Recently, I wrote an article about a conversation I was had with the ‘Head of People’ at a rapidly growing FTSE 250 business. The question was whether they were missing a trick not specifically targeting freelancers to work for the business. The question underpinning that was whether the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of freelancers (some people call them contractors, independents or interims) is rising. The simple answer is yes.
Here are the main reasons behind that:
- Platforms – like movemeon.com – make it easier to find this type of work
We provide a marketplace for high-calibre freelance consultants. But you also see these marketplaces at other ends of the market (e.g, outsourcing some legal bits & bobs, getting a logo designed, finding someone to clean your house). Technology is creating great market places which drive supply on both sides of that market (in our case freelance consultants and opportunities for them).
2. Given it’s easier than ever to find the work, there’s a lot about freelancing that naturally appeals to people
The chance to work for yourself on your own terms. The flexibility to work hours that suit your home life. The ability to take the school holidays off to be at home with the kids. The opportunity to earn a good day rate and therefore annual income while still saving the client mountains vs. using a consultancy (remember the day rate your firm charged you out at?!)
3. Consultants work all the hours God sends (or near enough)
So, if someone decides they’re not in it for the long haul, it’s often impossible to find the time to discover and land the right opportunity. So, increasingly we see people just leave without another permanent job to go to. They leave because they know there’s a ready supply of freelance work for them. And they can freelance to pay the bills while they hunt down their next permanent gig.
4. Freelancing really helps to build one’s network
Typically, you meet a lot of different companies. Often you also meet PE funds who are a conduit to a whole host of portfolio companies. So we often see freelancers landing permanent jobs just because they are freelancing (either they go permanent with a client or the permanent job comes through the network they have time to develop while freelancing).
5. Freelancing is better understood and a more widely accepted move
Historically, hiring managers have been snobby about time spent working in ‘non-permanent’ roles. But times are changing. Just because a role was freelance, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good role and it certainly doesn’t mean the person is no good. Quite the opposite can be the case so it’s important to understand that person’s story and motivations behind the freelance work.
There’s a really important point that comes out of all of this and is at the core of the implication. Very high caliber people are dipping into freelance work between permanent roles. That’s particularly true of people just leaving consulting – and particularly at the manager level (when people look up at the partnership and decide it’s not for them). These have historically been viewed as the ultimate prize for employers (particularly PE funds who specifically target Managers from McKinsey, Bain & BCG) and these prizes are becoming more readily available.
Historically, organisations have felt that ‘career freelancers’ are not consistently high caliber options. That’s a huge generalisation (there are many brilliant career freelancers out there) but it is a commonly voiced impression. The point now is that there’s a far greater supply of non-career freelancers – who could be a great short-term asset to your business, and perhaps, even, someone that turns into a ‘try before you buy’ permanent hire too.
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