Ukraine has a strong educational base that allows it to grow its tech industry by 26% annually. Each year, about 30,000 students graduate from technical universities in Ukraine. As of 2020, there were about 200,000 tech specialists working in the country including software developers, project managers, business analysts, quality assurance specialists, and other experts. Prior to the recent conflict, it was estimated that the Ukrainian market would increase to more than 250,000 tech workers by 2025.
WhatsApp, Grammarly, Gitlab and Solana were all founded or co-founded by Ukrainians, and Google, Samsung and Amazon all have research and development centres in the country. The country also has a robust freelance network with companies such as Upwork, Fiverr, Airbnb and others contracting Ukraine tech talent.
A 2018 survey by the International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency, estimated that up to 3% of the country’s workforce or as many as 500,000 Ukrainians were registered on web platforms. An Oxford report found that the country is the world’s seventh-largest supplier of online labour.
The Covid-19 pandemic may have pushed those numbers even higher.
Tech hubs are located in many Ukrainian cities we are now reading about in the headlines including Kyiv, Odessa, Dnipro, Lviv, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Chernihiv.
Since the Ukrainian war crisis began just weeks ago, offers of employment have started to flow in from tech companies around the world to the country’s citizens. Dozens of companies have posted over 500 job ads for tech roles on job sites such as Remote Ukraine, spun up to help tech firms around the world hire Ukrainians. While most of the companies posting are from Europe, companies in the U.S. and Canada are also participating. Roles are typically remote in nature allowing a person to work from anywhere, ranging from a Web3 developer to a senior 3D artist.
At JobBliss this crisis is intensely personal. Our partner dev team Binary Studio is located in Ukraine. Our friends/team members and their families’ welfare is constantly top of mind. Like others watching this crisis unfold from afar, we are shocked and want to do something. Eager to do our part to help, we reached out to our dev team to ask their advice.
Is there some way we can help Ukrainian technology workers affected by war find temporary or permanent jobs, maintain an income flow, or even relocate to another part of the world? (We should add most of our tech friends don’t want to leave, they just want to go home and to live in peace).
Here are some other resources we’ve compiled (we’ll continue to build this list out – feel free to message us on https://twitter.com/gojobbliss with verified links we can add.
For prospective employers
Work.ua is Ukraine’s largest job board https://www.work.ua/en/
Dou – a popular source of Ukrainian IT and tech jobs https://jobs.dou.ua/
Remote Ukraine – Remote Ukraine is a charity helping refugees find jobs remoteukraine.org
JobBliss – Freelancer and Contractor marketplace https://jobbliss.com
For current employers
To help get your people paid this is National Bank of Ukraine accounts https://bank.gov.ua/en/news/all/natsionalniy-bank-vidkriv-spetsrahunok-dlya-zboru-koshtiv-na-potrebi-armiyi
Some guidance for supporting Ukrainian employees
For those wanting to offer housing, medical, humanitarian and other support for Ukrainian refugees
Ukraine Take Shelter is offering housing assistance for Ukrainian refugees. Find it here
People in Need is providing humanitarian aid to over 200,000 people on the ground. For those most in need, they provide food packages, emergency shelter, safe access to drinking water, hygiene items, and coal for heating. Donate here.
The Ukrainian Red Cross does loads of humanitarian work, from aiding refugees to training doctors. Donate here.
The International Medical Corps is on the front lines and prepared to help citizens with emergency health care services, as well as mental health and psychosocial support. The agency is also keeping the pandemic top of mind throughout the crisis by prioritising COVID-19 awareness and prevention services, to help keep displaced citizens safe from the pandemic. Donate here.
CARE is responding to the crisis by providing Ukrainians in need with food, hygiene kits, psychosocial support services, access to water, and access to cash. Donate here.
Nova Ukraine is a nonprofit that delivers aid packages to Ukraine with everything from baby food and hygiene products, to clothes and household supplies. Donate here.
UNICEF is repairing schools damaged by the bombings and providing emergency response to children affected by the conflict. Donate here.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has stepped up its operations and is working with governments in neighbouring countries “calling on them to keep borders open to those seeking safety and protection.” You can help support the UNHCR’s work supporting refugees by donating here, and take action here to send a tweet urging governments and businesses to support the United Nations’ urgent appeal for $1.7 billion to deliver life-saving humanitarian support.
OutRight Action International is helping to support LGBTQ+ groups and organisations on the ground, setting up shelters and providing safety for citizens. All donations made to OutRight will go directly to the cause. You can donate here.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is deploying emergency operations in Ukraine and surrounding countries to provide food assistance to those fleeing the conflict. Donate here.
Save the Children is working with partners to respond to meet the urgent needs of affected children and their families. It’s ready to provide life-saving assistance, such as food, water, cash transfers, and safe places for children as people flee amid freezing temperatures and brutal conditions, and to scale up operations to ensure children impacted by the crisis have the support they need. Find out more and donate here.
