Freelancers are not employees. They are not bound, or managed, by the same rules and it is common for hiring managers, line managers and operational teams to experience challenges as they start to engage a larger number of freelancers.
In this guide:
The issue of visibility arises as soon as an organisation engages with more than about 20 freelancers.
As the number of freelancers increases, it becomes difficult to maintain visibility over every freelancer: Where are they engaged? What skills do they have that are being used? What skills do they have that could be used? How is the quality of their work? What do line managers and team members say about their work?
A lack of visibility can lead to other related issues:
Without visibility of where and how freelancers are engaged in an organisation, it is possible for 'phantom' skills shortages to appear. For example, one department can have a number of freelance software developers engaged but underutilised, whilst another department could be struggling to find and hire freelancers with the same skills.
Frequently unnecessary hiring is a by-product of the apparent skills shortages caused by a lack of visibility. It's easy to see how an organisation, in it's desire to move projects along, can hire freelancers unnecessarily when they could have unseen, underutilised freelancers already engaged elsewhere.
Where there is a lack of visibility, no single point of 'truth', it's common for an organisation to be engaged with a number of very similar freelancers, doing very similar jobs, but paying very different rates. Of course, this creates cost inefficiencies (compounded by the unnecessary hiring and underutilisation factors).
The solution to every visibility challenge is to create a central, consolidated, view of the freelancers engaged by an organisation. At a very minimum, the view should detail:
With all this information and these reporting dimensions available in a central system, available to all, hiring managers can make much better resourcing decisions.
Once your freelancers are onboarded and visible, another set of challenges emerge around the day-to-day management of their work.
The first challenge is operating hours. A freelancer is not an employee and therefore they are entitled to keep their own hours. Of course, where the freelancer is working alone on a project this may be fine. However, as soon as the freelancer needs to integrate into an existing team of employees, it is normally better for the whole team to keep similar hours.
There are two ways to overcome the challenge of different operating hours:
Each option has its pros and cons. Deciding the right option for your organisation comes down to answering a few key questions:
In addition to keeping similar hours, effective collaboration is another challenge to consider. Your internal teams will have access to communication, workspaces and software to enable them to collaborate effectively.
For the majority of freelance engagements, the messaging and file-sharing functions of an FMS platform will provide a simple solution.
Where a deeper level of integration into projects is required, for example with software development, where fully-fledged project management and version control software is required, the solution to enable a freelancer to collaborate with your internal team is to grant them access to the same project management and version control software. There are, however, two considerations when going to this level of collaboration:
In today's fast-moving, agile business world, a project's scope is extremely likely to change. Retasking employees is straightforward as their employment contracts allow for it. But where a freelancer is engaged to deliver against a statement of work, a change in project scope could prove problematic.
The solution is to use an FMS that enables quick, simple project posting and rehiring. When your project scope changes, you can simply end one project and rehire the freelance to deliver against a new statement of work with minimal admin.
Employees are a reliable resource of output. Their employment contracts guarantee a mutuality of obligation. Freelancers, on the other hand, are free to move on as soon as their contract is over. There is no obligation for the organisation to provide more work, and there is no obligation for the freelancer to accept more work.
For an organisation using freelancers to deliver parts of a larger, ongoing project, it can create a problem if a crucial freelancer decides to move onto something new.
The immediate answer that jumps to mind is to offer the freelancer a longer, ongoing contract. This might be sensible but it does start to cross into IR35 territory so shouldn't be the default solution for every organisation.
Another solution for the availability challenge is to use Talent Pools.
Talent Pools enable a hiring manager to create a bench of vetted, pre-qualified freelancers for a particular skill or project. You are then not dependent on one particular freelancer and instead have a number of viable options to resource the next part of your project.
In summary, the majority of the challenges of working with a freelance workforce can be solved by using the right Freelancer Management System (FMS).
An FMS provides a central, searchable directory of freelancers with rich profiles.
An FMS provides configurable, automated freelancer onboarding.
An FMS provides flexible project hiring, communication and file-sharing facilities.
An FMS provides Talent Pool functionality.
To learn more about how an FMS works, take our product tour.
Join us at the SIA CWS Summit. 26th and 27th of March. Royal Lancaster Hotel. London.
Explore the differences between a VMS and an FMS and learn why it is become increasingly important for an organisation to use a dedicated FMS for managing its freelance and contingent workforce.