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The Gig Economy Revolution: Preparing for Growth

September 16th, 2020

Human Resources, Gig Economy

4 min read

There’s a work revolution underway. The gig economy is reshaping work and hiring practices. How's your company adapting?

Gig economy workers are known by many names: temporary or part-time hires, independent contractors, project-based workers, freelancers, and more. Regardless, of what you call them, the rise of the gig worker is shaking up traditional work models, workplace culture, and hiring practices, and is something Certn can help you manage more strategically.

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Self Employed Statistics

Gallup's Gig Economy and Self-Employment Report finds there are 44 million self-employed workers in the United States. Across all North America and Western Europe, the number of gig workers is estimated to be 150 million. The numbers are even higher coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, which further reshaped the nature of how people work. To give you an idea of the potential future talent pool, Edelman Intelligence's Freelancing in America conservatively estimates that 90 million Americans will be freelancing by 2028 if the annual growth rate is close to constant (even though it's actually increasing).

Unfortunately, according to workplace insights from a Deloitte survey of nearly 10,000 global survey respondents, only 28% of businesses feel they're ready to capitalize on gig work talent pools

Is your business missing out?

Freelancers in a Recession

Rising operating costs, inflation, and the potential recession is making freelancers more desirable to some small business owners. According to a survey of 1,000 American small business owners by the freelancing platform Fiverr, 43% of them plan to hire freelancers to get work done instead of filling full-time roles.

This type of temporary, contract work is often appealing to employers because it doesn't require financial commitments like full-time health benefits, paid time off, and/or retirement savings matching—the kinds of perks that are typically used to incentivize full-time staff. Employers also benefit from more flexible, à la carte working arrangements to fill in the gaps.

Freelancers benefit too. Most freelancers rely on multiple contracts to make up the equivalent of what they'd earn in a traditional "9-5" role. Without romanticizing it too much, more openings equals more opportunity. This openness to hiring part-time or contract work is good news for wannabe freelancers who want to try work in a new field, gain a specific type of work experience, make connections and build a track record of success, grow or diversify their freelancing portfolio, and/or monetize a passion project.

The benefits of the gig economy vary, depending on whose perspective you take -- the business, worker or consumer.

Benefits of Gig Work

There are several factors contributing to this gig work shift, but a key one is that work is increasingly being arranged and carried over digital platforms. Marketplaces and gig platform apps grew by 77%.

For this reason, you might think that the uptake of this short-term remote work model is being driven by Generation Z, the tech-native demographic cohort succeeding millennials, but surveys show Generation X (those 41 to 56 years old) and Baby Boomers (those currently aged 57 to 75), do the most gig work.

Why are these people attracted to gig opportunities? Everly, LLC funded a survey of 2,000 gig workers to ask them about freelancing. The respondents surveyed reported loving:

  • The freedom to choose which projects to work on - 43%
  • Flexible hours - 41%
  • Being my own boss - 40%

The fourth most reported benefit? The flexible work location (39%).

What about the downsides? Reported downsides include: finding it difficult to build vacation time into their schedule, clients that don’t always pay or pay on time, and the lack of employer-sponsored health benefits.

The Rise of Remote Working

Along with the benefits listed above, gig work is often appealing because there are a lot of remote work opportunities.

Jobs are being decoupled from locations, meaning gig workers and freelancers can also work remotely for employers anywhere in the world. At the same time, employers can hire the best person for their project from a larger talent pool than is likely available in their area. What a perfect match!

Hiring International Freelancers

With more companies recognizing the value and potential of remote work (remote work arrangements also jumped to 66% in North America at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020), some companies are figuring out how to leverage remote work arrangements and hire more international freelancers.  

Certn's partners, like the Deel hiring platform, make it easy for you to comply with the legal and compliance requirements in the countries your gig workers work from. Take the guesswork out of administrative tasks like withholding taxes. A win-win.

Freelancer Hiring

Don’t be left behind. The rise of gig work is the perfect opportunity to modify your HR and operating policies and make it supportive to this type of work. Here are a few things that you might want to consider:

  • Location Flexibility - Independent job duties that can be done asynchronously such as copywriting, graphic design, and web development are the best places to start contracting out. Some companies also experience peak seasons during which they require more help to manage things like higher volumes of customer support inquiries. Matching these opportunities to flexible, remote work arrangements is one way to start accommodating more freelancers or contract workers.
  • Employee Benefits - While you still need to dedicate funds to pay your gig workers, one of the main pros of hiring freelancers is that they often don't expect as many employer-sponsored benefits, or at least, not in the same way your traditional employees do. 
  • Templates and Knowledge Management - Templates, style guides, and other onboarding guides will help you get more consistent results even with multiple freelancers working on the same task.

Legal Requirements and Safety

Finally, but crucially, we recognize that one of the biggest employer concerns when it comes to adopting new contract-based and/or remote work arrangements is the safety and security of their company, their assets, and other employees in the workplace. After all, it can be hard to put your trust in someone who you may have never met face to face.

If you’re wondering whether background checks are worth the time and money, the better question is: can you afford not to? Be sure to conduct the same background screening process that you require of your full-time "9 to 5" employees. This is crucial, especially if you’re going to provide your gig worker access to confidential information such as financial data, client profiles, and more.

On top of the costs of a data breach, you could open your company up to expensive negligent hiring and vicarious liability lawsuits if foreseeable workplace violence, injury, or theft occurs due to a lack of preventative actions. As noted in this blog post, a background check is an example of a preventative action your company can take.

Hire Gig Workers

The keyword to keep in mind is “shift." If you want to take advantage of gig workers and embrace the shift to the benefit of your company, be prepared to enact new policies and operating procedures and review your risk mitigation tactics to ensure you're doing everything you can to stay safe.

For a few dollars and a couple of days, a background check can help you protect your company and your workforce. If you’re ready to get started on the background checks needed to hire freelancers with confidence (including for international hires), book a demo to learn more about how Certn and our partners can help you build a screening program to meet your needs.

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