Importance of the human touch in the freelance hiring process

Technology is one of the biggest drivers behind the rapid rise of freelancing in emerging markets in recent years. Not only have online and digital tools made it easier for freelancers to manage their own ‘micro-businesses’ and work where and how it suits them. They have also provided a means for organisations to connect with a whole pool of independent consultants in just a few clicks of the mouse. Talent platforms offer employers a fast route
to the flexible professionals they need while giving freelancers a channel where they can market their services cost-effectively.

Yet, it’s important to remember that the freelancing market in many countries across Africa and Asia is still relatively immature, and, as a result, clever tech is only part of the story.

Operating within nascent structures and ecosystems, many clients struggle to define what skills and experience they need, attract the right candidates and then whittle down from thousands of possible hires. Meanwhile, for freelancers, a lack of clarity and focus from the client-side often hinders them in identifying the opportunities that will truly make the most of their skills.

As such, technology alone can’t support the growing freelance ecosystem in emerging markets and the human touch is still integral to bringing clients and freelancers together successfully. Here we outline how the tech and human elements can work together throughout the hiring process to ensure the best outcomes for both parties.

Defining scope of work

Freelancers are usually highly specialised in their skills, experience and areas of focus. Thus, before clients start searching the market, it’s vital to have a detailed and specific scope of work in place. For example, it isn’t enough to say you need a digital marketing expert. What kind of digital marketing expertise do you need? SEO, content, social media, email marketing? Furthermore, what level of experience do you need, what are the objectives and KPIs, and who will the individual be working with?

Too many clients rush to search for a freelancer without considering all these factors first, and as a result, they are presented with too many possible candidates to wade through. To attract the best freelancers, you have to ‘sell’ the benefits of the role, and this is where human consultancy is hugely valuable, helping clients to define what they need and then communicate it in a way that will appeal to the right people.

Creating a shortlist of freelancers

A detailed brief makes the next stage easier but there are still several stumbling blocks to navigate. As the freelance ecosystem in emerging markets is still relatively immature, the quality of freelance talent can vary dramatically. Plus, clients have to navigate a whole variety of freelancers – including those who have embellished their experience or for whom it is just a ‘side-project’ or a gig – in order to pinpoint those who genuinely have the skills, knowledge, values and cultural fit that meet their needs. In some cases, there are only a small number, or perhaps no freelancers, who meet the client’s requirements. In such cases, the only option is to ‘create’ the marketplace by tapping into permanent talent pools and encouraging potential candidates to make the switch to freelancing. The freelance lifestyle tempts many permanent professionals; however, extensive communication is needed to highlight the benefits and provide information on how it works from a tax and administrative perspective. Also, clients and service providers need to be open and honest about what the potential downsides are when going independent. This is why the human touch is critical.

Onboarding and governance of freelancers

The final piece of the puzzle is ensuring that the project progresses successfully once the freelancer comes onboard. A good working relationship can be disrupted if the freelancer isn’t given the right information and tools during the onboarding process, if the scope changes during the project, or they are asked to complete tasks that fall outside their remit and expertise. An external consultant can, therefore, add a lot of value at this point, advising both sides on how to best manage the relationship, and help to solve any issues that arise on an ongoing basis.

Technology and human is the ideal combination for the freelance market as it is today in Africa and Asia in terms of maturity and experience on the supply and demand side. One the one hand, technology unites the ecosystem on a single, organized and segmented platform. On the other hand, humans are available to curate and consult, ensuring that clients aren’t overwhelmed by choice and therefore able to experience the real benefits that freelancing has to offer. Then over time, as the market matures, and the best practice and infrastructure become ingrained, the power of the technology alone will increasingly come to the fore.