Photo: Ali Yahya

#WorkTrends: Going Gig: Freelancing in HR

Meghan invited both Chris Russell, the founder of HR Lancers, and Jim Stroud, VP of Marketing at Proactive Talent, to talk about the new trend in HR: hiring freelancers and consultants to fill in the gaps. 

COVID-19’s uncertainties are leaving no field untouched, including HR. As Jim said, “if employees hear the whiff of a rumor, or a layoff or have any kind of indication that their job might be in jeopardy or a furlough,” they might venture to freelance as a quick way to gain income and stay afloat. Further, freelancing is on the rise among millennials who are leaving the city. They can make their living at home — now more than ever before, noted Meghan. 

But not everyone’s cut out for the gig, Jim said. It takes self-discipline and the ability to self-structure, particularly now. Schedules may be more flexible, but kids and mounting responsibilities can add up. But the demand is there: Companies are hiring experts to help bridge the gaps, and sourcing out project-based, niched assignments like crafting job descriptions or writing a handbook. For smaller companies, this may be an effective solution. 

And if we see universal healthcare, said Chris, we’ll also see an explosion in freelancers. Meghan concurred: If benefits weren’t tied to employment, a lot more people would go independent. And that’s something companies need to think about, Jim added. Companies could be much more competitive at attracting top freelancers if they offered to cover healthcare expenses for the duration of a gig. And Meghan predicts we’ll see HR shifting along with the rest of the gig economy‚ and it’s going to be interesting to see how that changes our practices. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are more organizations hiring freelancers for HR? #WorkTrends
Q2: How is freelancing changing the nature of HR? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders better attract top HR freelancers? #WorkTrends

Find Chris Russell on Linkedin and Twitter

Find Jim Stroud on Linkedin and Twitter

The New World of Work – Flexible Careers and Freelancing

Is freelancing the new black? It certainly seems that way—in fact, you might call this trend the new world of work. A new study by Freelancers Union and Upwork backs this up, finding that more people are freelancing by choice. Today, a little more than one in three workers in the United States are setting their own hours and being their own bosses. The findings of the study were interesting—here are some of the highlights:

“The majority (60 percent) of freelancers who left traditional employment now earn more.” Nearly a quarter of those surveyed said they specifically left an employer in order to start working freelance. And while there’s certainly risk involved in dropping out of the traditional workforce to go solo, most of these new freelancers said that within the first year they were making more money than the more “full time” salaries they left behind. The data doesn’t indicate exactly where people are in their careers when they opt out of traditional employment, but my own anecdotal knowledge of the trend suggests many of these are folks mid-career or later, so it’s hardly surprising that they’re quickly able to maximize their incomes in this way.

“Technology is making it easier to find freelance work.” More than half of the respondents said they’d gotten a project online, which was up from only 42 percent last year. And those who didn’t source work online, and instead credited personal and professional contacts for their work success? Chances are, with social media, many if not most of those “personal” connections were certainly retained, if not gained, through online platforms. I believe the online-only component of this networking will continue to grow in the future, with even some of the most old-fashioned businesses being more open-minded about bringing on all manner of business partners and employees remotely. In the past, a business wouldn’t even consider an agency that didn’t have offices near enough to accommodate fairly regular face time, but in the age of video conferencing and cloud technology that makes connectivity and collaboration a breeze, this need is becoming obsolete. It’s no surprise freelancers are taking advantage of this openness, and it seems likely this trend will continue in the coming years.

“Freelancers, especially Millennials, are optimistic about the outlook for freelancing.” An impressive 83 percent of the freelancers surveyed said they think the best days are ahead for freelancing. And interest is growing even among those who aren’t yet working this way—most non-freelancers said they’d be open to moonlighting if the opportunity was available to them. The fact that Millennials—many of whom are well into their 30s and not exactly workplace newbies anymore—are especially optimistic about freelancing is an indication that employers are going to need to become more open-minded about allowing their employees to start a side hustle. They will need to stop thinking of their employees as property, and start understanding what the modern job economy looks like.

Pros and Cons of a Freelance Economy

Clearly, there are many components of this freelancing boom. One is the popularity of freelancing among workers who are looking for more flexibility, and achieve it through the switch to a freelance career. But there’s also motivation in the growth of freelance from the business side, as well. But there are some downsides to consider as well. Let’s take a look.

