Freelancers Part 2: Integrating External Talent (Even During Organizational Change)

“You must look within for value, but must look beyond for perspective.”

Denis Waitley (born 1933), American motivational speaker and writer, consultant and best-selling author

Freelancers Part2 2014-06-10

Image by Edwin Lee

We continue to explore our topic last week, Freelancers Part 1, on Independent Contractors.

Company policies regarding freelance workers vary from industry to industry, and labor laws are different from state to state. There are, however, a few important guidelines for all organizations to follow to have a mutually positive and productive experience when hiring independent contractors.

  • Build a solid bench of adequately trained freelance workers.

The freelance world is ever changing. It is critical that your organization establish a short list of contracted workers whom you can hire quickly when needed.

Freelance workers are most often hired for their specific skills, so it’s crucial to verify their experience. In times of organizational change, freelance workers also bring in insightful perceptions or even new solutions beyond the boundaries of the incumbent organization culture. Many times freelancer workers are introduced to a firm through staff members who will vouch for their abilities and reliability.

The on-boarding process for contingent workers is similar to permanent staff in that they may require training to use in house software and to learn about internal policies. Since most freelancers are paid when training, some managers may be reluctant to spend the money when the need to hire is not immediate. My advice is to “bite the bullet” and train them as soon as possible instead of waiting until your need becomes critical. Remember, the point is to have a handful of skilled workers who are on deck, ready to jump in on a moment’s notice.

  • Book freelance resources as far in advance as possible.

Competition to hire high performing independent contractors can be fierce, especially if your industry is known to have a busy season. If you truly value an individual’s skills, ask her to give you first right of refusal. If she agrees and is called by another organization, she should give you the courtesy of checking in with you first before accepting another job.

  • Day rates and overtime.

If you don’t have a policy in place regarding contractor fees, then create one now. Make sure your company is offering at least the going rate for freelance workers in your industry, and present slightly more if you can afford to. Negotiate hourly wages and overtime compensation prior to booking so an individual knows exactly what he can expect.

Permanent full-time workers may be classified as “exempt” and therefore not paid for working overtime. While contracted workers can make slightly more money per hour than those on salary, the rules about overtime may not be the same. Unfortunately, many companies abuse the day rate policy and expect freelance workers to stay on the job for excessive hours. If you want to remain competitive in a freelance economy, define the hours up front such as a day equals 9-12 hrs. Hours worked over the agreed upon time period may be negotiated differently (e.g. to be paid time and a half). Rule of thumb: play fair and be flexible.

  • Prevent a we-versus-them mentality.

Permanent staff might become resentful if they know a freelancer is making more money than they are. On the contrary, independent contractors want to feel part of the company.

Fostering good will and trust among all workers is essential, and it is up to the manager to lead by example. Consider inviting freelance workers to staff meetings when appropriate. If an individual works consistently or is considered permalance*, allow them to participate in special functions, such as the firm’s annual holiday party or company picnic. You might also give them the opportunity to partake in community service days, or company endorsed run-walks.

* Permalance workers are independent contractors who work consistently for a company for many months but are not officially a full-time employee and therefore are not eligible for benefits.

  • Prevent information leaks.

Organizations may risk proprietary information leaking when hiring individuals who might also work for competitors. If this is a concern, make signing a confidentially agreement mandatory for employment.

As we continue to move towards a freelance economy – and with organizational change not going away anytime sooner – it behooves organizations to hire the best independent contractors, and to become their company of choice.


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Karen Bonsignore

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