Like many other independent workers I have a slight problem with the word freelance. It conjures up many things –
- A free spirit wandering through the corridors of the working world, picking up assignments wherever they fall
- A professional who craves the independence of leaving behind the 9-5 world
- A working mother who from necessity must work from home
- A graduate who wants to be their own boss rather than join the big machine
- A professional having left the corporate world, going it alone
- An impoverished artist, scratching for work
- A journalist or writer hopping from one job to the next
- A cheap form of worker to be picked up and dropped off when necessary
- A second-class worker (why else would they not be in full-time, work-for-one-company employment?).
Rarely does the word businessman or businesswoman seem to spring to mind.
Above all, it seems that freelance seems to hinge on the word free… people tend to forget that most (yes, I say most) freelancers are professionals who need to earn a decent living, and think that a freelancer is grateful for the work, any work, and therefore won’t mind cheap budgets and fast turnarounds. With this in mind, many potential employers (or I should rather say, clients) forget that you usually get what you pay for, and you need to ask yourself if you are paying what’s needed to acquire the level of quality you expect. No professional would deliberately produce low quality work, but the fact of life is, if you pay less you get less. And websites like fiverr.com and peopleperhour.com, while filling a gap, just go to enhance the “freelancer will work for peanuts” image. The harsh truth is, a freelancer needs to earn a living just as much as a corporate employee does, and our daily rate needs to reflect that.
A few days ago Forbes reported on the rise of the freelancer, and how it may affect the workforce. The words that frequently appear are “on demand”. They also talk about “rating” freelancers before paying them. This is dangerous territory for the professional freelancer who knows only too well that sometimes the client under-evaluates the time, expertise and translation involved (yes, often we need to translate what the client says they want into what they actually want). And we are not an “on-demand” workforce as such, the relationship is a client/provider one, or a business/business one, in which both sides are equal.
One of the most exciting discussions surrounding the workforce today focuses on the rise of the freelance economy. As more workers pursue the flexibility of independent careers and more companies pursue an on-demand workforce to scale labor efficiently, the industry is buzzing about what the freelance economy will mean for the labor force overall.
The fact of the matter is that hiring a freelancer can save your business money – you don’t have an extra member of staff to pay (with all that goes with it), you just dip in to your freelancer pool whenever needed. If you see your freelancer as a valuable extra professional that you can call upon when the need arises, you can build up a relationship that is beneficial to both of you. Treat a freelancer with respect and they will do the same.
An excellent short article recently available on the Financial Times website (Hiring a Freelance, Beware of the Definitions) highlights the need for sitting down and having a good think about what you need from your freelancer when you decide to go down the independent route. Remember, there are no set terms for a freelancer, a true freelancer works for themselves, but people who temp for agencies may also term themselves freelance.
Although I don’t like the term I still, whenever I am asked to define my working life set-up, describe myself as a freelancer. I, like many of my fellow freelancers, could call myself:
- An independent contractor
- A sole trader
- An independent consultant
- A business person
- A business owner
Let’s admit it though… freelancer is much easier to say.
So when you are talking about, hearing about or talking to a freelancer, remember – you are paying for a highly trained professional business person, who happens to want the relative freedom of working in their own chosen environment, for whoever they choose and to a schedule that they prefer.
Kind of like the A Team… but without the guns.
Advantages of hiring a freelancer
Allows you to dip into a pool of talented individuals whenever you need them.
Makes highly skilled, occasional needs affordable.
A fresh set of eyes, separate from your business.
Allows your business to flourish without the need for full-time, bums on seats employees.
Saves you money (e.g. tax, National Insurance, sickness pay, holiday pay)
You get to work with a lovely range of people who are in charge of their own destiny…leaving company politics behind.