The word “job” used to connote stability—an office, a 9-to-5 workday, benefits, longevity. However, that mode of work is no longer the norm, or at least it won’t be for much longer. The internet has made it possible for people to work anytime, from anywhere, and younger generations are redefining cultural notions of work to center on passion, flexibility, and freedom.
Today, there are an estimated 53 million freelancers in the U.S., and by 2020, some estimates expect freelancers to make up half of the professional workforce. Highly skilled workers are choosing the freelance lifestyle over full-time work because it enables them to be their own boss, create their own schedule, and focus on what they love.
On the other side of the equation, companies are increasingly relying on freelancers because they provide agility, efficiency, and access to unique skill sets. Consider a sports media company that needs to scale its editorial team up and down depending on the season or a fashion house that needs extra hands leading up to fashion week. Freelancers allow companies to hire the help they need, when they need it, without being short-staffed or saddled with a bloated payroll.
Freelancers are also cost-effective. Full-time employees are expensive. According to an expert from MIT, employee benefits like health insurance or retirement fund matching can add up to around 1.35 times base salary. There’s also onboarding costs to consider, given that the average cost of hiring and training a salaried employee is about 6 to 9 months of salary. Beyond cost, freelancers help companies tap into pools of specialized expertise, whether it’s a brand designer or data scientist (who seem to be few and far between) or a local person on the ground in Tokyo. For all these reasons, freelancers empower businesses today to be more scalable.
The quickness of this shift, though, has left some gaps. Many companies find themselves under-equipped to manage their growing freelance workforce, relying on a haphazard array of spreadsheets and email chains. Without proper organization, it’s tough to unlock the full potential of freelance workers. For freelancers, there isn’t much information about who the best companies are to work for, other than word-of-mouth reviews. While scores of organizations publish various studies and reports ranking the best places to work for full-time employees, there’s been no equivalent in the freelance world. Until now.
The Best Companies To Freelance For
At Kalo, we’ve spent the past three years enabling some of the world’s top companies to optimize their freelance workforce. We now help over 60,000 freelancers get paid within 3 days – a far cry from the net 60 day terms freelancers have been stuck with previously. We thought it was high time to introduce at industry standard on what it’s like to freelance at the most freelancer-friendly companies in America.
Best workplace lists generally focus on criteria like benefits, office snacks, PTO, management attitudes, and work environment (are dogs allowed in the office?). Rarely are these considerations relevant to freelancers, however, who comprise up to 30% of a total workforce of most American companies. Furthermore, just because a company treats their full-time staff well it doesn’t necessarily mean they afford the same to their freelancers. That’s why we felt a new list, with benchmarks geared around freelance criteria, was needed to bring more transparency to the industry. Freelancers need to know the best workplaces that reward their unique brand of work, and companies can benefit from knowing what they can do to be competitive among freelance talent.
The 2017 Best Companies To Freelance For Awards were chosen by directly surveying over 1,200 freelancers and analyzing interactions between over 70,000 freelancers and 2,000 companies. We asked freelancers several questions about which companies they would recommend as a good place to freelance and why (see more on our methodology), and four benchmarks emerged:
- Utilization of skills
- Time to payment
Our hope is that these Awards are more useful than just providing a simple rank list. Rather, the survey can provide a starting point for the expected minimum standards for a company, and create a roadmap for how companies can treat freelancers as first-class citizens. These four criteria represent strategic areas that all Chief HR Officers and Heads of People and Heads of Talent should be looking at as they consider 2018-2019 plans for how to build a healthy and productive workforce.
Why are these areas important? Since freelancers are working from outside an organization, they can often feel out-of-the-loop in terms of communication. Maybe they have to wait 3 days for a response to a simple email or aren’t given all the information they need to get started on a project. Whatever the case, bad communication is not just frustrating and stressful, it can prevent a freelancer from getting the job done. As such, companies that communicate consistently and clearly with their freelancers are highly prized.
Utilization of skills is important because freelancers are interested in doing what they love. They may have left an office job because they didn’t want 50% of their time getting sucked up in meetings and admin. If an employer only doles out menial tasks or assignments that don’t align with a freelancers’ skill set, that doesn’t create a productive working relationship.
Third, time to payment is essential because it’s an area where so many companies struggle. A 2015 Freelancers Union report revealed that 44% of its members have experienced issues getting paid. On average, its members are owed over $10,000 in unpaid invoices and spend 36 hours tracking down missing payments. Even companies with workforces that are more than 25% freelance are still working off of a net-30 or even net-60 day schedule. Failing to pay in a timely manner is inexcusable – especially when freelancers don’t have salaries to fall back on and need timely payment to cover essentials like rent and food – and freelancers talk. That reputation for failing to deliver payment on time can have a negative ability on a company’s ability to attract top talent, as has been seen with examples like Newsweek and Nautilus.
The fourth pillar, inclusion, means freelancers value companies that treat them not as peripheral but as key participants. Up until now, larger companies have simply decided to put freelancers at arms length to their core business by implementing a third-party staffing agency or managed service provider to take care of the freelancer workforce, leaving them feeling like second class citizens. Even as a part-time worker freelancers can still make valuable contributions, and they prefer to give those contributions to companies that treat them as one of the team. Companies that make an effort to recognize freelancers for their contributions, thank them for their work, and provide constructive feedback come out on top. Inclusion can also mean integrating freelancers into company life, whether it’s adding them to a team Slack channel or inviting local freelancers to an office happy hour.
Work with Anyone, Anywhere.
Our mission at Kalo is to enable work with anyone, anywhere. We want to make the world more open and productive. We want to free freelancers to do their best work and we want to help companies be productive, grow fast, scale, and do it in a safe and compliant way. We believe the future will yield business strategies underpinned by the engagement of highly qualified freelance workers. We also believe the same investments companies make in “culture” should extend to freelancers.
To do this, it’s important to call out the companies that are really leading the way. In our 2018 Awards, the top spot went to Airbnb, followed by Amazon, Walmart, Google and Ideo. Check out the full list of 50 Best Companies to Freelance For. Happy freelancing!