The Pros. There are economic factors at work when it comes to outsourcing. Some businesses find it economically smart to blend freelance talent with full time employee talent, thereby reducing costs of benefits that go hand-in-hand with full time employment. Utilizing freelance talent can also make it easier for businesses to adapt and pivot quickly, and allow them to scale up or down quickly. Recruiting and hiring full time employees can be a lengthy process, so keeping a cadre of reliable freelancers in the mix can help ensure you can deliver, in any circumstance. For businesses, that’s a big benefit. Likewise, when work slows down, you know that your freelance team members are already in a good position to step up their work elsewhere, because they’re in no way beholden to you, and have maintained connections and contracts. They generally have multiple revenue streams, so their business model isn’t wholly reliable on you. For businesses, this can be very beneficial.

Another positive, from the business standpoint, is that when you assemble a freelance team to work on a particular client account, you can bring in talent that is ideally suited to the needs of that particular client. When you go the full time employee route, sometimes you’ve got a body on the payroll who might not be the best person for a particular assignment, but it’s a hole you’ve got to fill and it makes sense to fill that with someone already on the payroll. I don’t always think this delivers the best value for clients, but it is the way of the business world. Or at least it has been the way of the business world for a very long time. I’m happy to see that beginning to change.

Realistically, freelance work is like entrepreneurship-lite—or entrepreneurship without all the risk or stress. Freelancers gain the flexibility of not having their fate tied to one single business, one single boss, one single relationship. They get to set their own work hours, choose where they want to work, the clients they want to work with and the kind of work they most want to do—and how hard they want to apply themselves. And while that freedom comes with a certain amount of risk, it’s nowhere near the risk that being involved in a startup business often brings. We all know of the staggering failure rate of startups, and how devastating the failure can be. With freelancing, especially the work-from-home kind, you generally don’t need to invest loads of cash, even worse, go into debt in order to get started.

Cons. Not everyone is wired to be an entrepreneur, and every freelancer is, most definitely an entrepreneur. Some people who opt to work from home quickly find they miss the interaction and sense of community that goes that’s an integral part of an office setting. Some find themselves less motivated when working remotely than in a traditional setting. Some have trouble finding clients and work.

For businesses, relying on freelance talent can be inherently risky. If they aren’t beholden to you by way of full time employment and the agreement of work for wages that’s a part of that arrangement, you might occasionally find your freelance talent less than reliable when you need them most. They might be juggling other jobs and other clients and your work will have to wait its turn, which is only fair.

All in all, there are good and bad things about this trend toward more flexible careers and freelancing, but I think the good far outweigh the bad. What do you think? What’s your experience been with working with freelance talent and/or integrating freelancers into business operations alongside your FTEs? I’d love to hear the challenges you’ve faced and what you think of this trend in general.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

The Business Value of Adopting Live Streaming Video Collaboration
Here’s Why the Freelancer Economy is on the Rise
How Millennials Are Reshaping Work
How the Rising Freelance Economy Will Change Talent Acquisition Strategies

This article was first published on FOW Media.

Is the Employment Romance Really Over? #TChat Preview

EDITOR’S NOTE: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? Read “#TChat Recap: Feeling the Freelance Love in Today’s Workplace”

You know the story. Once upon a time, companies courted new talent with the promise of a lifelong relationship. “Work” meant employment and job security for years, if not decades. But the romance has died, for better or worse. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 40 percent of all U.S. workers currently operate on a part-time or contract basis. And, as Bersin by Deloitte says:

The contingent workforce is now a permanent fixture, so many elements of talent management, recruiting and engagement are being extended to these mobile ‘free agents.’

Really? Just how well are companies rising to the occasion in this highly scalable new world order they’ve created? Are contractors still considered second-class citizens in most corporate settings? What’s being done by leading-edge companies to ensure that contingent workers fit into the culture and engage with the organization? Without funding from hiring companies for professional development, is the future of the contingent workforce at risk? And what does this mean for business innovation and competitiveness, overall?

Here are the questions we’re asking at TalentCulture World of Work events this week:

Q1: Do all these shifts in the employee-employer relationship mean they’ve broken up for good? Why?