SOS Children’s Villages has worked in Ukraine since 2003 and is coordinating an emergency response to support families who are living in the conflict areas and those who have been internally displaced. Find out more and donate here.
Mercy Corps is mobilising a team to the region to assess where help is most needed, and is anticipating providing emergency cash assistance, as well as supporting local organisations that know their community needs best. Between 2015 and 2017, Mercy Corps provided humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine, reaching more than 200,000 people with emergency cash, food, water, and sanitation supplies, small business development grants, restoring war-damaged homes and more. Find out more and donate here.
Medical Teams International is fundraising to send medical supplies to the region, with all proceeds going towards sending medicines and/or medical supplies. Learn more and donate here.
The World Health Organisation Foundation is raising funds for WHO’s Health Emergency Appeal for Ukraine. An estimated $57.5 million must be raised to deliver urgent physical and mental health care to the 18 million people in Ukraine needing urgent humanitarian assistance, and more than 4 million refugees who’ll need protection and assistance in the coming months. You can donate here, and share the WHO Foundation’s call for donations on your own social media, including Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Alight is a humanitarian nonprofit that has sent teams of emergency response workers to Poland to assist with the burgeoning refugee population by helping to meet all of their material and psychosocial needs. You can donate here.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is on the front lines of the world’s conflicts, natural disasters, and other crises, helping people recover from extreme hardship and put their lives back together. The IRC currently has a team dispatched to Poland that’s helping to provide food, medical care, and emergency support services to families who fled Ukraine amid the violence. You can donate here.
Team Rubicon mobilises its highly skilled volunteers to help people prepare, respond, and recover from disasters and humanitarian crises. As a World Health Organisation Emergency Medical Team mobile unit, Team Rubicon has sent a small team to Poland, including physicians with expertise in paediatrics and maternal and reproductive health care. Donate here to help Team Rubicon rapidly respond to meet humanitarian needs.
Direct Relief is working directly with Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and other on-the-ground partners to provide urgently needed medical aid, including emergency response packs intended for first responders, oxygen concentrators, critical care medicines, and much more. Donate here.
For those wanting to monitor news on the ground in the country
We’re all hoping that there is a quick and peaceful end to this terrible conflict.
🇺🇦 Ukraine Strong!
❤️ Angie and the JobBliss team
More people than ever are turning to freelancing as a career. According to recent data, the overall number of independent workers in the United States rose 34% in 2021, to 55.1 million from 38.2 million in 2020. Driven by the great resignation and the global pandemic, more people are choosing freelancing as a career option for its flexibility, variety and work-life balance.
If you are just embarking upon your career as an independent contractor, consultant or freelancer, here’s a handy checklist built with ❤️ from JobBliss, designed to help you build a successful business from day one.
Get out there and slay people!
Angie and the JobBliss team
Marketing Your Freelance Business
It’s really about considering the ‘P’s of marketing (Product, Price, Positioning, Place, Promotion, People)
- Decide on your company name (it’s ok just to operate under your own name if that’s what you want)
- Decide on your pricing and business model
- Build out a listing of services and consider the packaging of service offerings – what you will and won’t do
- Establish a partner network to round out your solution offerings and fully serve your clients
- Decide on what markets you want to serve (languages, geographies, industries)
- Set up your social channels and start building audience and engagement
- Establish or build out your LinkedIn profile
- Let your existing network know what you are doing and the services you offer (they WILL be your first clients!)
- Engage with and continually build your network weekly or even daily
- Showcase your work for clients and your subject-matter expertise
- Build a corporate identity and brand for your new business
- Logo, colour palette
- Actively participate in local and digital networking forums
- Lead every client discussion with value
- Play the long game – don’t nickel and dime your valued clients
- Join associations relevant to your profession
- Join your local Chamber of Commerce
- Join freelance marketplaces like JobBliss – look for those that honour your fee structure, don’t take a cut of your rate, don’t get between you and your client
Managing Your Freelance Business
You are going into business for yourself – time to get serious about running it right!
- Decide if you are going to operate as a sole proprietor, incorporated business etc.
- Surround yourself with great business support:
- Lawyer – look for those who specialise in small business
- Bookkeeper – look for those who specialise in small business
- Accounting firm – look for those who specialise in small business
- Get a tax number
- Set up business banking account(s) including tax accounts (income and taxes collected) and pay into them religiously
- Set aside a rainy day fund to cover off income should you become ill or want to take a vacation
- Consider implementing a payroll system
- Understand what you can, and can’t ‘write off’ for your business. Phone, gas, equipment – speak to your accountant to understand the rules
- Plan out how you will save and record your purchase receipts. There are helpful online tools that make it easy to simply take a picture of your receipts, but find a system that works for you
- Invest in an invoicing/small business accounting platform and a project management tool as the foundation for running your business
- Consider putting in place a personal insurance policy to cover you, your family and your future employees – hint your local Chamber of Commerce often has a small business insurance package
- Invoice promptly and establish clear terms of engagement and payment
Managing Your Freelance Client Relationships
It is 80% easier to win new business from an existing client and their referral is like gold. Treat them well.
