The Freelance Effect

In a good economy, an employee’s career trajectory might include six to seven corporations in a lifetime. Today, that number spikes – as people respond and preempt layoffs and lack of career advancement by changing careers again and again. This change can take a toll on a company that continually must hire and develop new talent.

Augmenting a workforce with freelancers is one way to mitigate these changes.

Job-Hopping and Lay-offs Drain the 9-to-5 Workforce

According to Forbes contributor and executive development strategist Jeanne Meister, a 2012 survey found that 91% of those born between 1977 and 1997 plan to stay at their workplace less than three years. This means that the entry-level workforce of today will work at 15 to 20 workplaces over the course of their careers.

Since the start of the global recession in late 2008, when the U.S. economy shed more than 250,000 jobs per week, job security is a luxury that few can claim, if any. Those who have not lost their jobs through cuts have been forced to work harder with less staff, and often, with pay-cuts or furlough days.

Employees and new entrants to the workforce are on edge, continually sharpening their resumes and looking for greener pastures where their talent will lead to a rewarding, stable work environment. I have seen a number of workplaces become more stressful, and staff turn fearful and resentful, amid the ongoing threat of layoffs and cut-backs.

This instability in the workforce is one reason why reliable freelancers are part of a healthy business model that includes both on-site traditional employees and off-site workers.

Freelancers will not replace the need for good employees, but they are an affordable way to augment this strategy.

The Freelance Effect: Avoiding the Roller-coaster

What is the freelance effect? My take: the freelance effect leverages individual expertise to build better internal relationships, increase stability, yield high quality results, and lead to increased satisfaction on behalf of employees and contractors.

By leveraging the targeted expertise of a long-term freelancer, an employer does not need to waste time and resources repeatedly train new hires in a particular task. Many freelancers today have years of past full-time work experience and know how to meet demands.

Freelancers and managers can work together to develop an agreeable schedule to get the job done. Serving multiple clients from a healthy distance, freelancers are also less likely to be affected emotionally by the roller-coaster of a company’s financial woes amid the economic recovery (woes may seem dire to an on-site employee).

This translates into more efficient results and better satisfaction on the job for both the employer and the freelancer.

Finding Freelancers

Employers can tap into the market and have their pick of experienced professionals by advertising their freelance positions through traditional employment websites or posting positions on sites such as Elance.com (which has increased its commitment to certifying freelancers through testing and ensuring that bids are placed at professional levels).

Freelancers also regularly check job boards such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder.com, Indeed.com, and Idealist.org (for nonprofit work).

Good Freelance Policies Yield Cost Savings

On-site employees still need processes to manage freelance operations and maintain freelance relationships. Good policies toward freelancers should minimize confusion about expectations.

Freelancers can save a company both time and money. Freelance does not mean “free”, so employers should still offer a competitive per-hour rate. Freelancers are often paid more per hour or per-project than their full-time counterparts. Still, in the majority of cases freelancers will still provide a cost savings when compared to the salary and benefits paid to full-time workers.

Companies can then be more flexible about where to allocate on-site resources.

Realistically, the freelance effect will continue to increase across all industries. How will this impact yours?

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