geography and independent contractors

Does Geography Matter for Independent Contractors?

Over the past few years, the pandemic, a series of huge market swings, and an exodus of employees from the labor pool have forced us to reconsider what we thought we knew about hiring and employment – and specifically contingent labor. Although independent contracting, or gig work, had once been considered an inferior career route, it has become a preferred choice for an increasingly vast number of Americans, as well as global citizens.

The contingent labor market has allowed more people to find lucrative and career-advancing work in their field of expertise, while offering companies the flexibility to access specialized, in-demand talent without having to overcommit to long-term employment relationships. Often, those terms also allowed the contractor to work from almost anywhere, which served to further expand the talent pool for employers and the job market for employees.

It’s worth asking, then, whether the contingent labor market has reached peak globalization – a point at which location is no longer relevant and organizations have no reason to value a contractor in Indonesia any differently than they do another with the same skill set based in Indiana. When it comes to independent contractors, does geography matter anymore?

Location Is No Longer an Afterthought

Even just a year ago, the hiring market was so dry that few organizations – whether in tech, finance, engineering or elsewhere – could afford to let useful talent slip through their fingers based on a triviality like location. With all the remote tools at the disposal of business and the maturity of the global cloud infrastructure, no HR professional worth their salt would turn away a qualified employee that would complete most of her daily work behind a computer on a technicality like geography.

But it seems the tides, yet again, are shifting and employers and contracts alike are asking themselves” does geography matter? At PeopleCaddie, we’re seeing that the majority of our contractor listings are remote-based – but the percentage of on-site gigs is increasing. And even if a job is listed as a remote position, employers typically favor local candidates. This may be, in part, because of a prospect’s knowledge of local bylaws (example: a CPA or auditor). More PeopleCaddie contractors are also being converted to permanent hires in short order, suggesting that companies are using contingent labor as a sort of litmus test for vetting a candidate, taking measure of their work and deciding whether they make for a strong long-term fit.

Contractors: Know the Landscape

The reality is that a majority of employers will always prefer to have all their workers under one roof (or strategically positioned under several). It’s simple: On-site work is more convenient and collaborative, and provides more control to employers. But no two positions, companies or industries are the same. And the most recent shakeup in the remote-versus-office dynamic – and one of the most dramatic in history – was driven not by business forces but a worldwide health emergency and virtually unprecedented employee pushback. This isn’t the end of the geographical debate; it will only change shape over time.

That said, a contractor’s ability to understand and adjust to these contexts, both on a macro and micro level, is a valuable asset. Be sure to research the companies that engage you. Ask questions about their contingent labor strategy (how long is the average gig term? What percentage of contractors are converted to perm employees?) in your interview. Ask yourself: Am I willing to move, or risk losing an offer, if the company expects me to work in the office? There are no “right” answers to the latter question. But asking it should help focus your job search and save you time in the long run.

Looking for more tips on navigating the contractor market? Check out the PeopleCaddie blog.

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