The Freelance Economy is Taking Charge: How Startups and SMEs Can Make the Most Out Of It

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

The freelancing economy has played a huge part in the growth of many startups and SMEs, and it keeps getting bigger.

The freelancing economy has played a huge part in the growth of many start-ups and SMEs, and it keeps getting bigger.

Today, 53 million Americans, or 34 percent of the entire workforce, are freelancing.

Of course, the freelancing economy is not without disadvantages. One concern is that most freelancers are doing little to ensure their future wealth.

Another disadvantage is that freelancers do not guarantee accountability, unlike with a regular workforce whom you can closely observe as they work.

Still, freelancers are generally more affordable for SMEs or startups, especially with the burgeoning costs of maintaining a long-term workforce. The gig economy also helps freelancers and small businesses expand their networks and form mutually-beneficial business relationships.

All it takes is a system that facilitates honest work, better communication, and integrated workflows between enterprises and the freelancing community. These are the foundations that will help build long-term relationships and sustained success.

Fortunately, connected tools and platforms now empower both freelancers and business that employ them the ability to maximize the benefits of the gig economy.

Related Article:15 Best Freelance Websites in 2015

Enhance Workflow Through Accountability, Performance & Tracking

Accountability has always been a concern when it comes to remote workers. How can you track their progress or evaluate their performance if you can’t always observe and monitor their work?

Relying on outside workers may also affect the productivity of your in-house team. By adding freelancers to the mix, it can be tricky to establish a seamless workflow that will keep everyone on the same page.

Businesses need to deploy a project management platform to manage your entire team, onsite and offsite. There are plenty of platforms that can make sure everyone is doing their job, no matter where they are in the world.

For example, a simple project management tool like Trello allows you to assign tasks to specific team members. The cloud-based solution also enables you to specify deadlines for each task, and all of these are managed through a drag-and-drop card interface.

To better enforce your use of a project management platform, you need a proper time tracking tool that performs well enough to replace timesheets. WorkflowMax provides a time tracking and timesheet tool that can be used by project managers, full-time staff and freelancers in facilitating a smooth workflow.

Since it is easily integrated into invoice and finance tools like Xero, no time is wasted in computing when it’s time to invoice. By tracking the amount of time put in a specific work, freelancers can give more accurate invoices, which will also guarantee that businesses get what they pay for.

Related Article: Investing In the Freelance Economy: How Can Freelancers Help Your Growing Business?

Continue Expanding Your Network

There’s no denying that freelancing networks like Upwork have been critical to the growth of the gig economy. But that doesn’t mean you should rely on them exclusively for your outsourcing needs.

As a growing business, you need to consider other options that will help you connect with a bigger community of professionals. Sure, freelancing networks enable you to view a professional’s track record and determine if they’re worth your while, but you can also leverage other platforms to find reliable freelancers or to find work.

For example, start-up communities are a good way to find good connections when it comes to talent and available work. The same goes for a VC community or an accelerator or incubator. Sometimes, a digital venture might not work out, and professionals might be looking to render their services for other businesses. Involvement in such communities can provide an avenue for exchanging services and expertise.

This is ultimately beneficial for startups and SMEs that are looking to expand their B2B connections and find partnership opportunities. This means that beyond finding individual freelancers, a good network will enable your business to partner with other enterprises in fulfilling your goals.

Address Structural Difficulties

Sometimes, a professional may be hesitant to form freelancing commitments with businesses, particularly due to structural difficulties. As mentioned above, freelancing does have its disadvantages, particularly when it comes to managing taxes, spending overhead for remote offices, or even registering as a business entity for documentation purposes.

As a business, providing your support for your freelance workers is essential if you want to make the most out of the gig economy. This will include helping them manage overhead costs, providing assistance in filing for regulatory or accounting purposes, and providing access to business resources, as necessary.

Remember that, just like your in-house team, forming long-term relationships with your remote staff is enormously beneficial. If one particular freelancer is highly valuable for your business processes, you should consider hiring them as a permanent remote staff as opposed to outsourcing them for projects from time to time.

With project management platforms that can help relay consistent workload, it will be just as good as having a permanent onsite employee.

Bridge Cultural Differences

So you found the best freelancers for a long-term project, but they can’t deliver on a regular basis due to a difference in time zones.

Since the gig economy encompasses the global market of professionals, the cultural differences barrier is commonplace. The mismatching time zones are among the most common. This, however, can easily be overcome with the right use of project management platforms and tools.

The language barrier should be out of the question, especially since there are plenty of English-speaking professionals in most freelancing and social networks. But when it comes to other cultural issues, the differences may have significant implications.

For example, cost disagreements are common for two parties coming from different socioeconomic cultures. A business may also attempt to underpay a freelancer from a third-world country.

Again, leveraging a workflow and time management tool can help provide accurate invoices, thus resolving the problem of both underpayment and overpayment.

Related Article:Hire Like Uber: How to Leverage the Freelance Economy for Startup Growth

Conclusion

Today, the gig economy continues to empower startups, SMEs, and big businesses with a global pool of talent that is accessible and cost-effective. For the most part, freelancers offer a better deal, especially for project-based agreements.

But to bring about sustained success, businesses must look at the bigger picture and adopt strategies that will foster productivity and help keep reliable freelancers for the long-term.

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