London’s ‘gig economy’ has grown by more than 70% since 2010, and this is likely to result in an exponential increase in the number of businesses using freelancers on a regular basis.
An environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements, the ‘gig economy’ is a natural progression of remote and flexible working. If you’re staff doesn’t have to be 9-5, why can’t they be freelance?
In the next 5 years, almost 20,000,000 people are predicted to make the switch from full-time employment to become freelancers. But this isn’t a flawless system, coming with situational problems. These tips will make sure your startup can avoid the common pitfalls.
1: Prepare your office space for freelance staff
Just because freelancers don’t have to work from your office, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. At the very least from time to time, it’ll be important for your management team and the business owners to meet with your freelancers. You may also want them to work on internal projects that require face-to-face time with your team, so you need to have an office space that has room for them.
To potential problem then is selecting the size of space you need for your team. If you have ten permanent members of staff and five freelancers, do you spend time with five empty desks or only two, and hope you don’t need everyone in at once?
For startups and small businesses looking to make freelancers a part of their business model, serviced offices provide a scalable solution. The UK capital is the world’s largest market for serviced offices, with an estimated £16bn of space. New shared offices have taken up 900,000 sq ft, or 8% of all newly occupied space, on average in each of the past five years.
In an environment where flexibility is valued over everything else, these new types offices can literally adapt to both freelancers and your businesses needs. For example, providers like Dephna offer modular serviced offices, that literally expand and decrease in size to fit your business’s changing needs—and the number of staff working for your business at any one time. Hubble tailor their coworking spaces specifically for freelancers by offering hot-desking, where they rotate who sits where, increasing the opportunities for collaboration.
2: Set up communication channels to make easy, regular contact with freelancers
When managing a staff of freelancers, communication and structure are key. Freelancers can give your business a boost, but you must articulate your expectations, and explain the way your company works. Setting clear and concise guidelines on this will help get the very best out of freelancers.
Communication issues are primarily caused by a lack of guidelines in place, so argues Anne Loehr, an expert on business leadership. Loehr sets aside 5 tips for communicating effectively with freelancers. These involve setting up specific times that you will be able to communicate via email, scheduling all check-ins in advance, establishing a system to recap meetings, and tracking projects in a transparent and efficient way.
In order to maintain a great working connection, you need to have clear channels for communication. This might mean getting freelancers involved in internal task management systems rather than just relying on emails.
If you’re planning to start hiring freelancers, you may want to create your own project management system to allow for clear communications on progress and updates that you only use with your freelancers.
Online team collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello and Asana are all simple and effective tools, the functionality of which will be more beneficial depending on your business and requirements. Slack has many built in conversation features, Trello allows for post-it style record keeping and Asana focuses on sectioned projects, tasks and conversation.
3: Freelance culture isn’t about free work, but work freedom
It’s important that businesses are run ethically and treat freelance workers fairly. Underpaying, or not paying, freelancers is damaging to businesses as well as freelance workers themselves.
70% of UK’s creative freelancers were asked to work for free in 2016. But, as with Uber in 2016 being told they can’t get around worker care by listing drivers as self employed, as freelancers become more commonplace the number of regulations and fair rules will increase, and rightly so.
A culture of free work can lead to a lowering of demand for experienced, but more expensive, professionals. This can be damaging for startups who favour saving a few quid in the short term than quality work that will be far more beneficial in the long term.
Freelance rates are all over the place, states Devon Campbell in Entrepreneur, so knowing what’s fair is easier said than done. If you set your budget too low, you’ll have difficulty attracting the best freelancers for your project. Similarly offering too much is not financially viable for your startup. Calculate the amount you can afford to pay before you start your search and be prepared to take risks and evaluate as you go.
Campbell suggest that effective communication can help here too, instead of having a set price for a service, he suggests startups and freelancers should discuss more than just your specifications for this project but the overall aims of the business. This will help you find the right freelancer, rather than the one willing to work for the cheapest fee.