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Are Freelance Professionals a Risky Hire or a Gold Mine for Talent?

Freelance Professionals, Global Hiring, Recruitment...

Into every talented professional’s life, a little “freelance” phase may fall.  For some career candidates, freelance becomes a flexible lifestyle and entrepreneurial opportunity to “be their own boss” and enjoy both the risks and the rewards of full-time contract work.    For other professionals, freelance is an option when facing under-employability, or during a transition from one career to another, and a valuable way to broaden experience and career networking.

The number of individuals who are freelancing at least on a part-time basis is growing rapidly.  The “giganomic” movement allows professionals to utilize their skills in an ever-growing marketplace of one-time projects.  Other consultants and executives can find lucrative opportunities to serve during interim leadership periods, and gain insights into new industries, or unique corporate environments.

Should your business hire individuals who have lengthy experience on their CV as a freelance professional?  We’ll discuss some of the risks and the rewards for considering candidates who may be moving back from freelance to full-time salaried employment.  We will also talk about the culture of freelancing, and why it can sometimes present a conflict in the workplace between traditional salaried workers, and entrepreneurial minded new hires (and why this is a positive disruption in some cases).

The Advantages

If you are looking for an employee who is resourceful, knows how to cut costs without cutting corners, and works well with little supervision, your business may benefit from hiring a professional with freelance experience. In the United States alone, there are more than 53 million part-time to full-time self-employed; resilient, skilled professionals that sometimes seek full-time career opportunities.

Technological proficiency is another advantage of hiring a former freelancer for a salaried position.  While competitively self-employed, candidates are required to remain on the cutting edge of their skills; it’s difficult to convince contract employers to hire you, if you are not figuratively “the best at what you do”.  More than bringing exceptional skills to the table, former self-employed individuals have a drive to stay proficient, and are typically apt to develop their skillset, without prompting or encouragement from employers.

Potential Disadvantages

Because every career professional is not the same, we want to make sure that we are not drawing sweeping assumptions and conclusions about individuals with freelance experience.  However, given the culture of independence that self-employed workers have, some businesses can experience difficulty integrating them into a conventional, 9-to-5 team.

Even after being hired, many freelance professionals may choose to continue to work evenings and weekends as consultants, or service providers.  While after hour’s work doesn’t imply a threat to performance for the employer, there can be a lack of commitment to a corporate job and integration, if the candidate is still committed to growing their small-business or ‘side-gig’ as supplemental income.

Another concern is that there may be a conflict of interest, when a middle manager or executive is consulting on the side.  Non-disclosure agreements and non-compete clauses should be considered, to prevent proprietary information from being shared with potential competitors.

Our advice to employers is to consider a candidate with freelance experience to be a potential asset, but in the interview process, it is important to understand the career goals of the worker.  If they have tried self-employment for a period of time, and are ready to rejoin a corporate team, they can be an invaluable resource.  However, employers should also be aware that these exceptionally talented workers can be more difficult to retain, as they have the experience to create other income options for themselves successfully.