NHPF-Authored Articles & Industry Reports

Entrepreneur, December 18, 2018 “Don’t Try to Herd Cats”—and 4 Other Leadership Tips for the Gig Economy (continued)

“Breaking it up into micro tasks made it go quicker than one person could have possibly done it. Like with most gig assignments, the key is spending time to make the instructions very clear.” Particularly for technical skills in rapidly changing fields, like web design, and for creative skills that require a long time to master, like video animation, Tim Parsons, at 5:00 Films & Media, advises that it’s often a better investment to borrow those skills from “gigsters” on an as-needed basis. “It’s like being an orchestra conductor,” said Parsons of hiring freelancers for video production. “We don’t have the time to learn how to play every instrument; our job is to know when to call on which specialists in what order to create a unified whole.”

Independent contractor Syracuse said: “Some of my best jobs came about after a client and I developed a good rapport discussing industry trends and swapping advice.” Keep in touch with these shared connections so that when the need arises, you’ve got some good candidates in the wings.

Transition gig workers to full-time when it makes sense.

Much like the stand-out intern who “graduates” to full-time employment at a business, the indy worker who proves his or her mettle, melds into your culture and wants to make the switch, can and should be an ideal fit. After investing in each other for a good amount of time, this should be a low-risk, high-gain proposition for you both. Bonus: This employee can now help your organization hire—and manage—your next needed freelancer. Jeremy Driesen, president and CEO of Ray Bloch Productions, hires freelance help for a few different discrete jobs within his productions. Based on their performance, and their “fit,” he often offers them full-time jobs. Added BMF Media’s Starr: “While some prefer the flexibility and freedom of being a free agent, the pros— stability, financial security and desirable benefits—of a traditional workforce environment just may outweigh the cons.” In the final analysis, Driesen said that when putting together any team, “I don’t necessarily care what they studied in school or what jobs they’ve had. I care about character, work ethic, sense of mission; I need people who can’t get to sleep at night if there are any loose ends.” And aren’t those the characteristics of any good working team? As you formulate your next freelance hire, remember that, today, according to a study by Betterment, more than one in three workers is a freelancer. Company leaders can either ignore or mismanage these people at their peril—or embrace them and make them part of a successful business plan.

Create a culture that motivates . . . and respects.

It’s true that gig workers are entrepreneurial by nature and cherish independence, but they also want to share in the team spirit that guides any company to success. Lead your contingent workers the way you lead full-time staff. Share common goals and trumpet accomplishments with the entire team, regardless of their official employee status. Include your gig workers in staff meetings, social events and other appropriate gatherings. “It comes down to valuing all team members,” Bruce Starr, partner at BMF Media, told us. “We’re constantly seeking specialists who can be flexible to work on an influx of large-scale experiential assignments around the world,” he said. “We’ve had great success by always providing clear expectations of the role on both sides and treating these ‘free agents’ with all the respect we accord our traditional workforce. We find respect to be a tremendous motivator.” From a freelancer’s perspective, designer Lascaro also tied this notion of “respect” to pay. “We [independent workers] do not receive a weekly paycheck and would like to be paid in seven to 14 days instead of 30 to 90,” she said. “Those clients who pay immediately, upon completion of a job, rise to the top of my ‘want-to-work-with’ list.”

Leverage shared connections.

Networking is one of the great bonuses of dipping into the pool of “indy workers.” Once your company is on the radar of this talent sector, other qualified contractors will want to work with you. So, take advantage of your workers’ links and bring people in to chat, even if you’re not ready to commit.


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