- Maintain regular contact with your existing and past clients
- Make sure clients are aware of all the services you offer – don’t get typecast or pigeon-holed
- Use a freelance management platform like JobBliss to communicate the status of projects/assigned work underway and to build exposure to other prospective employers. Feel free to recommend JobBliss to your clients – we have a free trial and it will make YOUR life and THEIRS better.
- Make sure you have your client’s permission before bragging about your work for them
- Follow and engage with your clients and their managers on social media
- Say thank you and honor referrals for new work with a small gift, handwritten note, personal video
- Be responsive to their needs and put the emphasis on great customer service
- If you are increasing your rates, honor pricing for existing clients
More people than ever are turning to freelancing as a career. According to recent data, the overall number of independent workers in the United States rose 34% in 2021, to 55.1 million from 38.2 million in 2020. Driven by the great resignation and the global pandemic, more people are choosing freelancing as a career option for its flexibility, variety and work-life balance. Freelancer demographics are also changing, with the freelance profession attracting more millennials (64%) and women (55%).
Overwhelmingly, people who choose freelancing for a living are happier. 84% of freelancers say they are happier working independently, 78% feel healthier because of this career decision, and 2 out of 3 contingent workers feel more secure than traditional workers.
Freelance roles in high demand
Job site Upwork defines skilled freelancers as those “that indicate that their current freelance work entails selling skilled services.” These skilled freelancers include programmers, writers, designers, IT and other professionals who have a college degree or the experience to back up their qualifications. According to Upwork, In 2021, 53% of freelancers qualified as skilled, and the number of skilled individuals choosing to freelance for a living has risen sharply, up 50% from 2020 to 2021 with numbers continuing to climb.
JobBliss is also seeing a significant rise in demand for C# and full stack developers from its employer customers as companies increase their investment in custom software solutions to launch new business units and increase their innovation.
Getting started building a freelance business
Getting started with a freelance career might mean a big bold leap for some. For others, it might constitute a gradual transition into a full-time freelancing career, through part-time gigs and side hacks. Whichever direction you opt to take, building a successful career as a freelancer is not quite as simple as hanging out your shingle and hoping clients turn up at your door – even for the most skilled and talented of individuals. Working for oneself certainly requires talent, but it also takes grit, hustle and a degree of personal motivation and organization in order to achieve a successful long-term freelance career. The best freelancers also know it takes good preparation and planning. They understand they are building a business and put in place the appropriate structures and tools to manage that business efficiently and effectively.
To that end, the team here at JobBliss has assembled some helpful advice and resources for those embarking or building a freelance career.
Finding freelance work
Marketing yourself and your skillset doesn’t come easily to all, but it is an important part of the freelance job. Some are lucky and jump into freelancing with an existing, established network that they can tap into using professional social networking sites like LinkedIn. Marketing yourself on the LinkedIn platform is really the digital version of networking. It’s about building the right kind of contacts, engaging with them on a frequent basis. keeping them apprised of your plans, and showcasing your expertise, current project successes, skills and portfolio of work. People like to work with those they know, like and trust, so making your existing contacts, including former employers and colleagues aware of your freelance ambitions is a great place to get your career going.
While it is very common for skilled professionals in the corporate world to work with a recruiter, those who wish to freelance for a living might have a different experience. It is a good to talk to your recruiter to better understand the rules around being introduced to clients and what the implications and rules may be around long-term contractual commitments between you and your favorite clients.
For those who are younger and may have less of an established network, you can turn to freelance marketplaces to land your first gig. Sites like UpWork, Fivver , Guru, Freelancer and TopTotal allow prospective clients to post jobs and for freelancers to showcase their work. These sites have great critical mass, but do tend to be quite price-sensitive, and while talent is ranked and rated, it lacks that true warm referral that can only come from a first-degree network contact. Freelancers seeking work on these platforms also have to be careful to vett clients seeking their skills. All great that work is coming your way, but is the client reputable? Do they have a good track record in managing freelance talent? Will they pay for work rendered, on time and at the rate you charge? These are all very real considerations for those who depend on freelancing for their livelihood. Just as employers like to work with those they like, know and trust, so do freelancers. It’s a huge confidence builder to know your work is coming from a very warm referral or connection.
