Navigating the Gig Economy: Hiring and Managing Freelancers and Contractors

Gig economy shown via a miniture shopping card sitting on a tablet at a remote work desk

The gig economy is fast evolving and is a superpower for growing businesses to tap into! Here’s how to attract the best gig workers to support you in reaching your business goals.

Around 24% of workers around the globe are gig workers, and the trend continues to grow in 2024. 

Work flexibility and the abundance of opportunities are the main reasons for this fast-growing marketplace. The trend is expected to grow even more as remote flexibility and hybrid work models become the norm. 

Facilitated by specialist recruitment agencies, gig workers can more easily connect with clients or customers seeking their specific services more than ever before. Which in turn means there are more options to choose from.

In this article we explain the appeal to both people and businesses for this globally increasing trend – and outline how to hire and manage gig workers in 6 key steps. 

Know the context? Skip straight to steps to hire and manage gig workers

Looking to hire freelance workers and contractors for your business? Not sure how to find the best talent? We’re experts in hiring the best contractors and freelancers in the world.

Hiring contractors or freelancers? Salt can secure the best talent worldwide!

Why does gig working appeal to people?

For many workers today, going freelance isn’t a stop gap between roles – it’s their career aspiration and what they’re working towards.

Since the pandemic there has been a marked shift in what people value most in their workplace – with many distrusting employers and opting for more control over their own hours, work and income streams. 

Lisa Crane, Commercial Director of Salt North America shares how marked this shift has been in the US:

“Gig economy, side hustles and freelancing with multiple companies were on the rise pre-pandemic, with approximately 57.3 million gig workers in 2022 according to Statista. After the events of the last few years, post-pandemic and the US economy concerns, as well as reduced workforces and full-time hiring after a hiring surge last year, more people were looking to reclaim autonomy in their work-lives. They’re also more open to seeking roles that provide learning opportunities, that aligns with their personal values, versus prefering what used to be seen as the stability of a full-time/ permanent role.”

This desire for autonomy and balance is echoed by the incredible ‘gig’ professionals we work with across the world:

“For me I think the desire for control over my own career was more so that I had a better sense of what it is I wanted to do, and knew I wasn’t going to find that opportunity in my current job at the time and I didn’t want to wait anymore. I wanted more solitude and control over the people and energies that were in my day to day, for the sake of my own mental health. Honestly at its deepest level it was just a f**k you to the man and a deep feeling like I had to take better care of myself.” Creative strategist & copywriter working in the USA

“Work is great, but you know what’s even more great? Spending time with your family and friends that isn’t limited to the time you are outside of work. My life has improved 1000 per cent since working from home became a thing. And it became even better with going freelance. Having freedom to figure out what clients you want to take, when you want to take time off or work, and your hours , with a way better pay is absolutely priceless.” Award-winning Creative Director in the USA

There are of course considerations for gig workers such as stability and assured income long-term, as well as the relative pricing their services, which they’re able to price more highly over time as they develop a customer base and platform. As it’s name suggests, the gig economy means for many they’re working with multiple clients on multiple projects, which is worth noting for both those considering this career path and employers hiring gig workers. 

Denelle Joyce, Practice Director of Creative, Sales and Marketing Recruitment for Salt New Zealand, explains in more detail what this means for the New Zealand job market:

“The original ‘giggers’ – creative professionals – earn much less than average and supplement their income with other work from the gig economy. Research commissioned by Creative New Zealand and New Zealand On Air in May showed creative professional median income was $37,000, compared to a median of $61,800 for salary and wage earners. 44 percent of those creatives bolster their income with a side hustle, as the median income from creative pursuits alone was just less than $20,000 a year.”

What are the business benefits of the gig economy?

There are many business benefits that properly sourced and managed gig workers can bring to your teams and business. 3 of the biggest benefits to employers are:

  1. Cost effective way to gain specialist skills.
    Without the cost of onboarding and employee benefits, gig workers can be as effective as a full-time employee. While in-demand specialists might cost more per hour, they can be strategically deployed when and where they need their input. Which focuses your costs on specialists skills specifically when you need them.
  2. Gaining the ability to scale quickly.
    Gig workers can be brought in to complete projects or add needed support to your teams during busy seasons, when demand is high.  They can be sourced quickly and efficiently, particularly with specialist recruitment support as agencies like Salt maintain a pool of gig talent on behalf of their clients.
  3. Diverse pool of flexible workers.
    The gig economy provides more people with the ability to work how they choose – which means it opens opportunities up to those unable to work in a more traditional 9-5 or office set up due to health or caring responsibilities or location. Diversity allows for creativity, innovation and different perspectives. Using gig economy workers allows businesses to have a diverse pool of flexible workers at their disposal – able and willing to work outside of office hours. 

Denelle Joyce, has tracked the development of the gig economy over her career and what it means for businesses in New Zealand: 

“Working for 25+ years in the New Zealand job market means I’ve seen first-hand the benefits of the Gig Economy for businesses and professionals alike. I have seen buoyant project and programme-based work initiated by business in Aotearoa, perfect for our rich candidate pool of flexible talent across our Technology, Marketing and Creative Practices. Our Business Services also provide our partner businesses with talented, agile and flexible staff when needed.”

