How to Recruit & Retain Talent in a Growing Freelance Economy

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Freelance work used to get a bad rep. It was something folks did in between jobs out of necessity—not by choice. Some still romanticize traditional W2 jobs, but the workforce as we know it now sees things through a new lens.

57.3 million people chose freelance work in 2017. Give it less than ten years and 51% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing. Like most things, there’s more than one catalyst: technology, the economy, and people.

You’ve probably heard that millennials are the largest gen in the U.S. workforce. According to a 2017 survey of 6,000 freelance workers, nearly half of working millennials (47%) freelance. Seventy-one percent of freelancers claim that they can find more work online than ever before. Seeing that you can get free WiFi from like, McDonald's, that’s not too hard to believe. The economy continues to boom (🙌🏼), so all those easily accessible jobs will steadily increase.

I’m going to throw some numbers at you:

  • 50% of freelancers wouldn’t go back to a traditional job, regardless of pay.
  • 86% of professional freelancers work solo by choice—not necessity.
  • 79% of freelancers feel that working solo is better than working for an employer.
  • 63% of freelancers agree that a diverse portfolio of clients provides more security than one employer.
  • 19.8% of full-time freelancers earn more than $100K/year.

Why people go freelance

Freelancing has some powerful perks. For full-timers, the freedom and flexibility are heavy influencers. Part-timers share the same appreciation for flexibility, but they also dig the extra cash.

More than half of the U.S. feels that their work won’t exist in 20-years thanks to what the World Economic Forum calls the “Fourth Industrial Evolution.” That’s why 55% of freelancers prepared for the future and have re-skilled in the last 6-months.

How to retain talent in a freelance economy

Fifty-percent of jobs in the U.S. are capable of remote work, and 80% of the workforce would be down to work remotely. So, why do less than 10% of employers make it easier to work remotely? Well, because there’s a trust gap. And that trust gap plays a big part in why folks go solo. Employers have to loosen the reigns if they want to retain talent that won’t dip out to work for themselves.

Employers should:

  • Ease up on the emphasis on the long-term picture, tangible, and intangible effects of working at the company.
  • Seriously invest in a strong employer brand.
  • The majority of today’s workforce is on social media, so use it to promote the brand.
  • Develop relationships with freelance professionals. Go to events (or even host one) where freelancers can network. Show that you give a hoot and that you value their skillsets as much as they do.

How to recruit in a freelance workforce

It’s hard to argue against freedom and flexibility, but not impossible. Before you approach the challenge of recruiting in a freelance economy, know its key hurdles:

  • Income predictability
  • Benefits
  • Finding work
Okay, now you can go in swinging:

  • If a position is more flexible than the typical 9-5, push that hard, especially when you connect with millennials.
  • People like options. Whether you write a job description for a client or an internal role, work in terms like “remote-friendly.”
  • Prioritize candidates who have a sense of personal responsibility and accountability.
  • Ask questions to get a feel for candidates’ time management skills.
  • Candidate experience is more important than ever. Freelancers are more engaged than 9-5ers, meaning they’ll measure the interview process just as much as you measure them.
There's a long road ahead, but it's smart to start somewhere. Adapting to a growing freelance workforce will consist of trial and error. Be patient, keep testing, and eventually you'll find what works best for you.

One more thing before you go: have you seen the shift toward a freelance economy? How do you tackle freelance recruitment? Let us know in the comments!

Freelancing in America 2017 | Ultimate Guide to Gig Economy Data

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Sam Sandler
Sam Sandler
Sam is a copywriter and strategist at Qualigence International. She enjoys exercising, eating pizza, and long walks through her Netflix queue.

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