With the gig economy thriving, more businesses are turning to freelancers and contractors to fill in the gaps.  How do you decide when it’s the right choice for your company to hire independent workers?  And if you’re considering pursuing independence yourself, how do you get started?  Here’s important information on the ins and outs of what all is involved when making decisions about outsourcing.  

Reaching outside your walls

What do you think of when someone mentions outsourcing?  Outsourcing changed dramatically with the advent of the gig economy, and perceptions of whom to hire are changing as well.  There was a time when outsourcing was primarily an option for unskilled labor outside the US, but thanks to technological advances, the climate is changing.  

Freelance and contract employees are no longer just drivers and dog walkers, and virtually all levels of hirees are available.  As Catalant points out, there is a growing trend of white collar workers embracing the gig economy, and companies are looking to the gig economy to plug specific skills and expertise into their teams on an as-needed basis.  

Amp up your opportunities

If you’re someone who is a freelance or contract worker, and you’re looking to amp up your opportunities, some experts suggest better outreach can be the key.  Develop a system for tracking how you’re getting the message to clientele, whether through a spreadsheet or a well-chosen app, and from there, examine what’s working and what isn’t.  Where are you seeing responses, and who is responding?  This will help you focus your efforts on the most fruitful avenues.

Sometimes, a fresh spin on how you present your credentials can make a big impact on how you’re perceived.  For example, a functional resume could draw attention to all you have to offer potential clients.  It’s a chance to emphasize your skills and achievements, and minimize any concerns like bouncing from job to job, gaps in your work history, or a lack of significant time in a new field. While you’re at it, take a look at your online reputation. You don’t want a lack of information or negative information to block any opportunities. With so many employers surveying a candidate’s social media, it’s critical that you make a good impression online.    

Outlining your outside employees

Some of the perks of outsourcing talent are obvious.  Inc. points out that there are important benefits when hiring freelancers and contract employees, since you can often get highly-qualified individuals for far less expense than hiring in-house, which is especially smart if you have a short-term project.  You can plug in that expertise without putting more people on your permanent payroll, hire those workers when you need them, and in addition to not paying their benefits, you don’t need to supply their equipment or put a roof over their heads.  It’s a chance to remain relevant and competitive without increasing your costs, and potentially even cutting costs.

However, drawing clear lines is important.  Classify your employees clearly, getting a W-9 from those you hire from outside, and sending them a 1099 annually.  You also still need to screen workers carefully.  USA Today recommends asking potential freelancers some specific questions, like how much relevant experience they have, requesting examples of their work, and finding out exactly what work is included in their fees.  

It’s not all roses

While there are ample benefits from hiring outside help, there are potential drawbacks as well.  Since those workers won’t be on site, there is a level of trustworthiness and professionalism necessary to ensure you get your money’s worth.  Communication, work quality, and training can be hit or miss, and if someone is juggling your work with obligations to other clients, you might be lower priority than you would be with someone who is a permanent team member.

Ensure you’re top of mind with your freelancers by staying in regular communication via meetings, emails and progress reports. Harness technology by using apps like TimeCamp or Harvest to track timesheets and tasks, and apps like Producteev and Project Bubble to stay on top of project management. Take it a step further and ensure everyone has access to meeting notes and directives. If possible, use an automated transcription service to quickly transcribe audio into notes that you can easily send to your freelance team in a variety of formats.

It’s true that turning to freelancers can be a leap of faith. But if you carefully vet your talent and manage their work accordingly, you can find this to be a worthwhile choice that benefits you both. 

Keeping your business relevant might mean hiring freelance or contract employees.  Set a clear process for doing so, and look for top candidates to supplement your staff.  The world is changing, and through white collar gig workers, you can employ outside expertise to ensure success.