As part of its freelance management platform, JobBliss offers its own marketplace for freelance talent targeted at the more skilled, established segment of the contingent workforce. Employers can opt to keep their talent marketplace private (for only their company staff to see) or public (allowing others to view and engage talent). Freelancers can join for free. Unlike other marketplaces that often force freelancers into jobs that offer pennies on the dollar, JobBliss ensures skilled freelancers command the respect and top dollar rates according to their expertise and experience, so you don’t end up in client relationships where your worth is devalued. Nor does JobBliss take a cut of a freelancer’s rates as other marketplaces do. In fact we don’t make money off a freelancer at all. JobBliss’s primary customer audience is focused on the employer and our mission is to make the client/freelance relationship better. So for freelancers who join our community it is all about helping those individuals gain exposure across organizations they already work with, and find new employers via the marketplace. Once a freelancer starts working with companies, they can use JobBliss to message HR and hiring managers, develop a paper trail associated with projects and maintain a direct connection with their clients. And we’re now adding additional features for invoicing and calendar management to make life even easier for freelancers so they don’t have to use multiple tools to interact and do business with clients.
Freelance billing, accounting and taxation
To win freelance work, you need to provide a client with a scope of work and an estimate. This means sorting out how you will bill for the work you render. Are you billing on an hourly basis? If so, how much are you charging? Does that hourly rate change based on the service rendered? Are you better suited to project work, that has a beginning or end to it and a flat rate charge? Do you prefer a more consulting-type engagement where you are “owned” by the client for a duration of time, or can you manage multiple client projects in parallel? All are important considerations when establishing your freelance business. There are many solutions available to freelancers and small business owners to manage the estimation, proposal, and invoicing process, such as Freshbooks, Wave, Simply Bill, Quickbooks and Invoicely – all with varying capabilities and pricing options depending on your needs and business model.
For those planning to dedicate themselves to a full-time freelancing career, it’s a very good idea to get yourself a great small business accounting firm, a skilled bookkeeper and a taxation number. In Canada, if your business has revenue in excess of $30,000 in four consecutive calendar quarters, you have to register for a GST/HST number with the Canada Revenue Agency and tax rates vary across provinces. In the United States, small businesses are required to get an Employer Identification Number and they will be taxed according to the business model they set up. In Europe countries abide by the Value Added Tax, which has its own rules that freelancers and small business owners should understand. Small business accounting systems cited above all help freelancers tack taxes onto their fees, and some have robust reporting to show what taxes have been charged and collected. It’s always a good idea to check with your accountant if you plan to have clients and deliver services outside of your own provincial/state/country jurisdiction.
A final gotcha from your friendly accounting department. That first year of freelancing can be a heady thing, especially if you land those first big client contracts and start pulling in revenue. But for those who are accustomed to working for an employer, all that income remains untaxed. It’s just too darned easy to forget to set aside a percentage of income for taxes only to get hit with a whopping income tax bill at year-end. So, make sure you establish a tax bank account and pay into it religiously. If you plan to grow your team (even a little bit) set yourself and your business up on a small business payroll system like Quickbooks, Zenefits or Wagepoint and Dext is great for collecting, documenting invoices and receipts. It will save your bacon come tax time.
Managing freelance projects and client relationships
Established freelancers who freelance for a full-time living recognize that success comes from being organized and from managing and maintaining strong, long-term client relationships. That means keeping the communication flowing between yourself and the client. Transparency on both sides is vital. Those freelancers who are part of the JobBliss platform find it much easier to maintain solid client relationships because employers can see what projects they are assigned to, the status of work in progress, and can access information about freelancers such as their specific skills, credentials and employer ratings. This often results in more work for the freelancer because the information JobBliss provides establishes a strong level of pre-qualification. Freelancers who have the ability to connect with employers through a freelance management platform tend to feel more confident in their client relationship, have a better sightline into future work, and get more exposure to other managers who can supply a continuous pipeline of new work. Freelancers also use tools like Slack to communicate with their clients, Calendly and Zoom to book and host client meetings, DropBox and Google Drive for work sharing, and project management tools such as Asana, Trello and Basecamp to stay organized and adhere to deadlines and a project’s critical path.
Freelancing can be a rewarding and lucrative career for many, especially those who are entrepreneurs at heart. Why not take the first step in your freelance career? Check out our Getting Started In Freelancing Checklist and join JobBliss’s free freelancer and contractor marketplace today and put yourself and your skills out there into the market.
Are you doing all you can to keep top freelancer talent happy and ‘warm’ on the bench? As companies pivot and drive demand for unique professional skill sets, dependency on freelancers and a contingent workforce is growing. In fact, according to recent data from Upwork, 73% of hiring managers indicate they plan to continue or increase their use of independent professional freelancers.
But that said, the way we’re managing those contingent workers has not evolved.
Recent data captured from JobBliss users shows that managers still rely on email, manual spreadsheet methods and piecemeal tools to find, engage and manage their valuable freelance talent. This old-school style of management leads to poor transparency, insufficient capacity and ability to execute, cost leakage and inability (on both sides) to plan for future work.
