Harvard Business Review Analytic Services Uncovers Key Insights into The Future of the Freelance Workforce

Harvard Business Review

By 2027, half of the US workforce will be freelance. To meet this reality, companies need a roadmap for rethinking the skills, roles and processes that keep the wheels of their organizations turning. 

In association with Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, Fiverr Business Solutions has produced an in-depth research report, Taking a Strategic Approach to Using Freelance Talent. You can download the full report here, or keep reading as we share some major takeaways that will inform your own evolving freelancer strategy. 

Freelancers are Increasingly Important, but Poor Management is Holding Companies Back

Freelancers have become critical to nearly every industry under the sun. Work is more diverse than ever, requiring varied skill sets, deep expertise, and talent capacity that can be scaled up and down as necessary. At the same time, the hybrid and remote realities of the way most companies now work means that talent can be sourced from anywhere — perfect for nurturing a freelance talent pool. 

On this backdrop, it’s no surprise that 81% of respondents told HBR that freelancers are important to their organization. However, just 38% say their organization can manage these freelancers effectively. There are many reasons for this, including: 

  • Siloed management and control: Companies often work without a larger freelancer management strategy, leaving sourcing, onboarding and management to individual departments or managers. 
  • Tension with Human Resources: HR usually sets workforce policies within an organization, which may not suit an external hiring strategy or the way that freelancers manage their businesses.
  • Lack of communication: Individual departments may not share information on their freelance relationships, leading to inefficiencies across the business, or disparate teams hiring unnecessarily. 
  • No central oversight: Without one freelancer management strategy or technology, no one is responsible for tracking ROI over freelancers, or staying on top of essential items like compliance and misclassification. 

87% of Businesses Recognize the Need for a Freelance Strategy

The thing is, organizations widely know that these challenges exist. 63% of executives say having a strategy for freelancers is critical, and a further 24% agree that it’s important. However, 45% don’t currently have a strategy in place, and 25% have no plans to implement one. 

With a growing number of freelancers on the horizon, and one fifth of work already being implemented by non-traditional employees, formalizing a strategy should be taking a leap to the top of the roadmap. 

However, being more strategic about how you hire and manage freelance talent is often easier said than done. It may also involve a mindset shift. It’s easy to think that because a freelancer is only working on a specific task for a limited amount of time, that they don’t matter as much as a full-time employee. The report cautions execs against this kind of thinking. “An employee who doesn’t fit into the team or culture, whether they’re an FTE or a freelancer, can present problems, and decision makers should keep that in mind.”

Freelancers are not the same as full-time employees, and so a strategy for freelancers must consider their different needs for elements such as communication, budgeting, engagement, and feedback. Appointing a freelancer champion, a specific role meant to add oversight and support for a freelancer strategy, can help to capture value. 

The Biggest Freelancer Challenge is Still Sourcing

49% of executives say that finding freelancers with the right skills is their greatest challenge when considering whether to hire freelancers. This is more of a problem than budget constraints, (32%), and strategy issues (21%). Interestingly, when HBR broke down the responses by those who say they have a firm strategy in place for freelance talent, and compared that with those who are in the process of creating one — the top challenge remained the same. Finding the right freelancers at the right time is a bear, no matter how mature you feel your strategy might be. 

Organizations need to start thinking about how they can be more mindful about their freelance talent, for example with the use of talent pools. By keeping a centralized database of all available talent, including freelancers the company has worked with in the past, ex employees who may be interested in contract work, or individual connections, freelancers can be hired in a fraction of the time to meet an emergent need. Skills and availability can also be visible to anyone in the business, avoiding one issue that HBR calls out — a zealousness of specific teams to keep a great source of talent ‘all to themselves’. 

78% of Leading Companies Say Freelancers are “Folded into” Their Organizational Culture

The data speaks for itself. When organizations have a freelancer strategy in place, they are successful at making freelancers part of the workflow. This needs to happen at every stage, incorporating a process for sourcing, hiring, onboarding, compliance, management, and payments. 

The shift is already well underway. 38% of organizations are working on improving sourcing and hiring, 33% are focused on boosting collaboration across teams, 32% say it’s a priority to work on communication with freelancers, and 29% specifically say they are working on involving freelancers more closely with their organizational culture. Vive la freelance révolution! If these items aren’t on your to-do list for 2024, you may find yourself falling behind in business growth. 

Fiverr Enterprise: A Freelancer Management Solution that Guides Your Organizational Strategy

As freelancers continue to grow as a vital element of the enterprise workforce, it’s clear that forming a cohesive strategy for your whole organization is more important than ever. 

Fiverr Enterprise is a SaaS solution that gives you full visibility and control over your entire freelance workforce by allowing you to source, hire, onboard, manage and pay, all while ensuring compliance, so your teams can work faster and maximize business growth. 

We offer a unique sourcing service to beat the #1 challenge for today’s enterprises, and then follow that through with automated workflows for onboarding, compliance, systems access and payments, to seamlessly align freelancers with the rest of the business. No matter the need, your enterprise has access to a vetted talent pool of freelancers that ensures collaboration and visibility across departments and teams. 

If freelancers are already part of business as usual, but you’re struggling with setting the right strategy in place, download the full Harvard Business Review report, and see how you can manage independent workers more effectively in 2024.