About half of all businesses expect to increase their use of freelancers in the next three to five years. The “blended” workforce, which consists of both freelancers and full-time employees, is quickly gaining momentum. Today, 55 million Americans freelance and represent 34 percent of the U.S. workforce.
Because the blended workforce is a relatively new phenomenon, few businesses have processes in place to manage how freelancers are onboarded. The result? Constant headaches. You can't find signed contracts, invoices or rate cards when you need them, which means you have to keep emailing your freelancers to collect the information. All that back-of-forth wastes a ton of time and gets in the way of productivity.
To avoid these inefficient muddles, it's important to spend time working out what your company needs to know about each independent contractor at the start of your relationship. A checklist is key to making sure no piece of information slips through the cracks. The specific queries will vary depending on the freelancers’ role, so you're likely to end up with several different checklists for the specific freelancers you employ.
By completing the checklist and handing it over to your HR department at the start of each contractor's relationship with the company, HR will be able to keep track of which freelancers are being used by each team and will no longer have to chase different team members down for information.
To help you with this process, we've compiled a list of information you may want to collect as part of your onboarding process:
1. Contact Details: Businesses need basic contact information from every freelancer you work with—Name, Email Address, Phone Number, City, Personal Website— to make sure anyone at your company can contact them easily. This may seem obvious, and yet, contact information can easily go missing. Say there’s a freelancer you’ve only ever interacted with via email. You may never have gotten their phone number, which means that one day when you need to contact them ASAP, you are scrambling. Contact details should be a default.
3. Attributes: Beyond a worker’s skills, companies should track attributes about their freelancers to document what it’s like to work with them. These attributes serve as an advantage for future projects. Think about them as the notes that can help you hit the ground running. For instance, are they are they are early riser? Is texting the best way to communicate? Gathering these tidbits during onboarding helps everyone stay on the same page.
4. CV/Portfolio: It’s wise to have a record of a contractor’s previous work so your employees can see if their experience and style suits the proposed task. Just as collecting skills and attributes aim to create a clear sense of who a freelancer is, the CV/portfolio rounds out that picture. Someone may have the right skills or be easy to work with, but their style may not be right. This can be particularly relevant for creative projects. As a backup option if you don’t want to store the documents, simply ask how many years of experience they have.
5. Rate Card: Rate cards help your employees compare different freelancers based on the budget of their project. Cost matters whenever bringing a freelancer onboard so their rate should always be included in their onboarding materials. You don’t have an employee to find a freelancer within your database and have them be way too expensive for the project.
6. Signed Contract: For every contractor you employ, you need to make sure you have their contract or Statement of Work signed and associated with their profile in your database. This is one of those documents that gets lost in email inboxes all too often. It can be a pain for managers to track them down, as well as for freelancers who have to sign the same document over and over. Getting the contract signed during onboarding and storing them in a central repository helps keep things streamlined.
7. Bank Details: One of the most common freelancer complaints is that they don’t get paid in a timely manner. There are many different ways the invoice processing process can get held up, particularly for companies that haven’t automated it. However, there’s no excuse for a payment to be delayed because the employer doesn’t have the bank details of the freelancer. Get this information upfront during onboarding so you can pay your freelancer once they’ve completed their project.
8. Onsite or Remote: Companies often work with both onsite and remote freelancers. For certain tasks, it may not matter if the freelancer is in the office, but for others, it may be key. Before deciding whether to work with a freelancer, it’s pretty important to know where they are and their workstyle. Noting whether a freelancer is onsite or remote, and where they work, is key to understanding what the working relationship will be like and in classifying workers. It’s also important for communication. If a freelancer is in Berlin and you are in New York, the time difference has an impact.
9. Are you willing to travel? This question is important if a freelancer needs to be onsite for a task that may not be in their city.
10. Internal ID number: If your company gives each employee a different number, this should be recorded as part of the freelancer onboarding.
Once you’ve collected all this information your HR & Payroll teams should have everything they need to enter the freelancer into the system. The faster the freelancer is onboarded, the better it is for everyone involved because the project can get started. The onboarding checklist also makes managing a blended workforce easier going forward, since other members of the team will find it easier to identify who they need for their next project.
As mentioned above, you may need different information for a photographer than for a copywriter. If you plan to employ freelancers across a range of tasks, consider creating templates for each different type of freelancer that teams can easily use. Kalo can help here by allowing teams to save a range of onboarding templates, so you can always collect the information you need.
An onboarding checklist is a good start, but it’s just one example of how companies can make the process of managing freelancers more efficient. Ultimately, the entire end-to-end cycle from onboarding to payment should be streamlined, and that’s what Kalo set out to do. Once a freelancer is brought onboard, there are still assignments to make, communication about projects flying around, and payments to process. A Freelance Management System (FMS) likes Kalo keeps all the relevant information in one place so the logistics fade into the background and the freelancer and team can focus on the task at hand.