The post-COVID working world has shown us remote working and/or hybrid working arrangements are on the rise. For example, just 17% of US workers worked remotely five days a week or more before COVID, and after the pandemic, this rose to 44%. As for hybrid working, before the pandemic, one poll suggests one-third of workers had this arrangement, whereas, in 2022, that figure had risen to 42%.
When you couple this with the fact more and more companies are increasingly relying on freelance/independent contractor talent to fill skills gaps, it’s safe to say the workforce is becoming increasingly fluid.
The ever-broadening skills gap is no joke. In fact, in her State of the Union address, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced that 2023 would be the European Year of Skills to help EU businesses address the skills gap they face, with three-quarters of European companies reporting difficulties sourcing workers with the necessary skills.
Given these skills gaps, more and more businesses are turning towards this freelance market in the hope of filling skills gaps. For example, three-quarters of marketing agencies already outsource help, particularly where content creation is concerned.
But, Europe’s freelance market is actually decreasing, with recent data showing an overall decline in freelance workers. Partner this with the increasing skills gap, and it’s clear that there isn’t enough talent to go around. Concerningly across the 27 EU Member States, there were approximately 27.6 million freelance workers in 2021, compared to 28.8 million in 2010.
Aside from the aforementioned skills gap, there are other reasons businesses embrace flexible workforces in today’s changing work climate, all of which we’ll explore as we endeavor to answer this question: Is adopting a flexible workforce feasible at a large scale?
Please stick with us as we investigate precisely that!
Freelancers, contractors, contingent workers, and so on tend to offer agencies (and other business types) good value for money. For starters, as they’re classed as self-employed, businesses don’t have to pay pension contributions, sickness pay, and other benefits associated with traditional employees.
On top of that, freelancers also offer the following:
Flexibility: Using remote/hybrid workers as and when you need them means a business can scale its workforce down or up depending on its organizational needs. Companies can engage freelancers from their talent pool for specific projects without the added expense and time associated with hiring full-time workers whose services might not be required upon the project’s completion.
Expertise: When agencies utilize freelancers, they’re essentially just paying for the necessary knowledge and/or skills to fulfill a project’s needs. In other words, using a freelancer means buying the exact skills needed for a particular job for the requisite period of time required rather than relying on employees who may not have that specific skill and who cost more.
Engaged talent: The beauty of using freelance talent is that you’re working with people skilled at what they do and who work the way they choose - i.e., flexibly. As such, you’ll often find that freelancers are fully engaged and committed to the projects they choose to work on, which, needless to say, positively impacts their quality of work. Again, this factors into why high-quality freelancers are such good value for money.
Challenges Agencies Face When Using a Flexible Freelance Workforce
Sourcing and retaining one freelancer is a different ball game from adopting several freelancers and employing their services regularly.
In the latter instance, creating and nurturing your own pool of freelance talent alongside your existing permanent workforce is imperative.
For the uninitiated, a freelance talent pool is typically a one-stop centralized cloud-based resource that recruiters and HR managers can use to keep details of all their potential freelance talent. When a business needs to fill a skills gap or role, a talent pool allows you to search and initiate communication with pre-existing candidates.
However, creating and maintaining a fruitful freelance talent pool is sometimes tricky. For example:
Finding Freelancers With the Right Skills
While finding contractors to fill roles requiring low-level skills is reasonably straightforward, if your agency needs to hire freelancers with more complex skill sets, this can be harder. For example, industry-specific skills such as engineering, medicine, or teaching - to name a few!
That’s on top of ensuring the talent is a good fit with your workplace culture. That’s why agencies need a sourcing strategy to help them develop a worthwhile freelance talent pool.
When you work with freelancers and contractors, they need to be onboarded quickly so they can hit the ground running. Unfortunately, the luxury of onboarding them slowly isn’t an option - especially if there’s a looming deadline that you need to meet!
