Guide to hiring independent talent – Part 1: Identify the need – Freelancer vs Permanent Employee

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the business world upside down. While it has presented businesses with unique challenges, the most significant transformation has occurred in today’s workforce dynamics.

Due to a change in the behaviour of skilled talent and the demand for flexible work schedules, there has been an unprecedented rise in the market for independent consultants, contractors, and professional, enterprise-grade freelancers. Employers and top leaders are now presented with an opportunity to either continue the outdated tradition of only offering permanent jobs or cherry-picking the skills when needed from talent anywhere in the world. In this blended model of the future, smart companies can keep a permanent workforce for their consistent roles and deal with the more fluid side through expert contract workers.

In part one of our series on hiring independent talent, we’ll talk about how companies can identify the need for freelance talent, list its pros and cons, and compare the true cost of freelance over full-time talent.

Identifying the need: Hire freelance vs full-time talent

The freelancing hiring and contracting journey begins with assessing the need for external talent. So, here’s our 101 on how you can identify the demand for independent consultants vs permanent employees.

1. Do you want to fill a skills gap temporarily? Will you be needing the talent forever, or just for a project? Or simply not sure?

Often, projects require personnel with a niche set of skills. This may deter firms from taking them up, mainly because the person hired for the job probably won’t be needed after it is over. At times, companies risk being over-staffed if the next set of anticipated projects doesn’t come in.

The solution? If the job is not a routine task, temporarily hiring a freelancer or independent consultant would make more sense. This way, companies can access specialists as and when needed without hiring specialists permanently.

2. Unavailability of full-time resources in a particular niche?

At times, there is a lack of talent ready to take up full-time roles in certain areas. By only relying on permanent talent or a local talent pool, organisations restrict their hiring ability for those hard-to-fill roles. Freelancers allow companies to tap into a global talent market, especially since remote working has become the norm worldwide. When companies are too hung up on hiring full-time resources with the right cultural fit, they close doors to opportunities to strengthen and refreshen their thinking and talent pool and the ability to hire people with the right technical competencies quickly.

Also, if budget allows, companies may be able to attract independent talent for a defined period for critical roles and, at the same time, continue the search for permanent solutions.

3. Unable to attract the right talent?

Certain companies sometimes find it challenging to attract the right talent in specific fields for a permanent career. For example, an insurer may find it difficult to compete with the “Googles” and “Facebooks” of the world to attract top-level tech talent and innovation consultants for permanent jobs. However, for an interesting project, the dynamics shift. Top independent consultants are not just interested in collecting cool brands for their portfolio; it’s just as much, if not more, about adding projects that expand their experiences. To attract top talent, you need to sell the project to them in terms of the skills they will develop, their autonomy, etc. – but obviously, it needs also to be true.

There’s also the global element of the new talent economy. Thanks to the rise of the freelance market, organisations that once found it hard to attract skilled people can now hire talent from across the globe. You can also enter global markets and explore opportunities by hiring local freelance talent who can add value and help your company tap a broader customer base.

If your organisation still struggles to attract talent, you may need to address your value proposition to freelancers and independent consultants more fundamentally. Have a look here.

4. How quickly do you need the person?

The fast-paced nature of today’s digital-led business landscape requires organisations to always have the right people in tow to build agile operations and boost productivity. However, this is often at odds with the realities of permanent hiring. Given lengthy recruitment processes and notice periods, it can take three months or more to source, hire, and onboard a full-time employee.

Through freelancing platforms like Outsized, you can hire vetted independent consultants within a few days, fuelling innovation and improving speed-to-market. Moreover, having worked with a whole range of clients, freelancers come in like a breath of fresh air, bringing in new ideas, enthusiasm, and perspective to your company.

Read more: 5 ways consultancies are using freelancers to their advantage

Comparing the cost of hiring independent vs permanent staff

When deciding between hiring freelancers and permanent staff, it’s imperative to compare the true cost of the two options.

As discussed above, hiring and onboarding permanent staff may take months, and companies may suffer simply because there is no one to fill that position. On the flip side, organisations can hire freelancers within a few days. It’s all about the opportunity cost. In addition, by hiring independents, you get highly motivated talent who bring their very best every day. As discussed above, the likelihood is high that you can attract higher calibre people for a contract than a permanent position.

The actual cost of hiring freelancers is often not more expensive than that of recruiting full-time. Why? Simply because with freelancers, there are many overheads a company does not need to pay, whether certain benefits, office space, and so on. Also, you only pay for freelancers when you actually need them on projects. With permanent staff, you might have periods when their particular skills are not really required or fully utilised.

Of course, it needs to be a fair deal for both sides for this model to work. Given the lack of certain benefits and the risk of downtime between projects, you should expect to pay independent talent more on a pure day by day comparison of fees and salaries. However, remember that such a comparison ignores the quality, utilisation effectiveness, and the total cost advantages mentioned above.

Let’s acknowledge the fact that the workforce of the future is HYBRID!

Post the COVID-19 pandemic, organisations have become comfortable adopting hybrid workforce models — a mix of onsite and remote employees, and permanent and freelance resources.

While we strongly advocate hiring independents when you are just starting and have a tight budget or require resources with a niche set of skills, full-time hires still have their place!

Ultimately, the best approach would be to build a strong team with a healthy mix of permanent and independent resources to expedite business growth and accelerate innovation. And if you are still confused, you can always go in for a “try before you buy” approach by hiring freelancers, allowing both sides to see if you are right for each other.