The business case for freelancers: how UK plc can leverage contract talent

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Freelancers and contractors are now a critical part of the modern workforce, contributing more than £140billion to the British economy each year (IPSE estimate, 2021).

The rise of the freelancer and contractor economy looks like this...

This significant contribution coincides with the traditional 9-to-5 job model no longer being the only viable option for workers and businesses, offering companies greater flexibility, cost-efficiency and access to specialised talent.

Well, we support freelancers everday and specialise in the contractor market, making us well-positioned to share some of the key things businesses should consider to leverage the potential of freelancers, writes Zeeshan Anwar, head of compliance at Dolan Accountancy.

Firstly, let's begin with a question:

Why are more businesses opting for freelancers?

Hiring freelancers has plenty of benefits for businesses. Outsourcing can be one of the wisest business decisions you can make as a business-owner.

Here are just a few positive benefits of using freelancers:

1. Freelancers are cost-effective with fewer overheads

As a business owner, you may be faced with limited resources and funding to grow and stabilise your business. This can make hiring specialised in-house employees difficult, which is where freelancers make a significant difference – being more affordable with practically no overheads.

Freelancers don’t come with the potentially hefty costs of training and benefits, and also don’t necessarily require desk space or equipment. This makes it easier to access specialists without committing to a full-time salary, among other long term running costs.

2. Freelance talent like contractors offer instant access to niche expertise and specialist knowledge

Organisations can greatly benefit from the untapped potential of freelance talent. For example, say you have a specific need for a web developer, you can hire a freelance web developer who’s an expert in your industry or their field, instead of hiring a full-time developer, on a permanent basis, for what could be just a one-time website update.

This enables you to access professional services without committing to a full-time employee and paying for their associated benefits and rights.

So it’s worth exploring where the knowledge gaps may be within your current team. This can help direct your search for a freelancer.

3. Freelancers free up your existing employees

Sometimes, when there’s a knowledge or talent gap, employees are faced with an increased workload to compensate for any lacking areas.

By hiring a freelancer to fill these gaps or take on some of the day-to-day tasks, your employees are free to focus on their roles and perform to the best of their ability.

So employees get real freedom to work. They get to fulfil the requirements you took them on for -- and that they signed up to, not lumbered with additional tasks which (you might not realise until it's too late) they’re not well-suited for.

4. Freelancers and contractors afford organisations flexibility

As your business grows, so do your requirements. Freelancers can adapt to your changing needs, providing more or less work as needed.

Perhaps you decide to hire a contractor or freelancer regularly, with consistent expectations of the work required? Or, maybe you operate on a more transactional basis, hiring a freelancer or contractor for one-off projects?

Either way, this level of flexibility provides the peace of mind that your organisation can easily scale up -- or down -- with the amount of work required.

5. Freelance contractors grant you access to the global market

Gone are the days when you’d be limited to only hiring talent within your local area!

And with the huge uptake in remote working technology, freelancers based anywhere in the world can now support your business. Not only does this widen your talent pool, but it can also improve efficiency, with freelancers from different time zones being able to hold the fort during all hours.

With these five benefits of freelancers surely now convincing you to consider contract or temporary resource for your next hire, it’s time for a second big question:

What do businesses need to know when hiring freelancers?

Businesses should recognise the value of freelancers and incorporate them into their workforce strategy.

By embracing this, companies can adapt to changing market demands, remain agile, and access a diverse talent pool.

Five top tips for freelancer and contractor hiring

When hiring freelancers, it’s important to follow the five steps below to ensure a seamless process:

1. Define what you’re looking for: To ensure successful collaboration, consider your long-term goals, the level of expertise required and a time commitment. Not only will this help narrow down your search, but it will also tell the freelancer whether they are right for your business.

2. Set a budget: Research the going pay rate for the type of work and expertise you’re looking for. This will help to narrow down your search further and set realistic expectations for yourself and the freelancer.

3. Look for relevant experience: One of the main benefits of freelancers is their niche expertise. This enables you to work with professionals who have experience in your industry.

4. Read reviews: Whether you’ve found a freelancer through a hiring website or their own freelance business website, ensure you look for any reviews or feedback from clients. This will tell you whether they have a positive track record. Checking ‘testimonials’ on LinkedIn can be helpful too.

5. Draw up a contract: You must record your expectations in writing to avoid any complications further down the line. Such a written contract protects both yourself and the freelancer.

While freelancers offer flexibility, businesses must adhere to labour laws and regulations. Understanding the legal distinction between self-employed freelancers, workers, and employees in various jurisdictions is crucial to avoid potential legal issues.

A third significant question now abounds, given the above five top tips for freelancer and contractor hiring are understood. Right?!

How should organisations make the most of hiring a contractor or freelancer?

Freelancers and contractors can significantly help your company grow, filling any talent gaps and flexibly working around your requirements.

In today’s cost-of-living crisis and with a currently dicey economic outlook, freelancers are arguably even more beneficial, as such non-permanent workers can be taken on -- and let go -- as the demand for your business dictates.

However, to really make the most out of this flexible talent pool, organisations need to avoid an opaque approach by setting a clear brief and expectations.

Detailing the scope of the work required and providing an unambiguous brief will ensure that you start your usage of self-employed contractors and freelancers off on the right foot! It should also help the freelancer produce their best work.

Maintain a strong relationship with your freelancers with regular communication and constructive feedback. While freelancers and contractors won’t require as much input from you as full-time employees, it’s important to invest time into them to gain the most out of the relationship. Do that from the off, and you’ll be leveraging the potential of the rising freelancer economy in the very best way possible!

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