Freelancing is on the rise, especially with the flexibility of the gig economy. Currently, there are 53 million freelancers in the U.S., and it’s estimated that by 2020, roughly 40 percent of the workforce will consist of independent workers. (This includes temporary workers, contractors, and, of course, freelancers).
Part of the reasoning for this growth in freelancing is that, following the recession, companies in the U.S. needed to downsize while simultaneously boosting their operational efficiency. With freelancers, companies could increase its productivity without taking on the added expense of hiring full-time employees. In other words, companies need freelancers. Advancements in telecommuting have also made it much easier to work remotely, offering the average American worker the attractive opportunity to make a sizable income while setting their own schedules. In short, it’s safe to say that the “age of the freelancer” is upon the U.S.
Managers, business owners, and leaders need to be open to working with freelancers—it’s simply the way the job market is moving. However, managing a team of freelancers is slightly different than directing an in-house team of employees. Of course, certain basic principles, such as communication and leadership, overlap between the two. Since freelancers operate remotely, managers and business owners need to put in a little extra effort in order to effectively maintain a freelance team.
In short, it’s crucial for managers and business owners to do their best to make their freelancers feel like they’re a part of a company, even if they’ve never actually stepped foot in the company’s office. By doing so, a manager can boost a freelancer’s sense of loyalty, which in turn, will positively influence both the freelancer and the company’s overall productivity.
As with any employee, it’s critical for managers to offer guidance to freelancers. Once a freelancer completes an assignment or project, a manager should take the time to provide the freelancer with feedback and guidance. Even if the feedback is minor, the freelancer will understand that the company is invested in their work. Feedback showcases that the company views this freelancer as more than just a remote worker—they’re actually a part of the corporate team.
Offering guidance will not only ensure that the freelancer’s work maintains a high level of quality, but it also highlights to the freelancer that the company is genuinely invested in their professional success. When a freelancer understands that a company cares, they’ll respond by hitting their deadlines, work hard, and maintain a steady level of communication.
Over time, as the guidance continues, the freelancer will grow professionally. They’ll refine their skills, take on new tasks, and develop new talents—their value as a worker will only increase over time as the freelance relationship positively progresses. When companies invest time and energy into a freelance team, that team will, inevitably, respond in kind.
Freelancers thrive on steady and effective communication. Telecommuting in the workplace has increased by 79 percent from 2005-2012—freelancers rarely have to step into a physical office. They can work efficiently and productively from the comfort of their own home—even if that home is 1,000 miles away from corporate headquarters. However, because many freelancers operate remotely, managers may find that communication with freelancers is a little challenging, especially since they can’t just pop into the freelancer’s office on a whim. So, in order to guarantee that the freelancer still feels like they’re a part of a team, managers need to push for constant communication.
With video chatting, texting, instant messaging, and email, it’s fairly easy for a manager to quickly check in with a freelancer with minimal effort. Regular communication helps to keep freelancers on task, and it also helps to avoid any errors or misunderstandings (which often arise when communications are limited or vague). Lastly, constant communication can help a freelance feel like they’re working with a company, as opposed to for a company. Regular emails and occasional phone calls will remind the freelance they’re a part of a team effort, and that others are counting on them to keep working hard.
An ethical business owner would never skip out on paying an employee, so it’s extremely important to always pay freelancers on time. In fact, 79 percent of employees note that positive ethics are critical when it comes to continuing to work with an employer.
If a freelancer isn’t paid on time consistently, then that freelancer may come to view their employer as somewhat unethical—not only will this effectively sever the freelancer’s sense of commitment, but freelancers often network and communicate with one another, and the company in question may develop an unfortunate reputation among the freelancing community. If a company wants its freelancers to operate at full capacity, they must act ethically, which means that they should always pay their freelancers on time.
When it comes to managing and retaining freelancers, managers, and business owners should remember to follow the basics: offer freelancers genuine guidance, remember to communicate effectively, and always act professionally and ethically. By following these basic rules, a business owner will be able to manage a freelance team properly, and as a direct result, the company’s quality of work and overall productivity will remain top-notch.
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