A growing number of people are joining the ‘gig economy’ and working on a job-by-job and freelance basis, giving them the flexibility to work whenever and wherever they want.
According to a recent survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS), there are now 4.69 million self-employed people in the UK, accounting for 15 per cent of the workforce. With self-employment continuing to rise, the ONS has suggested that self-employed workers and freelancers are ‘driving the successes of the labour market and growth in the economy’. Although many entrepreneurs may see varied impacts and opportunities open up to them, it’s important to understand how to get the most out of the gig economy.
Developing a broader workforce
For most business owners in the early years or just starting out, surviving on a small budget is a rite of passage. Payroll can often be a large chunk of a business’ fixed costs, although utilising the gig economy and hiring freelancers afford businesses flexibility – as well as the opportunity to turn fixed into variable costs. Many small companies often don’t require full-time departments such as marketing or IT, so contracting these roles out to freelancers on a job-by-job basis is a good way to help reduce overhead costs and remain agile. This level of flexibility means that entrepreneurs can quickly expand and contract their workforce according to demand.
Introducing a more flexible way of working
For many entrepreneurs, the arguments in favour of using the gig economy are becoming increasingly compelling. With the nature of work changing and a demand in flexible working, the IPSE recently found that the freelancer workforce was one of the fastest growing occupational groups since 2008 – contributing £119 billion to the UK economy. Hiring freelancers benefits business owners as they’re able to flex the workforce in ways that permanent employment simply doesn’t cater for. Independent job-by-job gigs give workers the ability to work remotely from around the globe and provide quick, skilful services with a fast turnaround time both locally and internationally.
With more Millennial and Gen Xers moving to independent online work, we’re seeing a rise in a generation embracing the gig economy – craving the freedom to choose their work, pay and place of work. As more highly-skilled, connected and mobile workers enter the gig economy, entrepreneurs are well placed to utilise this type of worker shunning traditional employment. Blending full-time, permanent employees with freelancers and creating a flexible workforce which is adaptable to business challenges and opportunities.
Plugging the skills gaps
The gig economy has the ability to help small businesses address the skills shortages they face by accessing elusive talent pools and boosting productivity. Online, collaborative marketplaces enable access to on-demand support in skills such as administration, accounting and consultancy. Connecting entrepreneurs with people who have skills and experience, that they might not have access to otherwise and providing a valuable opportunity to outsource.
Hiring freelancers gives small business owners the flexibility to manage the peaks and troughs of demand, as well as the ability to bring in someone who can hit the ground running during busy times. This type of employment offers a reliable and cost-effective route to specialist skills but also the opportunity to test run job positions before a permanent hire. Alternatively, it gives the freelancer a chance to work with a company before considering taking a full-time role – should they be looking for one. Certainly, building relationships with seasoned freelancers can add value to growing businesses, helping to inject new ideas and scope out the needs of a project.
Have the right tools for the job
One of the biggest contributing factors to the increase in the gig economy, is the improved technology and services connecting employers to freelancers. As technological innovation overturns traditional work structures, we’re seeing even the smallest of businesses compete for the best freelancers. From video conferencing to virtual phone systems, these technologies are making it quicker and easier to collaborate with teams and freelancers on a project without physically being in the same room.
With a significant rise in the mobile workforce and more entrepreneurs building their businesses around remote cloud employees, technology is empowering more distributed teams, collaboration and connectivity. Whilst staying productive without a traditional office environment can be difficult, entrepreneurs need to take advantage of these technologies in order to manage freelancers and maintain a high level of productivity. It’s important both parties communicate on a regular basis and understand each other’s schedules and workflows. Regardless of whether it’s a one-off project or a whole team of freelancers, productivity depends on having streamlined communications which can be facilitated by collaboration applications. Team collaboration can be handled easily with apps and software for sharing files, emails and calendars.
Shake up your routine
There’s no doubt that the increase of freelance contracts will impact on future perceptions of work. Entrepreneurs that support the gig economy and assist individuals in becoming micro-entrepreneurs, not only fuel the economy by creating new revenue streams but also disrupt outdated business models – helping individuals approach a better work-life balance. In turn, this aids an entrepreneur to grow their businesses by benefiting from the affordability, accessibility, and flexibility of job-by-job contract workers.
Chris Bohlin is director of products for Grasshopper.