In some corners of the business world, jaded opinions and antiquated stereotypes still exist when it comes to weighing the quality of freelance work and the value of contract employees.
For too long, contract gigs were considered to be less than. On both sides of the employer-employee relationship, contract work was believed to be a Plan B or a necessary evil – a stop-gap until the right fit between employee and full-time role came along.
But if you haven’t already noticed, more organizations than ever – across countless industries – are making use of contractors. At the same time, the percentage of the workforce involved in the gig economy continues to grow. These aren’t coincidental fluctuations. Freelancers are finally getting their due. Both companies and workers, at last, have come to an important realization: contract employees are just as valuable as full-timers, and because they typically do not receive company benefits and assume greater employment risk, contractors are usually paid more than permanent employees.
According to a 2019 Intuit Quickbooks report, the percentage of adults in the United States engaged in self-employment as of 2017 was the highest since the IRS started reporting in 1957: 17 percent. The trend has only gained momentum during the pandemic, with mass corporate restructurings and layoffs being followed by hiring frenzies. Research compiled by Fortunly found that more than one-third of U.S. workers (36 percent) now participate in the gig economy, either through their primary or secondary jobs. Additionally – and perhaps most interestingly – more than 90 percent of U.S. workers would consider freelancing or independent contracting.
That marks a seismic shift from the stigma-tainted view employees once had of gig work. As more companies discovered the advantages of utilizing contractors and increased their engagement with the freelance workforce, the implication became clear: contract employees value is high. They are now business-critical elements of most large organizations. The yin to staff employees’ yang, contractors support the overall infrastructure of a company and provide more specialized, better focused resources that allow for a more productive and efficient overall workforce.
From a human resources perspective, it’s easy to see why contractors value is high to a business. Given the finite terms associated with freelancer agreements, contractors allow a company to squeeze out more margin and build in flexibility for unforeseen circumstances. They are easier to activate, too, accompanied by less hassle in terms of onboarding, adjusted unemployment taxes and other administrative tasks and responsibilities. Contract workers are the closest thing to plug-and-play solutions in most professional settings.
The value of contractors, however, extends far beyond what they don’t bring to a business. Gig workers are often highly specialized, with honed skill sets and a sharpened focus that can be nimbly applied to a variety of temporary resource needs and projects. They bring value across the board. For accounting firms and other businesses that can set a clock by the seasonal ebbs and flows of work. For any organization building a new website or creating a new ad campaign. Contractors can instantly and adeptly fill short-term gaps or deliver hyper-concentrated expertise without bogging down a business with long-term staff commitments.
The narrative (thankfully) has changed around contract work. And as attitudes have changed, more workers now consider and ultimately take the plunge into the freelancer pool. That means more workers from which a company has to choose, a better quality of gig worker and a mutual respect between contractors and staff that, in the end, elevates a business.
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