A few years from now, half of the American workforce could be freelancers. As the freelance workforce swells—adding numbers to its ranks, attracting the best-and-the-brightest, and expanding in skill and geographic diversity—more and more businesses will adopt a blended workforce where full-time staffers and freelancers work together, helping companies become more agile and efficient.
Freelancers have a lot of benefits to offer their employers, but it’s potential that has to be unleashed. Even the most talented freelancers can’t be productive if the organization they work with has no strategy in place. You may hire an incredible freelance software engineer, but if they aren’t clear on their task or can’t get access to the technology they need to work, it’s a waste.
Any business that hires freelancers needs a plan for how to stay organized and optimize. And the answer is not spreadsheets. Today’s freelancers are highly skilled professionals and they deserve employers that can manage them effectively, with the help of Freelance Management Systems (FMS). A Freelance Management System helps businesses keep their freelance workforce humming along. Instead of a patchwork of spreadsheets, invoices, and emails, an FMS centralizes the entire freelance lifecycle, from the moment they are hired until the job is done and payment processed, and this drives performance.
Let’s start with finding the right freelancer for the job. This can be a time-consuming process, especially if freelancers aren’t indexed and searchable. It not only results in wasted time, but can also make it difficult to find the right person for a job. If the freelancer you hire doesn’t quite have the right skillset or there is another freelancer out there with more specific expertise, that’s a missed opportunity. An FMS streamlines the process of identifying the best freelancer by storing information about whether a freelancer has worked with a company before, their skills, location, availability, rate, reviews, and contact information. The process becomes more efficient and effective.
Next, onboarding. Let’s say a designer is poised and ready to get started on a time-sensitive project, but there is some sort of delay in the contracts. That holds everyone up. An FMS eliminates these sorts of bottlenecks by automating the contract process and storing contracts in an easy-to-access place. As mentioned above, another bottleneck arises if a freelancer doesn’t have the tools they need. That same designer can’t get to work if they aren’t on the Slack channel where design ideas are being discussed or can’t access creative tools the rest of the team uses. Using an FMS, managers can make assignments, log freelancers into relevant systems, send documentation, track progress, communicate information about ideas, equipment, brand guidelines, deadlines, and more. This ensures that logistical hurdles don’t get in the way of productivity and that nothing falls through the cracks.
An FMS can also optimize the productivity of freelancers by keeping them happy. It’s well-documented at this point that happy workers are productive workers, and that goes for freelancers as well as full-timers. Workers who feel a sense of connection to the work they are doing, who feel that the belong, and who believe their work matters perform better. A common mistake companies will make is treating their freelancers differently, almost like second-class citizens. That’s pretty rough on morale. Why would a freelancer give a project their all if they feel marginalized? An FMS helps keep lines of communication open and makes freelancers part of the team. This sets the groundwork for long-term relationships. The more you work with a freelancer, the better (i.e. more productive) that relationship becomes.
Along the same lines, an FMS also helps businesses get the most out of freelancers by paying them on time. A 2015 report from the Freelancers Union found that 44 percent of its members reported issues getting paid; On average, they are owed over $10,000 in unpaid invoices and spend 36 hours tracking down missing payments. That, to put it bluntly, sucks. If a freelancer isn’t getting paid, they aren’t going to want to work with you again. By automating the invoicing and payment process, companies can show freelancers that they are respected and valued, and encourage their best work.
The blended workforce opens up tremendous opportunities for businesses to be more flexible, as well as offering freelancers more opportunities to make a good living on their own. Both sides benefit from technology, like Freelance Management Software, that keeps the working relationship organized and set up for success.