Lisa Crane has seen these benefits play out in different ways for businesses of different sizes across the USA:

“A NY creative agency client of ours regularly utilizes  freelancers to supplement project work for their clients, as they win new business or project timelines shift. Since they work remotely in most cases, and can hire freelancers who have experience from a variety of industries across the USA, they get access to new skills and perspectives, adding to the diversity of ideas and creativity brought to their clients’ projects.

For enterprise size clients, a contingent workforce is key to staying agile. Hiring freelancers and contractors is a fast way to ensure projects are delivered, as companies go through transformation projects, launch products, or re-brand whilst headcount for the quarter or the fiscal year is reviewed.”

The gig economy is a global trend – and it’s here to stay!

The gig economy generates $204 billion in gross volume (globally) with the USA contributing a an enormous 44% of that volume, according to a survey by Mastercard in 2020, which also predicted a 17% increase by 2023. It’s a global trend that continues to grow worldwide.

Once you’ve found and secured amazing freelance talent, it serves you well to maintain relationships with gig workers you really enjoy working with so you have contacts in place for future projects. Particularly for those with specialist skill sets that can solve your digital skills gap.

“The gig economy in APAC markets is experiencing exponential growth, driven by factors like technological advancements, changing work preferences, and economic conditions, offering both opportunities and challenges for businesses. To excel in this dynamic landscape, hiring managers should focus on building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with their contractors, providing clear expectations, and streamlining the hiring process for maximum efficiency and flexibility.”

Richard Jee, Principal Consultant, Salt New Zealand

6 key steps to hire and manage gig workers

Step 1: Know your requirements

With more and more gig workers available and platforms overcrowded with options, it’s important to be clear on what you want and need within your team or division and which part of your work will be easiest to outsource.  When you’re overburdened with repetitive tasks or have a task that requires expertise you lack in your team, this is a perfect time to consider hiring contractors or freelancers

Here are some ways to get the role requirements clear in your mind:

  • Define the scope of the project and outline its objectives.
    • What do you want to achieve with this project overall? 
    • What specific tasks or goals do you need the freelancer to complete?
  • Write a detailed job description that outlines the tasks, responsibilities, and deliverables expected from the freelancer. Be specific about:
    • Technical skills or software proficiency
    • Needed experience or industry knowledge
    • required qualifications 
  • Clearly state the project’s timeline, including milestones and deadlines for each phase. This will help the freelancer understand the expected pace of work and align their availability accordingly.
  • Specify how you expect the freelancer to communicate with you. Whether through email, project management tools, or regular check-ins, set clear expectations about the frequency of communication and responsiveness you expect.
  • Provide information about the budget for the project and how the freelancer will be compensated.
  • Set KPIs for the project—how do you measure the impact of the work done by the freelancer?

The process of outsourcing a role or task is made much smoother, faster, and less risk-averse when you have clarity on how you’ll manage the project. 

Step 2: Write a detailed job description

To hire the right contract worker for the job, you’ll need a detailed job description clearly stating your requirements and outlining the project and way of working. The more clear your requirements are, the better your chances of finding the right fit.

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Start by clearly highlighting who you’re looking for—use keywords such as “Freelance Content Writer” or “Freelance Graphic Designer” to attract the right candidates for the role. 
  • Provide a brief introduction to the project, outlining its purpose, goals, and any relevant background information. 
  • Break down the project into specific components or phases, if applicable. Clearly list the main tasks and activities the freelancer will need to undertake. 
  • Describe how you expect the freelancer to communicate with you and any team members. Mention the preferred communication channels and expected response times.
  • State the budget range for the project and how the freelancer will be compensated (e.g., hourly rate, fixed fee). Explain how payment will be processed (e.g., upfront, milestones, upon completion).
  • Mention any legal or confidentiality requirements that the freelancer must adhere to.
  • Publish your job post on credible websites such as LinkedIn or Indeed to find the right candidates for the job.

Encourage freelancers to reach out with any questions they might have about the project or requirements.

Salt writes job descriptions on our client’s behalf to ensure each of these points is covered and that all the information for a given field or role is clearly communicated to attract the very best talent for the job. Here’s how to work with us to hire contractors and freelancers.

Step 3: Invest in an employee benefits service

You might think that employee benefits are only for full-time employees, but consider offering them to your contract workers, too. It’s a great way to attract competitive talent, support them whilst they work with you, and ensure the best possible results. 

By offering employee benefits service, you’re showing them how much you value their efforts and think of them as a part of your organisation. Moreover, they’re motivated to deliver their best in your project and stay committed to your organisation for future projects.

Here are the benefits you can offer:

  • Creative freedom to develop and use new ideas in their work, which can prove to be super productive and fruitful.
  • Bonuses for every job that’s done well or exceeds expectations.
  • Incremental increase in payment every six months or a year.
  • Access to learning materials allows them to upskill and stay updated.
  • Networking opportunities allow them to attend industry events, conferences, and online forums.

