With demand heating up for specialist freelancers, the balance of power between companies and freelancers is more ‘balanced’ than it’s ever been. Should companies be considering what they can do differently to attract freelancers and build preference?
In 2014 only 9% of large Australian companies had 20% or more contingent workforce. In 2017 it doubled to 18% of companies. In 2020, it will be more than double to 48% of companies (Getting Trendy 2017, Expert360). This roughly means by 2020 there will be double the demand for freelancers in Australia!
While the number of freelancers in the marketing and digital sector has undoubtedly grown, the overall population of casual workers in Australia has remained relatively constant for the past 10 years at around the 20% mark (Debunking the casualisation and job insecurity myths, AI Group, 2018).
It may not be a surprise then that we’re increasingly seeing the availability of freelancers in high demand disciplines becoming more scarce (e.g. UX, Producers). These freelancers can effectively choose where they work meaning they are no longer at the mercy of the first gig opportunity that is offered to them.
This dynamic creates an interesting scenario during the interview process of a freelance gig. While companies are busy comparing the expertise and experience of their shortlist of freelancers, freelancers are busy comparing the quality of the opportunities from their shortlist of gigs and companies.
This means that both freelancers and companies in parallel have to demonstrate why working together is a great idea.
It’s now more like a tango than a courting dance by the freelancer…
While it’s the norm for freelancers to prove their worth, it’s not always the norm for companies to feel the need to ‘dress to impress’. Especially if the company already has an established reputation in a particular vertical and is used to historic interest from freelancers. But in this day in age when a UX designer can work at a bank, start up, government, charity, agency or tech company, reputation is only one tick of many boxes when evaluating an opportunity.
So what can companies do differently to attract and retain the best freelancers?
From our conversations with freelancers, we know the following areas matter:
- The quality of the first contact
- The quality of the opportunity (brief)
- How the relationship can extend past the gig
For companies to put themselves into the best possible situation with a freelancer, it starts by entering into the interview process with a degree of respect towards the candidate as well as confidence the gig on offer measures up well to what the freelancer will judge as interesting, challenging and commercially appealing.
Companies should bare in mind freelancers will typically be asking themselves the following questions:
- Is the project and my role in it interesting, challenging and is it going to help progress my career?
- Am I excited by the team and the brand?
- Were they respectful of my time and effort?
- Were their values similar to mine and motivating?
- Was it a balanced relationship? Did it feel equitable?
- Were they interested in my needs, not just theirs?
- Are the commercials and length of gig favourable?
- Is the work setting and other perks appealing?
Moving past the first impression and into the broader relationship, there is an opportunity for companies to give freelancers a sense of belonging and a sense the relationship is larger and more valuable than purely the gig they are contracted on.
Companies should consider formalising the status and role that a preferred freelancer has within an organisation. It could be in the form of placing them on a Roster of preferred freelancers. Much like a preferred partner program or members club.
Freelancers on this Roster are made to understand they are valued and have a strategic role to play. They know they sit in an exclusive ‘club’ so to speak and are the preferred option when relevant gigs come up. They are kept in the know and are updated on future pipeline opportunities that may be relevant for them. They may even be invited to work functions and have access to resources that are exclusively for the company. Possibly, they may also get preferential commercial terms in the form of early payment or better rates.
All of this going a long way to creating a strong bond and a sense of loyalty to each other.
The good news is there are many digital tools on the market including Cavalry’s Roster feature which makes it easy to build a Roster of freelancers. These tools provide a concrete demonstration of the Roster as a formalised ‘elevated’ ’status while also in real terms making it easier for companies to keep freelancers in the loop and give them priority on gigs coming up.
The ideas in this article represent the tip of the iceberg in an area that is only going to grow in relevance. The important takeaway from this post is that companies need to acknowledge the balance of power is shifting and that freelancers need to be courted as much as they need to prove themselves. A great place to start for companies is by making sure the first impression a freelancer has during the interview process is respectful, responsive and inspiring.