Getting Creative in a Tight Job Market - Utilizing Freelancers and Contractors

Thoughts on finding talent when it's hard to find talent in two parts
Aug 2, 2019
Matt Massucci
Matt Massucci
Founder and Managing Partner
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Picture it: all the good job seekers, the ones you’d  love to hire if you could anyway, have three offers on the table. Maybe you hire them, maybe you don’t, but at the moment you can’t count on getting anyone you want, any time. Not in this job market. 

Unemployment is at an all-time low, and there is a skills shortage for most of the hard-to-fill roles. You’re going to have to get creative to land talent in a market where the job seekers are more in demand than the jobs. How are you going to do that?

We can’t talk about getting creative with worker roles without at least mentioning the gig economy. It’s a complex beast covering everything from product launches and trade shows to ride shares and home shares. But it's also a bit overblown. No one is really sure how many people it affects. And many people are only doing it until they can find something more worthwhile. Besides, creative, tech and project-driven talent have worked in freelance capacities forever.

We see the gig economy having the greatest impact in project-driven work. And when associated with areas in which we specialize, we prefer to encourage companies to bring on freelance or consultant talent and encourage job seekers to take advantage of the unique opportunities that project-based work offers.

With that said, we’re going to tackle creative ways to bring on talent in two parts. The first is through consultants or freelancers. The second is through internships and returnships.

Bringing On Freelance or Consultant Talent 

Why would companies do this?

Bringing on freelancers or consultants provide companies with an opportunity to test drive someone. Can the person do the job? Do they fit with the culture? Do they have the soft skills?  

Companies typically make decisions based on six hours of interviews, and they’re just not sure if they’re making a good hire or not. 

For senior-level roles, it’s hard to even find the skill sets you seek. Companies already limit the pool by narrowly focusing on niche skills, and that’s on top of the 98 percent of the people in this role already employed. 

However, a ton of people do project-based work, especially in tech and creative.

Why would job seekers do this?

Off the bat, a lot of job seekers won’t do this kind of work. Most are not going to leave a full-time job for a six or twelve week trial. But negotiating salaries is a challenge, and it’s hard for companies to say if a job seeker is worth x or y. 

So if job seekers freelance at their dream job for three months, they can prove their worth. It’s a bet on themselves, and they’ve effectively created the opportunity to re-negotiate their salary when they’ve done that trial. Ideally, they’ve made themselves indispensable. 

Further, the stigma of moving on from something in three months isn't as bad as it once was. Some people job hop now like it’s...their job. Plus, they get to explore whether they want a new role: Is there enough work? Is it challenging enough? Do they get along with the team?

When does freelance or consultant talent make sense for companies?

For lower-level roles, this makes a lot of sense. When hiring inexperienced people, work ethic and desire to learn are two extremely important factors that determine long-term success. Both are very hard to measure in an interview, but very easy to see in someone’s first month of employment.

Freelancers or contracts are a great option when the need is not long term. This could involve a specific project or website launch, or the implementation of new software or tools. Niche experience is expensive and there is no reason to overpay for it, if it isn’t going to be utilized after the project has been completed.

When does it make sense for job seekers?

This approach is for people who might be lacking the specific experience required in a job, but are confident that they can quickly get up to speed. It’s also for people who feel they’re underpaid. If someone is looking for a large salary increase, it can be hard to make more than a 10 to 20 percent jump in compensation when changing jobs. 

Starting as a freelancer or consultant is a great way to make more money, especially for in-demand skill sets (think software engineers, recruiters or UX professionals). It is common to see a 30 percent bump in compensation to do project or consulting-based work. With that said, many people do leave full-time jobs to start freelance, but job seekers who may not consider this a viable or stable option may need more convincing from companies trying to land them. 

When should companies not to do this? 

Avoid this approach for very in-demand skill sets. The unemployment rate for software engineers is practically zero. Top Engineers have options, and most won’t consider contract work (unless the rates are phenomenal). So thinking you can get a five-year Ruby on Rails Engineer to do a three-month trial is wishful thinking.

How can companies pursue freelance and consultant talent?

Companies have often contracted directly with independent consultants or freelancers. However, when companies engage directly, they run a legal risk. The government doesn’t want companies to misclassify workers. They want the company to pay employer-side taxes on them. Thus, companies expose themselves to multiple legal issues if not handled correctly. 

Plus, there’s the headache of paperwork and tracking people down. Better to outsource the  payroll of your freelancers for a small fee (small plug for Hirewell: we do this for lots of companies).  

If you don’t have access to your own freelancers or independent consultants, you are better off using firms that specialize in placing temporary workers. Make sure they specialize in the areas you need help. They have a deep pool of people and can quickly  get you someone qualified. 

Hirewell has been placing consultants for 15 years in all of the functional areas we specialize in:

  • Tech
  • Digital Experience & Marketing
  • Creative
  • Human Resources
  • Recruiters
  • Office and Administrative
  • Finance and Accounting
  • Interim Executive Leadership

Not sure whether you should hire freelancers or go freelance yourself? Let’s talk.

Final Thoughts

Hiring top talent is hard. Everyone is fishing in the same places. Think outside of the box.  

Here’s the challenge: whether you are looking to partner with a firm to add talent  or not, growing your organization is not easy. 

And whatever you choose to do, do so thoughtfully. Craft a plan, and ask yourself the hard questions at every phase of your search. We’re here to help if you need us.

Hirewell is Your Partner in Creatively Finding Talent in an Environment Where it is Hard to Find Talent

Matt Massucci
Matt Massucci
Founder and Managing Partner

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