Corporations, startups and investment firms are increasingly using freelancers and independent consultants to fill talent gaps and add expertise to their existing teams. When executed properly, this works well for both parties. Independent workers get opportunities to work with a company that pays well and are free to serve other clients. In return, companies can hire flexibly, strategically, and at less cost than a permanent employee.
However, some businesses mishandle these relationships and drive away talented consultants. As entrepreneurial expert Elaine Pofeldt explains in a recent Forbes article, this is often because companies are accustomed to working with direct employees and not freelancers and independent workers. Using her piece as a launching point, here are some common mistakes to avoid when working with freelancers and consultants.
How Companies Alienate Their Freelancers
Sometimes it’s an invasive and overly complicated onboarding process that signals a lack of trust. At other times, companies expect independent workers to be on call at any moment of the business day or work fixed hours, like a full-time employee. Independent workers typically aren’t paid for this level of availability, so these expectations can be overbearing. They can also cause problems with the IRS.
As we’ve touched on previously with our articles on independent contractors vs. employees, insisting on a fixed schedule and dictating when work must be performed can lead the IRS to rule that a freelance worker is a direct employee. This carries a number of implications for tax withholding, legal obligations and benefits.
Moreover, treating freelancers like direct employees often clashes with the reasons why they’ve chosen to work independently. As research by MBO Partners has shown, the top reasons people choose to work independently are a desire for greater work/life flexibility, a desire to control their schedule, and a desire or need to earn more money.We see similar desires and expectations once freelancers actually begin working for clients:
- 97% want their work to be valued
- 95% want to have control over their work
- 94% want to have control over their schedule
- 94% want to be treated as a team member
When companies impose extensive onboarding requirements, micromanage freelancers, and insist on excessive availability and control over working hours, they inadvertently drive away freelance talent. As Pofeldt sums it up, “Often, big companies mess things up so badly that the best freelancers—the ones they can trust with high-level projects and client-facing work—get frustrated and go elsewhere, seeking clients who truly know how to act as partners.”
How to Onboard & Manage Your Freelancers More Effectively
To avoid alienating their freelancers, companies must remind themselves they’re not dealing with direct employees. They must balance their goals and expectations with those of their independent workers and manage work arrangements accordingly. This is one of the reasons why MBO Partners is now offering a training program for companies called Client of Choice. It teaches companies how to establish freelancer policies and procedures so they’re in sync with how freelancers want to work. This helps them become preferred clients for the most talented independent workers.
One of the strategies the Client of Choice program recommends is to simplify the onboarding process and potentially create private talent clouds of freelancers who’ve already gone through the company’s vetting process. This allows companies to do their due diligence in screening potential freelancers and consultants while rewarding them with more opportunities for their talents to be shared across the organization. While there may be a stringent onboarding process, a freelancer only has to go through it once. Upon completion, the freelancer is qualified to perform work across the organization as a trusted team member, which often leads to more projects and the freelancer becoming a more valued resource.
An Alternative to Building Your Own Talent Cloud
At Graphite, we’ve made this process even simpler by creating one of the world’s largest talent networks for top-tier business professionals. We do all the initial pre-vetting and onboarding of freelancers on behalf of our Graphite clients. In our process, our team personally reviews each candidate and applies strict standards of qualifications before admitting anyone into our network. We require all of our independent consultants to have at least two years of experience at a large and highly reputable firm, such as one of the following:
- Big Three or other major consulting firm
- Big Four accounting firm
- Bulge-bracket investment bank
- Fortune 500 company
- A similar high-caliber organization
We also require each candidate to have at least two years of professional work experience in one of the following fields:
- Management consulting
- Private equity/venture capital
- Corporate development
- Investment banking
- Sales and marketing
- Information technology
- A closely related field
We review their résumés and profiles and thoroughly check their qualifications, certifications and other information. We cross-reference this information with their Linkedin profile and use web-based tools to verify employment history and education, and ensure there are no indicators of unethical behavior or litigation involving the candidate. You can read more about our process and all of our requirements in our past article on The Graphite Vetting Process. But, ultimately, only 10% of candidates are admitted into our network.
This means companies using Graphite can be confident their consultants have already been thoroughly pre-screened. They can also read consultant performance reviews and ratings from other Graphite clients before they hire. In exchange for going through our rigorous screening process, independent consultants who are admitted to our network have access to thousands of companies offering freelance opportunities at pay rates commensurate with their elite talents and experience.
It’s ultimately a win-win for both sides, which is how we’ve managed to earn the trust of some of the world’s leading companies as well as over 5,000 top independent consultants. Hopefully these insights will help you manage your freelancers more effectively and avoid the common mistakes that drive away talented independent workers. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about Graphite or explore new opportunities to leverage our top-tier professionals, visit us now to create an account or log in and start your search.