Furthermore, demand for highly skilled freelancers — especially in hot areas such as programming, UI/UX development, web design, social media video marketing, content writing and graphic design — is growing leaps and bounds. Top freelancers can pick and choose their work and command premium rates. So employers who depend on that freelance talent for project execution and who want to work with the best need to bring their A-game.
So what are some of the fatal mistakes employers make when managing their freelance talent?
Mistake #1 – Nickel and dime them
There is a reason that one freelancer will write 1,000 words of content for five dollars and another can charge $1000 for the same. It comes down to skill and quality of work. On the surface, dipping into the Fiverr talent pool looks tempting and for the inexperienced may seem like a rocking good deal, especially compared to a freelancer who is commanding much higher hourly rates. But the experienced manager will understand that it is not the hourly rate that matters.
An experienced, highly skilled freelancer will be able to deliver quality work back faster and with less oversight. It might shock you how efficiently they work because they have the required experience and skills.
Hire an inexperienced, less qualified or unknown freelancer and you may end up spending your time babysitting, slogging through multiple rounds of revision and re-doing poorly executed work. And that cheap hourly rate they are charging adds up. Or god forbid the person doing the work ghosts you and the project, leaving you in the lurch and trying to backfill.
I mean do you have time for that?
So do you want it fast and well done? That’s not going to be cheap. Do you want it cheap and fast? Well, expect the work to be poor in quality.
As the saying goes, you get what you pay for…
Now that said, there’s nothing wrong with doing due diligence regarding a freelancer’s proposed rate, especially if it is on the high end. That’s a jumping-off point for a conversation about their approach and the skills that justify that price tag. And you can verify the quality of their work by speaking with references and by reviewing their portfolio. Using a freelance management platform like JobBliss solves that problem easily because you can review the individual profiles of freelancers, compare rates and skills and see past project performance.
Mistake #2 – Have a bad business rap
The world is pretty small really and great freelancers have a strong network. Over my career in working with freelancers, some of my best talent has come through referrals from other freelancers who knew me, liked my company, liked the work. It’s similar in traditional employment circles. Despite what your website might say about your glorious employer brand, the reviews on GlassDoor tell the real truth. And the same goes for working with freelancers. Be assured, they are talking to their colleagues about your company and getting the real truth on what it is like to work for your organization. If you have a reputation for nickel and diming freelancers. If you treat your contingent workers poorly, If you don’t pay on time and don’t cover their out-of-pocket expenses, or you try to negotiate down their invoices at the time of payment, you are going to build one heck of a bad rap in the business.
Over my career in employing and working with freelancers, some of my very best talent has come through word-of-mouth referrals. Freelancers will offer up a colleague because they work well with them and they make a great team. So having a strong word-of-mouth reputation can go a long way in helping you build your contingent workforce bench.
So, don’t mistreat your freelancers. Advocate for them within your organization, Lead your internal team in relationship building, so they don’t feel threatened and understand the value that comes from external fresh thinking. Make sure, if your freelancers are working for others, that they are treated across your organization (hint: JobBliss can help here as well). Make sure finance pays their invoices on time. Don’t be territorial. Refer them to others in your network. Pick up the phone. Send an email. Let them know you care.
Mistake #3 – Treat them like mushrooms
I happen to love a good mushroom. They are tasty. They are medicinal. And in the opinion of some, they are the root of interconnected wellbeing. They are fascinating fungi. But to treat your valued freelancer as a mushroom means that you keep them in the dark and feed them $&*#.
Why would you do that?
According to our research at JobBliss, many freelancers cite feeling like an outsider as one of their top ten issues when working with clients. Contingent workers, by admission, are a very important and growing part of our workforce. These individuals should be accorded the same respect one gives to their internal employees. They contribute far more to you than simply a set of arms and legs required for execution. Senior, skilled freelancers bring perspective gained from serving multiple clients. They offer up fresh ideas, creativity and strategic thinking that can help your people grow and thrive. So to keep them on the outside of your organization seems foolish. In my UI/UX business my team enjoys a peer-like relationship with our client’s internal team members. We are considered a valuable extension of their talent. We are often brought in on and collaborate on planning. They regularly poll us for perspective and input on decisions. As a result, we can deliver better and more fully on our mandate. And we feel valued. That keeps the relationship on both sides strong and reciprocal.
Even if you don’t have a clear picture of what the future holds, and what projects will be greenlighted, I would encourage you to regularly communicate with your valued contingent workers. Check in on them. Get a handle on their current workload situation. Share with them your forecast (to the best of your ability – and FYI JobBliss can help with that) and just let them know that when it comes to future work, they are at the top of your list. It is not uncommon in our industry for a client to pay a low-level retainer to a freelancer or outsourced firm to “hold their place in line” for future work. This way, a team is continually engaged and kept warm and on the bench. It also means when the client’s project is greenlighted, those contingent workers are able to come up to speed and are ready to work sooner.