Although time is likely of the essence, you still want to ensure your freelancer (especially if you haven’t employed their services before) feels welcomed, engaged, has access to everything they need to get the job done (software logins, IT access, etc.), and understands what’s expected of them. Needless to say, taking the time to ensure everyone’s on the same page increases the likelihood of getting the work done by the deadline and to a high quality.
At this point, it’s also worth highlighting that a sound onboarding system should include the necessary legal and compliance aspects of obtaining a freelancer’s services. For example NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), IP ownership documents, and no-compete clauses.
Now that we’ve covered the importance of onboarding. Just imagine onboarding one freelancer versus several freelancers/contractors with varying skills, possibly from different geographical locations, for diverse projects. In this instance, it’s easy to see how onboarding may present a challenge.
Budget and Milestone Management
It can be challenging to track project milestones and budgets if your agency doesn’t have a centralized system.
It goes without saying that once a contractor is successfully onboarded, it’s just as essential to manage their work and performance - especially if freelancers are moving between different departments within the same organization. In this instance, keeping abreast of where everyone is and what they’re doing is essential. Otherwise, it’s a recipe for chaos!
It’s also worth noting that project costs can rack up if you don’t monitor them. In the worst-case scenario, you might suddenly find yourself with a whopping freelance bill you hadn’t accounted for correctly.
No one wants to be paid late or in the incorrect amount.
Paying freelancers isn’t the same as running a traditional payroll system. For example, imagine you have multiple freelancers/contractors on different payment terms, be they hourly pay, day rates, or per-project rates. You can easily see how challenging that might be if you don’t have a centralized system to manage and see what’s being paid out and when.
Using An FMS to Tackle These Hurdles
Going back to the challenges outlined above, an FMS like Bubty could help. But before we get into this, let’s ensure we’re on the same page about what an FMS is:
Put simply; an FMS is a cloud-based platform that provides agencies (and other business types) the tools they need to invite freelancers to their freelance talent pool and manage independent contractors from a centralized space.
Now, with that in mind, let’s see how an FMS could address some of the aforementioned hurdles:
Finding freelancers with the right skills: Although an FMS won’t source freelancers for you, it provides a cloud-based platform from which you can onboard them, manage all aspects of their contract, and pay them. Once your freelancers are part of your FMS, you can easily manage and build your own freelancer/contractor talent pool, so contacting those with the right expertise for the job is easier and quicker.
Onboarding: It’s essential to onboard freelancers quickly and compliantly per HR, finance, IT, and legal/compliance regulations to ensure freelance workers aren’t misclassified as employed. An FMS can speed up the onboarding process by enabling you to upload all the documents freelancers need to read and sign in one place. On top of that, all legal and compliance documents like NDAs can be kept alongside the freelancer’s profile. Speaking of freelancer profiles, you should also be able to detail their background information, portfolio, contact details, and general information without needing to go back and forth between different spreadsheets and manual files. Instead, everything should be accessible from the convenience of your FMS.
Budget and freelancer management: Once freelancer details are input into your FMS, you can create a project and quickly match the right person for the job by searching through your own database to see who’s available to be invited to work on projects based on their calendars. An FMS should also provide insights into real-time metrics like costs per freelancer, how much their costs factor into the overall cost of a particular project, actual vs. planned spending, etc. Information like this enables you to better forecast future spending and see how much each department or team spends.
Paying freelancers: A FMS should also enable you to view what each freelancer’s invoices amount to, which invoices are outstanding, which have been approved, and those scheduled for payment. Again, a system like this should help to guarantee everyone is paid on time, every time. Another bonus is that a system like Bubty is compatible with accounting tools, including Xero and Quickbooks.
Is Your Agency Ready to Face the Challenges of Adopting a Flexible Workforce at Scale?
Adopting a flexible workforce on a larger scale isn’t impossible with a suitable system in place. An FMS is a no-brainer when organizations, be they agencies or other business types, use a flexible workforce.
Why spend hours onboarding and managing freelancers using different spreadsheets, files, and reports when you could use Bubty as a central database to manage your flexible workforce?
Are you interested in learning how a freelance management system could help you manage a larger-scale flexible workforce? If so, book a free demo with us today!