As you probably know, I’ve been thinking (and talking) a lot lately about the freelance economy. As a matter of course, much of the conversation about on-demand workers and their platforms out there comes from the freelancer’s point of view. So, I’ve been left wondering how agencies and employers fit into this new paradigm.
To help answer my questions, I sat down with my friend and colleague Patricia Bramhall, founder of Tydak Consulting Services, a technology services company.
Pat is a recognized thought leader, speaker, and expert in IT Service Management (ITSM) and is certified in Information Technology Implementation Library (ITIL). In addition, she is the past president of Women In Business/Los Angeles, currently sits on the decision board for the LA Giving Circle, and is on the board of directors for Youth Mentoring Connection.
As someone who works frequently with contractors (and sends them into larger organizations), Pat has a unique perspective on the changes in today’s workforce. Parts of my conversation with Pat follow, and additional insights will appear in a couple of upcoming posts, as well.
Olga: What is your view of the new “freelance economy,” from an employer’s perspective?
Pat: The freelance economy seems great but, in reality, someone needs to stay around and hold up the walls. We can’t ALL be coming and going. Otherwise, where’s the continuity inside the company? Where’s the ownership?
Olga: I see what you’re saying. So, then, what does the future of the freelance economy look like?
Pat: Well, despite my point, I think the freelance market is only going to get stronger. Higher minimum wages are going to drive more people into the freelance pool, on both sides.
Olga: Which traditional jobs that used to be permanent are now becoming freelance?
Pat: Almost all jobs are up for grabs, really. Interestingly, HR is becoming freelance—especially for small to mid-sized business. The jobs that really fall into that category are the ones where an owner says, “I know I need someone with specific skills, but I only need them here or there.” Of course, creative jobs will always be on the freelance list, too.
Olga: Can a business owner trust an on-demand website over a recruiter?
Pat: Yes. Just look at the freelancer’s previous reviews. That’s more powerful than a resume.
Olga: What have you learned from managing freelancers over the years?
Pat: Freelancers are truly independent, and you’re not holding their hand. They’re out of your view and out of your control. Often times, that means you don’t know what’s going on until it’s too late. Unfortunately, I don’t always hear about bad behavior; the freelancer just doesn’t get hired anymore. In fact, I had a contractor who, despite having good reviews, had to be pulled from an assignment; he just couldn’t get along with the employees. He felt superior because he was an outsider.
Olga: Is there a way to get freelancers to act like "part of" the company, instead of feeling like outsiders?
Pat: They’re NOT going to act like part of the company. Most companies don’t make much of an effort to make freelancers feel like part of the team on a day-to-day basis…and in the big picture. In reality, the worker of today is insecure at all times. There’s just no loyalty on either side. The only way to ensure that you have an advocate (as a freelancer) if to work through a consulting firm.
Olga: Interesting! Let’s continue this conversation next week, where we’ll talk about the legal side of companies using on-demand workers.
Next week, we’ll explore another sticky situation, namely: when you think you are hiring/working as a contractor but, in reality, the law slaps on the label “employee”!
So, dear reader, what do YOU think the difference is between employee and freelancer? Comment below!