Ep 110 – Who Is Really the Freelance Workforce?

freelance, freelance workforce, consulting,

The gig economy is a hot topic with nearly every fifth email solicitation I’m getting these days asking for my email address and contact information in exchange to tell me all about the gig economy, how it’s changing HR and what gig workers want from businesses. The annual report from Upwork and the Freelancers Union found that more people than ever are choosing to freelance, up to 55 million this year, or 35% of the total U.S. workforce. As many as 81% of traditional workers they surveyed said they would “be willing to do additional work outside of [their] primary job if it was available and enabled [them] to make more money.” For this episode of the Workology Podcast, I thought I would go straight to the source.

Episode 110: Who is Really the Freelance Workforce with Heide Brandes (@heidewrite)

There’s a great deal of mystery concerning how freelancers work and thrive which is why I sat down with successful freelance journalist, Heide Brandes. Heide walks us through how she became a full-time freelancer, what she loves and dislikes about her work. Heide tells me that freelancers are natural networkers. She gains so much of her business through her use of social media, her contacts and relationships with other professionals. I tend to agree with her. My work comes the same way with people sending me referral business versus having to invest a great deal of work in sales and business development.

While freelancing offers a lot of flexibility, it’s also easy to become isolated. Heide talks about what she does to stay engaged and productive which is easier she thinks because if she doesn’t do work, she doesn’t get to eat afford a car payment. When you are freelancer, your personal and professional network is critical to your business success. It’s also key to your psychological success. Heide’s free spirit is what drew her to freelancing. She was a successful PR professional working in the non-profit world before she made the scary leap.

81% of traditional workers they surveyed said they are interested in freelancing. Are employers ready? Click To Tweet

How Companies Can Support Gig Workers

Because freelance and contract workers aren’t technically employees, there are some fine lines that businesses have to walk. However, companies can help to provide support, relationships and an occasional desk in which to work from. These workers are critical to the growth and scalability of our organizations which means that companies need to foster relationships with these gig workers even when they aren’t working on a project or for their company. This idea is a new one for most HR and business leaders, but as we move towards the hiring of contract and project workers, companies to focus on the freelancer’s candidate experience even though they are technically not a candidate. However, companies need to continue to grow and build that relationship because you never know when you might need a qualified writer, developer, creator or consultant to help you quickly. Make time to get to know your freelance workforce. Invite them to quarterly happy hours or receptions to continue fostering that relationship. Freelancers are a loyal and flexible workforce that can also be a great source of referrals for other freelancers or even full-time employees.

Businesses need to focus on building relationships with gig workers so they can scale & grow quickly. Click To Tweet

For freelancers, Heide’s story is one that is inspiring while she works hard, she is living the dream. She just booked a writing project that is taking her to Bolivia later this year. If you are thinking about taking up some freelance work even part time, sit down and listen to her podcast interview.

For employers, if 81% of your workforce is currently interested in exploring opportunities as a part-time or full-time gig and freelance worker, it’s critical for HR to sit down with your freelancers and employees to understand the kind of support and resources they need. We can’t afford to lose our best workers so maybe we need to explore contract and freelance options with them or at least consider planning for this reality.

Connect with Heide Brandes on LinkedIn.

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*A special thank you to my production team at Total Picture Radio.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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