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The future of work is freelance - here’s what HR needs to know

Freelancing is not just a job, not a stopgap, but more of a career choice, and there are benefits for both workers and employers. If HR invests in freelancers now, they’ll reap the rewards for years to come

There are now 1.8 million job vacancies in the UK (according to the REC).

Filling those roles permanently takes time and money, as employers already know. But with workers rethinking the way they want to live, many are instead turning to freelance work and consulting.

Comatch saw a 70% rise in requests for freelance consultants in the UK and US on both short and long-term projects, a demand trend that existed even before the pandemic. 

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Company culture, processes and contracts need to be updated to reflect this shift, but it’s not as daunting as it looks.

HR managers are becoming aware of the advantages of flexible working and hiring talent as and when they need it, enabling them to bring in workers with specific skills and reducing headcount, which ultimately makes their company more agile.

So, what should HR managers do to make their freelance contracts run smoothly?


Offer freelancers freedom, not Friday drinks

People respond to company values, rather than culture. You can get potential new recruits excited with videos of offsites and summer parties that give a sense of your company’s culture, but after the last two years people have realised that they want more.

It’s no secret that people are waking up and saying: “What am I doing with my life? I want my work to be meaningful.” So what companies need to do now is to find ways to create that meaning, whether that’s in their mission, values or the product that they’re selling.

There’s a conversation to be had around remote working. Comatch has a policy where employees are allowed to work for 50 days in another country, which gives added appeal for jobseekers.

But people can’t be fully remote because they need to build relationships face to face – and when someone’s new to a company, HR’s investment in the relationships, onboarding and finding ways for people to come together and meet face to face is key.


Invest time in your freelancers and you’ll reap the rewards

When businesses hire freelancers, there’s always a pressure point that convinces them to take the leap. HR managers must invest more in the process, particularly if they’re hiring for longer contracts.

The disaster scenario is that you hire someone for a year’s contract and after six months they decide they want to go off and do something else, because that leaves you with a hole to fill and you need to spend time recruiting and onboarding their replacement.

But would a freelancer who’s bonded with the company be so quick to leave? If companies invest in the process, have conversations and get to know their freelancers, of course they’ll get more out of them.

And that works both ways, because if the freelancer gets to know the company they become more invested in it too. After all it’s their choice to work on projects and for companies that resonate with them. 


Welcome your freelancers – and listen to them when they leave

One key part to managing freelancers is their onboarding. I’ve seen a few businesses having the attitude of: “They’re just freelancers, so we won’t bother onboarding them properly.”

Making sure they have the right equipment, whether that’s a laptop that arrives on time or the correct access to files sounds like a really basic step, but it’s surprising how many businesses don’t do that.

If you skip this step, the freelancer could find themselves lost - and the company could miss out on getting the best value out of them. Guidance on onboarding, training and how freelancers get paid should be an integral part of your HR policy.

Agreeing clear timelines and deliverables is vital. 

But it’s not just a case of bringing someone in and onboarding them effectively – there should be touchpoints throughout the contract too, we do check-in calls with the client and freelancer throughout the project and that’s what HR should be doing too.

Once the freelancer has finished it’s also worth investing the time to find out about how their experience was. That makes them feel valued and more likely to spread the word about their experience; and if you need to hire them again in the future they’ll be happy to return.


Charlotte Gregson is MD of Comatch