D/M/V Claire Barton was struck by how the Freelancing Phenomenon has led to new ways of thinking about individual work, HR needs and benefits.
D/M/V Claire Barton
Freelancing has changed many aspects of the employment landscape. But it has also meant new ways of thinking about individual work, HR needs and benefits.
“Back in the day freelancers would walk into a company with a CV and an eagerness to prove their worth,” Claire Barton, labourforce adviser at Tech North, tells Tech Pro Research. “Now the story is different.”
In the current job market the story is very different, as people are focusing more on their freelance work: their full-time work can simply be a means to an end.
“There is a lack of mutual understanding between firms,” Barton says. “Employers don’t want to think about how they would treat their freelance workforce.”
Hiring and firing
For those people wanting the comfort of full-time work with the freedom to focus on the projects they’re most interested in, freelancing is not an option.
People working freelance at one time may have decided to become self-employed after an employer did not offer them a long-term contract. But that’s no longer a standard option in modern working environments.
Instead, people who want to freelance are looking for work in areas that they are passionate about and which pay well. The pay gap between people working full-time and people who freelance is not the same as it was a decade ago. Even with the increase in income for those working freelance, attitudes towards jobbing have shifted.
The employment climate has changed. These are complex times. Can work in the modern freelance world be a job?
“It’s a difficult question to answer and there is no easy answer,” Barton says. “Freelancers bring skills to the workplace and businesses have to value these skills.
“The majority of people who are freelance already have their own business and they just happen to be doing the work for someone else in the process,” she adds.
So is work in the modern freelance world a job?
According to Barton, it is. While some people may perceive freelance working as a step away from work, in fact the feeling is similar to a job.
“You do the same shift and it’s still your working life,” she says.
This is true not just for current freelancers but also for people who may consider, or even desire, a career change. If employers want to retain good employees, they have to look at how their employees can contribute without the need for a job.
“That’s an attractive thing, to know that you can be your own boss and still have a job,” Barton says.
And if someone wants to become self-employed, there are new aspects of the business landscape that become much more relevant.
“Working freelance is different now because the way that businesses are built and delivered has changed,” Barton says. “People now use cloud-based technology and data to deliver services.
“Is there a point in being self-employed when the team just has a laptop and a phone?”
The solution to re-building the employee/employer relationship
But freelancers have many unique characteristics.
“Freelancers are often great people to work with and they know how to run a business smoothly,” says Barton. “There is a number of very positive characteristics they have but it’s a matter of re-building that relationship.”
This “re-building the relationship” process goes beyond new processes, working practices and communication, though. It also includes a closer understanding of the benefits of freelancing for individuals.
“You have more flexibility and the flexibility comes from working on your own, that’s as much a driver as the workload,” says Barton.
Ultimately, the idea is to recognise that freelancers bring a lot to the work organisation and be flexible in the way they can use it.
“There is a huge opportunity for employers to tap into the talents and perspectives of their freelancers,” says Barton.