While you cannot offer them the same benefits as your traditional employees, offering these gestures can prove to be beneficial for your freelancers and your business.

Step 4: Set up a solid communication system

Collaboration and communication is the key to a successful outsourcing project. Clear communication ensures that both parties understand expectations, progress, and any potential issues. If you’re working with experienced recruiters like Salt, they can help advise on the best way of working with different contract talent around the world.

Here’s how to establish a communication system for outsourcing work to freelancers:

  • Feedback
    Select the best 360 feedback tools to help gather multi-dimensional feedback that takes into account many viewpoints about an individual’s performance and potential areas for improvement. This will also lead to improved communication and relationships and increased work quality. 
  • Expectations
    Set clear expectations for communication frequency, response times, and availability. Define preferred communication channels for different types of interactions (e.g., quick questions, project updates).
  • Communication
    When onboarding freelancers, introduce them to your communication tools and provide any necessary training. Share guidelines on how to use the tools effectively.
  • Check-ins
    Schedule regular check-in meetings or calls to discuss project progress, address questions, and ensure alignment. These meetings can be weekly or bi-weekly, depending on the project’s complexity.
  • Clarity
    Provide freelancers with a comprehensive project brief, including goals, expectations, timelines, deliverables, and relevant background information.
  • Progress tracking
    Use project management tools to assign tasks to freelancers, set deadlines, and track progress. This provides transparency and helps freelancers stay organised.
  • Record keeping
    Keep records of important discussions, decisions, and feedback during the project. This can serve as a reference in case of any disputes or uncertainties.

Effective communication helps build trust, prevents misunderstandings, and creates a positive working relationship between you and your freelancers. Adapt the communication system based on the project’s unique needs and the preferences of both parties. 

Step 5: Review proposals

Once your job posting is live, freelancers will submit proposals. Review these carefully, considering their experience, past work, rates, and their understanding of your project.

Here’s how to review freelance proposals:

  1. Thoroughly read each proposal to understand the freelancer’s approach to your project. Pay attention to details and ensure they’ve clearly understood your requirements.
  2. Examine any work samples or portfolio links provided by the freelancer. Evaluate the quality of their previous work and assess if it matches your expectations.
  3. Assess the clarity and professionalism of the freelancer’s communication in their proposal. Effective communication is crucial for a successful working relationship.
  4. Check if the freelancer’s availability aligns with your project’s timeline. Ensure they have the time to commit to your project and meet deadlines.
  5. Evaluate the freelancer’s proposed budget or rates. Ensure they are within your project’s budget and align with industry standards.
  6. If the platform provides reviews and ratings, read feedback from previous clients. This can give you insights into the freelancer’s reliability and work ethic. LinkedIn recommendations are an excellent source!

When reviewing proposals, take your time, ask questions, and prioritise candidates who clearly understand your project and have the skills to deliver high-quality work.

Step 6: Negotiate terms and contracts

Discuss the project details, timeline, and compensation with your preferred freelancer. Clarify any uncertainties and make sure both parties are on the same page. 

Create a contract outlining the project scope, responsibilities, payment terms, timelines, confidentiality agreements, and other relevant terms. This formalises the agreement and protects both parties.

Here’s everything you need to include in your freelancer contract and if you’re unsure about your needs, working with an experienced recruiter like Salt can help you define them and take the necessary steps to protect your interests.

  • Clearly state the names and contact information of both the client (you) and the freelancer.
  • Detail the specific tasks, deliverables, and objectives the freelancer is responsible for.
  • Outline the project timeline, including each deliverable’s start and end dates, milestones, and deadlines.
  • Specify the payment structure, including the total project fee, how and when payments will be made (e.g., upfront, upon completion, milestone payments), and any currency or tax considerations.
  • Clearly state how many rounds of revisions are included and how additional revisions will be charged.
  • Include a clause that addresses the confidentiality of the project and any sensitive information shared during the collaboration.
  • Define who will own the rights to the work produced by the freelancer.
  • Outline the conditions under which either party can terminate the contract before completion.

A freelancer’s contract should be customised to your specific project and needs, and to the regions you both operate in. It’s advisable to consult with legal professionals to ensure your contract is legally sound and protects both parties’ interests, or work with an expert recruitment specialist like Salt if they’re able to offer global support.

Hire the best gig workers for your organisation

The gig economy has emerged as a dynamic force shaping how we work and collaborate. Its flexibility and agility have transformed how businesses operate, giving rise to a diverse pool of freelancers and contractors who contribute their skills across industries.

Hiring freelancers is more than just filling roles. It’s more about cultivating connections with individuals who bring their unique expertise to the table.

Follow the best practices, offer great benefits, and invest in the right tools to ensure a smooth transaction. 

Hiring freelancers or contractors?

Whether you’re looking to expand your team or improve your work life balance, hiring freelancers or contractors can help to achieve your goals. Your freelance talent hire could be a mere (virtual) handshake away!

Salt is committed to diversity and inclusion. Our expert consultants can help you build a team that delivers results now and in the future. We can help you find the right freelance talent for your needs.

You can also keep in the loop by following us on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.

Read more expert hiring advice from Salt

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