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The Freelance Economy in 2017: Leveraging a Blended Workforce

The times, they are a-changin’. Whereas getting everything done in-house used to be the norm, today, off-site contract workers are increasingly being sought by employers. Welcome to the blended workforce, where 55 million freelancers and contract workers in 2016 alone accounted for 35 percent of the entire American workforce, according to the Freelancing in America 2016 Report.

>> Download the Ebook: How to Successfully Find, Hire and Work With Freelancers

This didn’t just happen overnight, mind you. This trend has been underway for a few years, as employers begin to realize the benefits of using freelancers for any number of jobs. These contract workers are professional and highly skilled individuals, many of whom come from onsite work backgrounds and have made the transition to part- and full-time freelance careers.

If you’re a midsize company aiming to optimize your content production and distribution, it’s time to take advantage of the freelance economy.

The benefits of freelancers vs. in-house employees

Cost savings

One of the main attractions to hiring freelancers is they save you money, because you’re only paying them for the actual work they do on a project. Compare that to a “real” employee, whom you have to pay even when they’re on vacation or out sick — and who also want healthcare benefits and a 401(K). CNN Money reports that companies pay 18 to 26 percent more than an employee’s salary just to have them on the team.

You might think that those working from home are less productive than their in-house peers, because they have all the distractions of home life getting in the way. But this Forbes post references a study by economics professor Nicholas Bloom, in which he determined that at-home workers got more done than their in-office counterparts. The freelancers in his study successfully made more business calls than their in-office counterparts, essentially creating an entire, additional day of work during the workweek.

Specialization

Freelancers are very good at what they do and only at what they do. For instance, copywriters are awesome at writing copy and understanding the ad industry; web designers and developers are great at building websites and user interfaces; and SEO specialists can offer actionable advice at growing your Google search rankings. When you hire a freelancer, they tend to always be on-point in their industry, because that’s the focus of their career.

The intense growth of the freelance economy

One of the primary reasons to take advantage of freelancers is because their numbers are dramatically rising. That means more of these independent professionals who specialize in various jobs are going to be more readily available to perform the specialized task you want done.

And the more competition there is, the more it drives down prices, so midsize companies are actually in a favorable position to have their pick among a very talented pool of independent workers.

To put this intense growth into perspective, consider the following stat: Between 2000 and 2014, freelance jobs present on resumes examined by Paychex showed a staggering jump of more than 500 percent. This intense spike in freelancing opportunities was naturally fueled by the increasing popularity and use of the internet, which itself is a huge driver in creating freelance opportunities.

How freelancing is evolving & what you can expect

Freelancing gets a bad rap in some circles due to lack of awareness of what freelancing is really like. This is beginning to change, as more studies show how well freelancers are really doing.

A 2015 study titled, Freelancing in America: A National Survey of the New Workforce, found that:

  • 32 percent said demand for their services increased in the past year
  • 43 percent said they believed their income will increase in the next year
  • 42 percent said they already earn more money than before they switched to freelancing

And according to the Daily Mail, freelancers are the most productive and happiest workers in the UK.

Not only is the perception, therefore, of freelancing evolving, but Forbes predicts the industry itself is going to change in 2017. Expect to see:

  • Continued growth in the number of freelancers
  • Large corporations using new technology to accommodate their offsite workforce
  • Companies increasingly using independent contractors

It’s going to become the norm for companies of all sizes to use freelancers, which in turn will continue to fuel the growth in this powerful industry.

Shopify creates content with freelancers

As Courtney Symons, Shopify’s Partner Marketing Manager, puts it:

“My team runs the Shopify Web Design & Development Blog, and we publish between four to five articles per week. We’re a really lean team, and sometimes creating that much content gets in the way of other challenges we want to tackle — things like webinars, guide books and offline events.

 

To keep on top of our blog content load, we’ve come to rely on trusted freelancers who create content for our audience. We’ve curated a small list of freelance writers who understand the web design and development world and who can emulate our voice and tone, so that the content fits seamlessly into our publication.

Not only are freelancers an awesome way for us to scale effectively, but it also allows us to diversify the voices and perspectives we can offer to our readers. Industry experts who have insights we may never have dreamed up are able to share their vision with our audience because of this freelance relationship. It’s a beautiful way to enhance our blog without straining our small team.”

Tools & resources to find freelancers

So where do you find freelancers? Here’s where to look:

 

ClearVoice

ClearVoice features two distinct tools to put you in touch with high-quality freelance writers:

  • The first one is Content Studio, which is a database of the internet’s most popular writers and publishers. You can search by topic to find the most-shared writers in your specific industry.
  • The second one is a network of talent called the ClearVoice Marketplace, which puts you in touch with freelancers who are searching for work. You’ll get matched with content creators who are aligned with your budget, timeline and topic needs.

Your go-to blogs & websites

Much of the content on your favorite industry blogs and websites is likely produced by freelancers and not in-house employees. If you find a particular author whose voice you enjoy and whose content you find engaging, approach them directly. Most of these freelancers have bios on the same site that provides their contact info, such as their own website or social media profiles. If not, then a Google search usually does the trick.

Job boards

An alternative to looking for freelancers is posting job ads to get them to come to you. You can post ads for freelancers on such sites as ProBlogger, LinkedIn, Craigslist and Indeed. Be selective, however — while you’ll get a good number of responses, all applicants aren’t created equally, so you’ve got to really review resumes and experience to make an informed decision for the freelancer you hire.

Social media

Professional freelancers will have social media profiles (Twitter and LinkedIn, and perhaps Facebook) where companies like yours can get in touch with them.

Make the blended workforce work for your brand

Companies are increasingly realizing how the freelance economy is a big part of the solution to their content production problems. Studies showing that the freelancing industry is getting stronger and delivering great results for companies.

Is it time for your company to get on board with the freelance economy? Download our free ebook, How to Successfully Find, Hire and Work With Freelancers, for in-depth information about working with freelancers.

About Marc

Marc Schenker is a copywriter who, fittingly enough, runs Marc Schenker Copywriter. An expert in business and marketing, he helps businesses of all sizes get the most bang for their ad bucks. Follow him on Twitter.

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