Mistake #4 – Give them only the boring stuff to do
Look, everyone has to do boring stuff now and then. That’s just the reality of life. But if you believe you can retain and engage a highly skilled freelancer by giving them the work that always falls to the bottom of your to-do list because YOU find it tedious, well you are likely going to accomplish two things. One, you are likely contributing to that bad rap we all want to avoid. Word will get around that you don’t value or use your top freelance talent to their full capacity. And two, you and your team will lose out because you aren’t tapping into the tremendous value and perspective senior contingent workers have to offer and that freelancer is likely to say no to your next project. I find it a crying shame that managers disregard or de-value the senior-level talent at their fingertips. Just because these individuals are not on staff full-time does not mean that they don’t care about your business or your project’s success. They chose to go into freelancing because they like problem-solving and interesting work. And because they often have many years of industry experience and skill, you can sit back and relax a little if you just let them contribute in a fulsome way. You and your team don’t know it all. And that’s ok. By surrounding yourself with a team of brilliant advisors who also can execute, your projects will go better, you and your team will get all the glory and heck ya, you just might get that promotion you’ve been bucking for.
If you are making any or all of these mistakes, you may be doing a better job of driving top freelancers away versus attracting them to work on your projects. Everyone’s looking for this kind of top talent these days. The freelancers you work with are likely working with six, eight, ten other companies and potentially your competitors. If they are getting better treatment elsewhere, guess who they’ll be choosing to work for next time?
Curious to know more about JobBliss and how it can help you avoid these fatal freelance management mistakes? Guess what, you can try it for free for 30 days. What are you waiting for?
Your project is finally greenlighted. You have the budget and a timeline. And you put in a call to your favorite freelancer to get things rolling, only to find out that your A player — the freelancer you KNOW can get the job done — isn’t available. Call it a contingent workforce fail.
So now what?
It’s an all too familiar story for those of us who depend on contingent workers to deliver on our project commitments. We do our best to plan ahead and find great freelancers who understand our business and who consistently deliver high quality.
But project planning by its nature has an element of uncertainty to it. We never quite know when that project approval will arrive. And these days, we can’t always count on talent being available when we need it. Top-notch freelancers aren’t sitting around waiting on our call. They are in demand and have other clients.
And unfortunately, when those top freelancers are unavailable we rarely have a plan B to turn to. So you end up scrambling to backfill the role/job, calling around, posting to Linkedin, or (gasp!) settling for a freelancer you know isn’t half as good.
You need contingent workers. Do they need you?
According to Gartner research, 32% of surveyed organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure. Business spending in the contingent workforce area rose 22.8% year over year. Whether it is by choice or by necessity due to the current labour shortage caused by the Great Resignation, employers now rely on contingent workers to get #4%@ done.
But freelancers are by nature free agents. They get to choose the jobs they take on and the clients they work with. They don’t have to settle and with the volume of demand for their skills rising, they can have the luxury of saying no. To attract and retain top freelance talent and to be the client EVERYONE wants to work for, employers must up their talent management game as it relates to the contingent workforce. This means improving the way you plan for and resource future work and the way you manage your contingent workers.
Most employers of contingent workers will admit to using a mix of tools to manage projects and their freelance resources. There’s the good old management by spreadsheet strategy. But that doesn’t show you who is available, or who is working on what. It’s basically just an inventory of freelancers and their contact information. There are tools like Trello or Slack or Monday which kind of sort of help managers control the flow of work and a freelancer’s relationship to a project and to that manager. Again these are point solutions.
Valuable freelancer data is trapped in silos and spreadsheets
The problem with all of these tools is that this very valuable information is siloed and “owned” at the manager level. There’s zero visibility or sharing between managers. There’s no sharing of freelancer information or ranking of their performance. So for an organization that heavily uses freelancers, information is duplicated over and over again, hoarded and is full of duplication and contradiction.
Take for instance a publisher that has a heavy reliance on freelance writers. Every editor has their own list of freelancers. There are probably duplicate resources on that list as the good writers are likely working for multiple editors and other publishers. With information trapped in individual editor’s spreadsheets or contact databases the organization never is able to fully capitalize on that freelance talent by sharing with that resource a complete pipeline of upcoming work. And if the freelancer has no visibility into that forthcoming work, they go find work elsewhere.
This challenge is even more greatly magnified in industries such as tech agencies who have a heavy dependence on freelance software developers, UX design experts and such. Here, project managers often have to match up freelancers with specific technical skill sets to the work at hand. Lack of visibility into the availability and expertise of talent undermines the business’s ability to take on new client work with confidence, which in turn limits growth. And because demand for technical talent is high, the risk of churn on a project is high. The loss of a freelancer can set a project schedule back by weeks.
