When it comes time to start scaling your business, you may want to consider taking advantage of freelancers instead of bringing on a number of full-time staffers. With a growing number of professionals opting for freelance roles and an increase in the online platforms where they offer their services, finding contract workers who can help you grow your business is easier than ever.
According to a survey conducted by Edelman Intelligence, 50 percent of freelancers said there's no amount of money a traditional job could pay them that would get them to stop freelancing. That’s quite a statistic for entrepreneurs to consider. The same survey predicts that freelancing will account for more than 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by the year 2027.
Freelance roles now cover a wide array of skills, from software development and data science to strategy consulting and healthcare professionals. Online marketplaces provide access to freelance project managers, doctors, nurses, scientists, economists, tech experts, and more.
While freelancing was traditionally structured as contracting or temp work, technology has now democratized the sourcing, hiring, and management of flexible talent, with digital platforms opening up new ways to connect them with different companies and work opportunities.
If companies know how and when to lean on freelance talent, they can optimize their workforces, fill in critical skills gaps, and run projects in leaner, more efficient ways.
How Can Scale-Ups Take Advantage?
Companies of all types and sizes can benefit from skilled freelance work, but scale-ups — businesses that already have market-tested products and are focused on rapidly growing what they’ve got — have even more to gain. These companies are still quite young, and they are often growing faster than they can hire.
Having a team of freelancers to rely on during this period of change helps move projects forward and offers quick access to critical skills while buying the company time to find more long-term hires. In many cases, scale-ups end up hiring some of their tried and tested freelancers for full-time positions as they continue to grow.
For a scale-up company, every hire has a much heavier impact than it would for more established companies. Working with freelancers before hiring them full-time is a chance to put talent through a trial run to ensure quality and culture fit.
Tech roles that freelancers can fill
Companies with room to grow can do so more efficiently now that freelancers specialize in critical sought-after roles, including:
- Data science: This is a niche skill, and as such, hiring someone full-time can be quite expensive. Because most data science tasks are project-based, companies often do well to outsource those tasks to a freelance data expert. You can benefit from advanced analytics to guide better business decisions without having to dedicate entire salaries and benefits to an in-house data scientist.
- Systems implementation and integration: The same is true for technology implementation. Implementing a new system or platform and customizing it to your company's needs might require an expert. After that process is complete, you will no longer need a full-time implementation specialist. If you choose a freelancer for help from the start, you can work out an agreement to call on them for ad-hoc support. You likely won't need them to sit at a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to do that.
- Software engineering: This skill is crucial for creating seamless, bug-free digital experiences that will keep customers engaged and help build loyalty and trust. However, finding and killing bugs in a system can put a big strain on a tech team that is already working around the clock to develop products and websites. Having a freelancer handle system maintenance is a great way to augment your team, as well as fill in skills gaps to make the team and product much stronger.
Flexible talent is increasingly essential for helping businesses grow. Of course, not every role can or should be outsourced to a freelancer. For example, senior management and anyone else who is essential to the decision-making process will need open access to sensitive company and competitive intelligence, and those tasks should remain in-house.
Your company can engage freelancers with parts of these processes if they sign nondisclosure agreements, are associated with trusted platforms, and have access to swaths of data rather than the whole picture. It’s important to hold people accountable at the top and bottom lines, but everything in between can essentially be flexible. Keep that in mind, and you will be able to successfully use freelance talent to grow your scale-up faster than your competitors.