The speed of a startup with the scale of an enterprise: Sounds dreamy, right? But how can companies achieve it?

In short: freelance talent.

As Venture L co-founder and CEO Matthew Mottola said in his keynote at YPO Innovation Week 2019 (back in the day when speeches could happen in front of a live audience – remember that?), “You can’t afford to ignore freelancers.

We know this, Venture L knows this, Matt knows this… and, as it turns out, many companies of all sizes know it, too. 

So, when these organizations decide not to ignore freelancers, how does that actually work? Let’s walk through the steps and see how it can help you provide better working relationships and better outcomes.

1. Who hires freelancers? 

You could probably sit down and think of a thousand different cases where someone might hire a freelancer.

There’s the obvious ‘gig economy’ situations, often connecting via apps: an Uber driver, InstaCart shopper, someone from TaskRabbit to fix your shelves, etc.

There’s also the individual side, where you might personally hire someone to help redo your resume, teach you a new language, or design your wedding invitation.

Then, there’s the business side, where all types and sizes of companies hire freelancers for just about every job or project you could imagine.

Many believe that freelancers are only hired by startups or smaller companies, and while this is definitely not untrue (example: Venture L runs on freelancers!), it is a limiting misconception. 

Countless major companies – even those with a strong, “regular” workforce – also bring in freelancers. For example, here are a few big time freelance hirers

  • Nintendo
  • Wal-Mart
  • Bloomberg
  • Conde Nast
  • Expedia
  • Shutterfly

Some of these giants, including a majority of Silicon Valley companies – think Google, Facebook, Amazon, Uber, and many more – could even be considered majority contingent, meaning over half their workers are temps, contractors, or come from agencies.

It’s pretty obvious that all of us at Venture L think freelancers are kickass experts and more businesses should be hiring them, but let’s talk through some of the reasons why many actually choose to do so.

2. Why do companies hire freelancers?

TL;DR: Companies hire freelancers to get sh*t done. 

This ‘why’ breaks down into two major reasons:

They don’t have the talent they need. 

This could be because they can’t afford or attract the top talent, or because the working team doesn’t have the bandwidth for the talent required.

They need to compete. 

Startups can do in months what takes large companies years to achieve – and cloud technology has enabled them to scale up even faster, surpassing giants quicker than ever before. Hiring freelancers is one way they can compete on speed, quality, and cost efficiency:  

  • Speed: Cutting a timeline from 20 to 5.4 days
  • Quality: Hyper-relevant expertise on any needed subject matter
  • Cost: 50 – 90% cheaper than traditional labor/hiring

Both of these were summed up perfectly by Liane Scult, the first ever freelance program manager at Microsoft. In a recent Freelancer Talks interview with Matthew Mottola, she explained why companies turn to freelancers to help meet their talent needs: 

“Talent is really, really hard to find, and there’s great talent out there that maybe don’t live in our zip code… Getting that specialized experience from these talented, skilled people from all corners of the world is eye-opening.

“That’s why we tried to figure out how we could better incorporate those talented experts into the way that we get our project work done. Sometimes, we don’t have the skills or experience available on our teams or our vendor/supplier base, or maybe we just need a specialist for a week. To get a supplier onboarded would take 20+ days. It just didn’t make sense. So, we looked at a lot of our workloads and thought, ‘There is a real need for freelancers to contribute to those specialized, short projects – but even long-duration projects where we need to scale for a longer amount of time.’ 

“It’s beneficial because with how we’re experiencing Covid and work from home, ourselves as well as other companies are really leaning into using people that aren’t onsite. We’re getting better and better at using and enabling these freelancers to work with us, alongside us, with all the tools and technologies now available and more people comfortable doing it.”

3. How do they hire freelancers?

Now comes the execution. How do these companies – from solopreneurs all the way up to Fortune 500 corporations – actually go about hiring freelancers?

In short, they build freelance programs to responsibly hire and work with freelancers. 

While the benefits are transformative, the risk is real. It’s vital to understand these risks your potential clients are taking so you can 1) empathize and 2) know how to mitigate the risks wherever possible.

Here are some of the “hair-on-fire” risks companies have to consider:

  • Misclassification – Will there be a class action lawsuit if they classify workers as independent contractors when they should actually be employees? This happened to Microsoft after an IRS audit of their payroll tax accounts in 1989 and 1990, and is a hot topic with the current battles surrounding California Assembly Bill 5.
  • Data Protection – What if they give you a file with customer data, such as a customer email address? This would violate the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and could put them at risk of owing up to 4% of global revenues in fines. 
  • Confidentiality – What if they accidentally give you a spreadsheet with a separate tab about an upcoming layoff? Or give you access to a file detailing an upcoming product launch? Will you leak it? NDAs are vital to mitigate this.

(Matthew discussed this more in-depth in his keynote at Nomad City Gran Canaria. Be sure to check out the full video here.) 

4. How can you be an easy-to-work-with freelancer?

Knowing the process your clients go through to find freelancers and the risks they take in hiring external contractors, it’s not hard to understand why being easy to work with is crucial.

Adam Zellner, VP of Enterprise and Corporate Development at Business Talent Group, explained how top freelancers – like ones that work with huge enterprise clients – operate in a recent Freelancer Talks:

“The best freelancers in the enterprise world are extremely good at synthesizing inputs and turning them into something. A lot of times, internally, communication isn’t always great and people want to take different approaches… But freelancers typically do a good job of listening, getting input, and putting together a work product.

“Second, they excel at rigorous prioritization. They can say, ‘This is what I’m working on right now’ and block out some of the noise in a way that full-time employees can’t.”

All in all, what’s the best way to be an easy-to-work-with freelancer? Staying organized and being able to scale up where necessary so you can meet any need requested by a client. 

Brandon Bright, an expert in running million-dollar freelance projects, knows the importance of being able to scale up.

“It’s really hard to get interesting or large projects unless you have a collective set of people that you trust and a team. Most companies that are looking for a solution (could be freelancers or a consultancy) don’t want to have to create that for themselves.” 

(Check out Brandon’s full Freelancer Talks interview here.)

Not sure where to start? Venture L is ready to help you leverage your network and check all the boxes of what your clients really care about.

About Venture L

Venture L is where the world’s best freelancers run their business. By integrating your network of trusted collaborators and processes into one personalized platform, you can take on more projects, slash operations in half, and scale your business.

We’re currently collaborating with a select group of innovators.  

Want to be one of these crazy innovators? We’re ready for you here.

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Lauren is a freelance copywriter and content strategist originally from the United States. After volunteering in Tanzania post-university, she realized she was too restless to go home, and became a digital nomad across 5 continents for 3 years. She's now based in Berlin and thrilled to own house plants and have her suitcase in storage. Lauren's favorite part of working with Venture L is the whole community's dedication to GIF correspondence.