The lavish perks that can go along with full-time jobs, particularly in Silicon Valley, have become the stuff of legends—free gourmet lunches, on-site haircuts, chauffeured commutes, rooftop walking trails. For many companies, dedicating time and resources to keeping employees happy, so they work harder and stay around longer, is a no-brainer. However, far less energy is dedicated to the freelance workforce, despite their increasing presence in workplaces across the country.
Freelancers represent more than one-third of the U.S. workforce and could represent half by 2020. “Blended” workforces are the new norm. As a result, freelancer happiness is just as critical to a company’s success as that of staff members. Conversely, neglecting freelancer satisfaction can negatively impact a company’s culture and overall performance.
Many organizations don’t give freelancer happiness much though because the work is, by definition, temporary. This is a mistake, as the most productive freelancer relationships tend to be long-term ones and tasks delegated to freelancers are no longer ancillary or mundane. Organizations have to start thinking strategically about how to attract and retain freelancers, but what matters to freelancers may not be the same thing that matters to employees. For instance, a distributed freelance team won’t be wooed by catered lunches or generous paid time-off policies. Their sets of needs are different.
Here are 4 things we found freelancers need to be happy, engaged workers.
Given freelancers are often new to your company, they may need more information to complete a task than a full-time employee. Let’s say you are hiring a freelance copywriter for a press release. An internal marketing or PR person may know all the subtleties of the messaging and positioning around an announcement, but a freelancer won’t. Without a suite of relevant information, context, tools, and materials, that freelancer can’t adequately do their job. Moreover, it’ not uncommon for a manager to forget to discuss fundamental aspects of an assignment, like timeline and rate.
To keep freelancers happy, not to mention efficient, make sure to provide them with information upfront and make yourself available to questions.
Responsiveness is part of communication. Freelancers like working with employers who respond to their queries and address issues in a prompt and timely fashion. If you reach out to a freelancer, or they respond to a job posting, don’t go radio silent for a couple weeks. If a situation is up in the air, then be transparent about what’s going on so they aren’t left in the dark.
Utilization of skills
Ten years ago, the tasks traditionally outsourced to freelancers were lower-skilled, such as data entry and transcription. That’s no longer the case, as the freelancer ranks now include highly-skilled, talented professionals: Graphic designers, software engineers, copywriters, photographers, social media managers, brand strategists, business consultants, customer support staff, executive assistants, video editors, marketers, and more. Freelancers often get into freelancing because it seems like a better way to utilize their in-demand skill sets. Businesses, on the other hand, often fail to recognize the goldmine of talent in their freelance workforce by giving them mundane assignments or ones that don’t quite align with their background.
A happy freelancer is one whose talents are being put to work. During the onboarding process, talk with freelancers about the skills they have, the skills they like to use, and other areas of interest. This better equips you to delegate tasks effectively and keep freelancers engaged.
Time to payment
Slow and late payments is the top complaint from freelancers: 44 percent of freelancers report issues getting paid; On average, they are owed over $10,000 in unpaid invoices and spend 36 hours tracking down missing payments - according to data from Freelancers Union. Delayed payments make life difficult for freelancers, who are self-employed and often live paycheck to paycheck. No-one should wait months to get paid, but many organizations still offer Net 30, 60, or even 90 !!! day terms.
To put it simply, paying freelancers quickly makes them happy. Companies need to develop systems, or outsource payment processing, to a platform such as Kalo that can handle high-volume, task-based work with fast turnaround.
Just because a freelancer is not a full-time employee doesn’t mean they want to be treated like they are peripheral. Freelancers look for employers who value their skills and contributions. Like anyone, freelancers appreciate being told when they’ve done something well and being thanked for their work. No-one wants to work with people who are rude or dismissive. Including freelancers in your company culture, whatever form that takes, is key to satisfaction. That could mean including them in a Slack channel, inviting them to a company Happy Hour, or a virtual event. Freelancers are providing valuable contributions, they are are part of the team, and should feel that way.
Any freelance management strategy should be rooted in what freelancers want and need to do their best work. These “secrets” to freelancer happiness can help any organization unlock the full potential of their freelance workforce.
To learn more, check out this Guide To Building A Freelancer-Friendly Company from Kalo.