations where you may require additional expertise, there is a good chance they will be able to recommend or bring in additional hands, meaning you won’t have to worry about a skill gap.
Helping bridge staff shortages.
Freelance workers offer a short-term recruitment bridge while your business is seeking permanent staff, or if you have an unexpected project to staff.
In my experienced, freelancers are very productive, as the success of their continued employment rests on the quality of the work they produce. Plus they tend to be driven by a work-life balance, so will work solidly in work hours in order to leave work on time.
The downside is they are a considerable expense. Plus, their investment in your company is limited as they know their position is temporary. So you should look at freelancers as temporary. But they could really help you in a fix, and it’s worth building a network of freelancers to call on.
Value for money.
A freelance and remote-based workforce is a very flexible way of managing expenses, keeping commitments and costs under control. A YouGov poll from 2013 revealed that this type of working can save British businesses £34 billion a year. This represents a huge opportunity for businesses to save costs.
Which means, instead of spending your hard earned profits on providing them a space to work, you can invest elsewhere.
How to manage a freelance workforce.
However, there are several things to bear in mind before engaging freelancers. Here are a few lessons we’ve learned.
Ultimately, when growing a business you need to find and invest in staff that will be fully bought in to your business. The nature of freelancers is that they are transient and will not be fully invested in your long-term goals.
However, as discussed, they can be a good temporary fix and bring lots of experience. So make any freelancers you use feel included in the company. Invite them on work nights out, office parties and any team building days. The more they feel part of the team, the more invested they will be in the company and likely to achieve a better job.
Make sure they are accountable for all their time. If you are paying someone the same rate you would to your in-house staff, it is reasonable to suggest that they should work the same number of hours. At the end of each day, ask them to report back on what they have achieved and put in place targets to make sure they are working as hard as you expect.
If they are not working from your office, consider any potential security risks. Ask what device they are working on and question if it is safe for your system. Is there anyone else that could potentially access sensitive information? With a freelance workforce, it is more essential than ever that your company protect business-critical data that can end up on unmanaged devices. Take some time to put in place boundaries about which devices are supported and be sure that freelancers are taking all necessary measures to avoid putting your business at risk.
Ian Cowley is the managing director of the UK’s largest dedicated printer cartridge company – www.cartridgesave.co.uk.