A freelance management tool purpose-built for the job
So how can employers improve their project forecasting and resourcing and better manage their valuable freelance resources? It comes down to using the right tool purpose-built for the job that allows you to build a bench of talent that is pre-vetted, monitored for availability and shared across the organization. A freelance management platform such as JobBliss is designed for this purpose. Similar to the way customer relationship management evolved and improved an organization’s visibility into sales activity providing the business with a total roll-up view it’s aggregate sales pipeline, a freelance management system becomes a centralized solution for managing a business’ contingent workforce. Managers can look across the entire organization, find pre-vetted talent to fill their bench and backfill in times of need. They’ll know if the resource is available, and they can engage them in a streamlined way. They can also come together as a team to build a funnel of demand and a forecast of resource need that allows the entire organization to better attract and retain high-quality freelance talent.
Just imagine how the relationship dynamic with a valuable freelancer would change if you could sit down with that individual and with confidence let them know that they are valued by your organization, that there is a steady flow of work coming their way and that they are the first call you’d make when projects are greenlighted.
Just imagine with a clearer picture of your contingent workforce how your organization’s approach to planning, forecasting might change. With a solid bench of vetted performers at your disposal and their availability well understood, you’d likely find yourself taking on more projects or clients with confidence. You never have to resort to costly recruiters to find talent in a pinch.
And because you are organized, can commit to them in the way they commit to you, you earn the loyalty of the very best freelancers in the business. In short, you become the one they all want to work for.
Tips for getting started on building your contingent workforce bench
- Get your team on the same page in terms of your freelance management strategy. Bring together your operations lead, your hiring managers, folks who do recruiting or talent resourcing and your finance folk together. Now is the time for everyone to see the benefit of a consolidated view into the contingent workforce and the benefits of building a bench. Time to get rid of fiefdoms and the culture of resource hoarding. This is for the greater good of the organization.
- Create a preliminary, consolidated forecast of contingent workforce demand. Take a best guess at the number and nature of projects, the duration of work and the skill sets involved. It won’t be perfect but it will be better than nothing. And know that in time a freelance management system will help aggregate this information so your forecasting will become more accurate.
- Build a consolidated inventory of your contingent workforce army. Be prepared to be surprised by the duplication and by the wealth of riches you didn’t even know you had. It may also expose some gaps in skills or talent that you can then resource against.
- Share your forecasts with your valued freelancers. Let them know they are valued, that their loyalty to you will be rewarded and that there’s a pipeline of work available and coming their way. You’d be surprised by the trust this builds.
- Follow the rule of 10 when building your bench. For example, if you think you’ll need one .net developer this year, go out and build a bench of 10 of all levels.
- Maintain a regular dialogue with your top freelancers, giving them insight into the kind of projects you’ll be looking for to keep them in the loop and excited about working with you.
- And remember to just touch base to say hi and to let them know that this relationship is important to you. It’s time to start treating your top contingent workers in the same way you treat your internal talent superstars.
Is 2022 your year for building a contingent workforce bench? The good news is, the talent and information you need to make that happen may be hidden right under your nose – trapped away in your manager’s spreadsheets.
Time to go mining for gold. Try JobBliss.
Whether it’s the Great Resignation driving workers out of the office or a general awakening amongst employees to follow their bliss, the contingent workforce is growing as freelancing becomes an increasingly attractive option for many. According to recent data by Upwork, 20% of the US population — 10 million people are considering a professional move to freelancing work, and 2 million of those individuals have begun freelancing during the last year.
This shift toward the gig economy (which includes Uber drivers and Etsy sellers but also professional freelancers and fractional executives) was already in play before the global pandemic. However, it has accelerated over the past two years. In the pre-pandemic booming job market, individuals were traditionally attracted to freelancing because of its flexibility and variety. However, over the last year, two million more Americans have entered the contingent workforce out of necessity, as employers shed full-time jobs in response to the COVID-19 crisis. In addition, professionals who are initially forced into remote work have come to appreciate the work-from-home lifestyle. In fact, according to the Upwork survey, 34% of remote workers are not excited about returning to the office. And of the two million who began freelancing this year, 73% cited a reluctance to return to the office as the primary driver.
So what does this mean for businesses who rely on a contingent workforce to get the job done?
On one hand, one would assume more freelancers entering the market would mean supply exceeds demand. But demand is very (VERY) high. Over 90% of companies depend on freelancers and plan to increase their use. According to research conducted by Robert Half and Associates, 38% of surveyed companies said they’re hiring more independent contractors, and 45% said freelancers already make up more than half their workforce. And while the US is still in the lead when it comes to freelancer dependency, other parts of the globe such as India, Latin America and China now have a widening talent gap. Tech talent, such as front-end developers, user-experience and digital marketing experts, and system security managers are in the highest demand, with finance and administrative experts also experiencing strong demand.
It is also true that not everyone who decides to freelance is cut out to be successful as a freelancer. The A-players are still the A-players and they are in heavy demand. A survey of more than 1900 freelancers across 30 countries conducted by the Agile Talent Collaborative in partnership with the University of Toronto found that 60% or more of freelancers have enough or too much work, report satisfying relationships with clients, say they’ll meet their financial goals, and remain committed to freelancing. So it’s not just a matter of employers choosing freelancers and contingent workers. Freelancers — especially those with successful track records, years of experience and unique talent — are choosing YOU.
