As companies, especially technology companies in Georgia struggle to find capable workers, they are turning to freelancers to fill sports that were largely unfilled or filled by full or part-time workers that were biding their time.
It's a great idea, freelancers are great to fill a specific need and sometimes help you and your organization get a fresh perspective on things when you feel you are at a dead end. I'm not talking about a "temp" here, this person is not going to run to the post office or get you a fresh cup of coffee. In fact, you may not see this person more than once or ever during the length of the contract. Freelancers tend to work remotely, while still delivering big results. In my work as a freelance writer, I've never met most of the editors I work with.
Back in 2001, author Dan Pink chronicled the growing ranks of people who work for themselves, in the popular book Free Agent Nation. While you may have started your own business to become a part of the "nation," you can use freelance workers or others in "alternative employment arrangements" to help meet some of your staffing needs, and it might save you money.
Even though these numbers are seven years old, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), claimed there were 10.3 million independent contractors in the U.S. back in 2005, representing about 7.5 percent of the total labor force. These numbers have surely taken off since then.
How do you classify these freelance workers?
The U.S. Internal Revenue Service defines the role of independent contractors this way: "A general rule is that you, the payer, have the right to control or direct only the result of the work done by an independent contractor, and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result." The freelancer uses his own tools or equipment and works when and where he wants.
These are "Workers called to work only as needed, although they can be scheduled to work for several days or weeks in a row," according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These might be retired professionals or students.
Workers with other full-time jobs
Teachers, airline pilots and full-time students make up a portion of the freelance market. These are workers that have multiple days off each week, or even weeks or months off at a time.
Workers Provided by Contract Firms
These are "Workers employed by a company that provides them or their services to others under contract and who are usually assigned to only one customer and usually work at the customer’s worksite," the BLS says. Not temps, but qualified individuals that get jobs through these placement firms. Large IT staffing companies charge a pretty penny, but they will guarantee the work once you have an ongoing relationship with a staffing firm, they will get to know what you want and like.
These freelancers really fill a need, but how do you find them? Sites like elance.com and odesk.com connect freelancers with companies and organizations looking to hire. One other great win to find freelancer is by word of mouth. It amazes me that even though I'm based in Atlanta, most of my work isn't from the Metro Atlanta area. Many times the solution to your problem is staring right at your or right in your backyard. I would love to have more local work, but many decision makers don't know where to look. Ask around; friends, employees, colleagues and other freelancers. In short, think locally.
Good freelancers don't require much other than pay because they don't receive health care and similar benefits. Your company also is not responsible for paying their Social Security and Medicare taxes, or for offering unemployment benefits. At the end of the year, instead of filing a W-2, independent contractors should receive a 1099 form. Quick and easy.
Something else to consider is that since freelancers have worked within many different organizations and for a variety of people they bring a perspective of an "outsider" and can draw upon their past experiences with similar projects to to make any you have go more smoothly.
On the whole, freelancers tend to be more innovative when it comes to problem solving and on the cutting edge when it comes to technology.
As with any other hire for your company, pay attention to the background and work history of the freelance prospect. If you post an ad, make sure you go over your ad with a keen eye to make sure you ask for what you need. Your hire will only be as good as your ad.
Good luck with your next freelancer.