Q2: Do you see a world of work where the employee & employer ever get back together, like it used to be? Why?

Q3: Contractors & part-timers are “pan-opportunists.” Is this what they want? Does it help or hinder innovation?

Q4: Social media leads employees & contractors into other orgs’ arms. How can leaders use it to foster fidelity?

Q5: What are some specific strategies for employers to rekindle the romance with their employees?

Click on the image to see the preview at #TChat Radio and, on the day of the show, to listen and participate.

Just a reminder — we do the #TChat dance twice every week now. So, join us first on Tuesday, Feb. 5, for #TChat Radio from 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT. Then, on Wednesday, Feb. 6 — from 7-8 pm ET (6-7pm CT, 5-6pm MT, 4-5pm PT, or wherever you are) — we’ll revisit the employment romance, on #TChat Twitter.

Joining us as guests for both the chat and radio show will be Greta Roberts (@gretaroberts), CEO at Talent Analytics Corp. — a company using analytics to link raw talent with business performance — and Dawn Rasmussen (@dawnrasmussen), founder of Pathfinder Writing and Careers, a boutique resume writing and career management company.

It’s a Valentine’s Month–themed #TChat this week, so let’s check in for some World of Work relationship counseling. Is the employment romance really, truly over? Or can the employer and employee — full-time, former, part-time, contractor or other — really still be friends?

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Path to Independence and PotHoles: #TChat Recap

When I crafted the poll question “How do you classify yourself in today’s workforce?”, I considered a variety of answers from full-time temp to contractor to consultant to business owner, but I never considered one of the write-in responses:


That one floored me, because I conveniently tucked away in the back of my mind (and heart) the path many of us take from being “regularly” employed to being an independent — whether that’s a contractor, consultant, business owner or entrepreneur.

The path to independence is riddled with pot holes.

Whether it’s by choice (I’m leaving to start my own gig), or not (we’re going to have to let you go), making the leap without a net, which most of us don’t really have, is not for the feint of heart.

Trust me. It’s not. Sometimes the pot holes are way too deep.

You can argue the pros and cons of a greater contingent workforce, but it’s here and here to stay. Those who can better “sell” themselves — and who can actually do the work — will generate revenue streams for themselves, although maintaining cash flow can be difficult, just like many small business experience. That’s because “independents” are in the business of “Me.” Actually, we all are these days.

Downturns inspire many to try their hands at entrepreneurism, and although technological advancements have reduced the typical barriers to entry in many marketplaces, unfortunately many will fail. But like the path independence above, innovation knows no other way.

There are just no guarantees when it comes to employment and employers aren’t providing the same level of benefits they used to. I didn’t research any stats for that statement, but the fact is the way in which we work and are compensated for it continues to evolve, for better and for worse. Entitlements be gone. Personal ownership and multiple income channels be here.

Forty percent of the poll respondents said they were full-time permanent, while 35% said they were consultants (you can see the results graph below).

Last night’s topic was deeply personal to me considering the last 12 months of my professional journey. My recommendations to full-time employees and consultants alike?

  • Underestimate your “marketplace”
  • Overestimate your “sales cycle”
  • Stay hungry without growing hungry
  • Don’t wait for something to happen to you — make it happen for you
  • Keep yourself in good physical, mental and emotional health
  • Back fill the pot holes
  • And repeat the cycle every, single, day

You can see the #TChat reach here, and these were last night’s questions:

Q1: Poll: How do you classify yourself in today’s workforce? Full-time, part-time, temp – what?
Q2: Has the latest downturn created more independents and “entrepreneurs”? Why?
Q3: What challenges are there transitioning from employed to independent or vice versa?
Q4: What’s the difference between a contractor, a temp or a consultant, if any?
Q5: What’s behind the rise in companies use in contingent workers and contractors? Good thing? Bad?
Q6: Do companies have different hiring standards for contingent workers?  Should they?
Q7: How has technology changed the employment mix? Increased startups?
Q8: So, are job titles now obsolete? How should we rethink careers and the why of work?

Make sure to read Monster Thinking’s “pre-cap” if you haven’t: The Changing Identities of Today’s Workforce.

Thank you all for joining us last night. Next week’s topic is tentatively “Globilization — not just for the enterprise any more.”