So how does the employer/contingent worker dynamic have to change to adapt to an economic shift where businesses are more dependent than ever on high-value contractors? It boils down to a few things. First, the employer mindset needs to change from a transactional form of engagement toward a relationship built on mutual value and respect. Second, employers need to adopt a longer-term view and build a contingent workforce talent bench. And finally, in lockstep, the systems and processes for managing non-full-time talent need to evolve to align with this new way of work
It’s about talent, not transactions
While the contingent worker marketplace has undergone swift and dramatic change in the last year or so, the way employers engage and manage freelancers is still built on an old-school, archaic full-time job business model.
Freelancers and their services are either regarded as a transactional commodity by their employers (I need something from you, I get it and you leave), or, freelancers are basically owned body and soul. They are incorporated so completely into the company that they are as close to a full-time employee as it gets.
Right now, it seems to be one or the other. But just as the nature of work has evolved quickly into a hybrid model, the employer/contingent worker relationship also needs to evolve in a more hybrid way.
First and foremost, employers need to recognize, value and manage external contingent workforce talent in the same way they recognize, value and manage internal talent. In short, if you want high-quality external expertise, you’ve got to pay their rates. Now, the prices freelancers demand for their services sometimes give employers sticker shock. However, what people need to understand is that professional freelancers bring knowledge and speed and industry insights to your team that you just don’t have in your full-times. According to a report by Talent Alpha, more than 67% of enterprises believe they are challenged with an acute shortage of qualified applicants with requisite skills. And close to 60% of enterprises state that the existing workforce lacks technical skills, given the pace of technology change. Contributing factors include rising attrition rates, lack of internal project readiness and a fast-changing skills landscape.
But the shift in this mindset has to come top down. Organizations need to budget for it. They need to recognize that their full-time people are doing a full-time job and that if they want them to have fresh insights they need to have a library of talent to turn to. So the perception of the contingent workforce needs to change. A contingent workforce doesn’t exist just to deal with a problem that might be in front of you, but create a lasting support system that is available on-demand and gets better the more you access it. This is where unfortunately a lot of the losses lie for employers. From invoicing disputes and constantly onboarding people and using students because they’re cheaper (but take five times longer to do the job and need constant babysitting), businesses who take a short-sighted transactional approach to their contingent workforce end up losing more than they gain.
Build a contingent workforce talent bench
In my conversations with clients, I’ve asked them “Have you ever thought about building a bench, where if you need one writer, or developer, or finance pro you line up ten? And everyone on the bench is a true pro – very capable, very experienced.
Employers need to come to terms with the fact that great people with experience and talent are hot commodities. And they are not always going to be available. So if you are treating that freelancer as if they are a full-time employee (“I love this person, that’s the only person that I ever want around), you may soon find yourself in a lurch. However this type of bench-strength business model can’t be enabled unless everybody in the company from operations to the people who are getting the job done, to the freelancers themselves, agree on the way they want to engage, value and manage talent that lies outside the four walls of the business. The approach needs to be consistent.
Systems and processes for managing contingent workers need to evolve
If we’re going to create a new model where everybody — talent from inside and outside the organization — is working together with the same goal, then we’re going to need to adapt to new technologies. Because right now, due to the archaic way we manage our contingent workforce (manual methods and cobbled together antiquated tools such as Excel, Jira, Trello, Confluence) your time and resources are being wasted and your money is bleeding out.
I originally started JobBliss because I saw this pain first hand and I wanted to help freelancers. I wanted to remove the recruiter fees from freelancers and help them get more work and just connect them with prospective clients. And that seemed like a great idea at the time. But the more I spoke to the market, the more I realized that the REALLY big problem is that companies don’t know how to work with or manage their contingent workforce. So we have to solve that problem first before we get freelancers connected to more companies. We need to make it easier for people to find the right talent with the right skills at the right time so we eliminate the horsetrading that currently happens. We need to organize that working relationship better so everyone — freelancer included — knows the status of work, where there’s excess capacity and availability and has a sight line into the future. This will allow the business to grow proactively versus reacting and scrambling. It will give contractors more confidence in their client relationship. And we’ll be able to use real metrics to track performance and activity and forecast the future with confidence.
When the ebb and flow on the organization side and the ebb and flow on the contractor side actually meet up and are in sync, that’s where explosive ideas and innovation and shit gets done and done beautifully. I’ve seen it when it works and when it doesn’t. Our ambition at JobBliss is to see that happen as the rule versus the exception.
Interested in hearing how JobBliss can help you get off of spreadsheet management and better manage your growing contingent workforce? Let’s chat or try JobBliss for free.