There was a time when it seemed the gig economy was going to remake the modern workforce

Freelancers were claiming their autonomy, reveling in their flexibility, and taking over traditional roles. Companies were utilizing cheaper labor and making smarter choices when hiring. It seemed like a win-win scenario. 

In recent years, new research has emerged (and then debunked, or argued against, or supported, depending on who you read) that shows the gig economy actually hasn't gotten bigger in recent years--it's just gotten more press. The only thing we can say definitively is that freelancing has lost some of its shine. 

There are a few reasons for this. As healthcare costs rise, it's becoming less attractive to work without employer-sponsored healthcare. And as the job market tightens, companies are offering better and better benefits packages to appeal to the best workers--making it more difficult to ignore working full time for many organizations. 

If you're an employer, you may be interested in recruiting some of the highly talented freelancers who have made their living through the gig economy. Beyond competitive salaries, how else do you appeal to sought-after workers who prize things like flexibility and autonomy? 

Here's a short list of ways you can appeal to freelancers when hiring for important roles: 

1. Offer a robust healthcare benefits package.

Due to recent changes to federal law, healthcare premiums for individuals in the ACA marketplace will rise 10 percent each year, according to a CBO analysis. Freelancers aren't required to use the ACA marketplace to find healthcare, but most short-term plans outside of it don't have essential health benefits, and going without health coverage can mean catastrophic costs in the event of a medical emergency. 

Therefore, one of the primary benefits that freelancers see in joining a company full time is enjoying employer-sponsored healthcare plans.

If you're trying to attract high-quality freelancers, don't skimp on offering medical coverage, and consider springing for dental and vision plans, as well. You can team up with a professional employer organization or other HR platform, and let them handle administering benefits to your growing team. 

2. Let them build their wwn schedule.

Flexibility is the normal M.O. for freelancers, and some of them will struggle integrating into a workplace where autonomy is limited. 

Luckily, offering flexible work arrangements is a trend that is picking up steam--and for good reason, since the numbers show that workers feel more productive in those environments. These arrangements can include the hours they work, the locations they work from, and how much time they can take off to reset and refresh. 

According to a report by Zenefits, the vast majority of workers surveyed reported more productivity and greater feelings of satisfaction at work, and said they considered flexible work arrangements a major perk when contemplating future work opportunities. 

In general, companies should be more concerned with whether the work gets done, rather than where or when.  

3. Create a learning development stipend.

If there's one area where freelancers may be lacking, it's in the development of their skills outside their core competencies. In an effort to become elite in certain fields and skills that would help them charge high fees for their work, freelancers sometimes let related areas go undeveloped. 

Offer to help fund the continuing education of your new workers with a learning stipend. Even a modest sum--say, an extra $1,000 a year--that the employee can put toward taking classes, attending a seminar or conference, or stocking up on reading material will excite them and let them know you care more than about what they can do for you right now. You care about them as a professional, and hope they can grow into an even bigger and more important role--hopefully with your company.    

4. Dole out referral bonuses.

Everyone loves the opportunity to earn a little extra cash. Referral bonuses are particularly attractive to freelancers for a couple of reasons. 

For one, it shows that you're serious about growing your team and finding the best possible talent--research shows that employee referrals have the highest ROI, generate more profits, and have lower turnover rates. 

And secondly, it's likely that freelancers have plenty of freelancer friends in related fields that they can tap as an excellent referral candidate. If a new employee enters a company knowing they can earn extra money for referring their qualified colleagues, they'll be even more excited about leaving their old career path behind. 

Hiring qualified people for your small business is about finding the best possible candidates. Sometimes those people will have non-traditional backgrounds, like freelancers, that you'll have to take into consideration when recruiting. By keeping the above perks in mind, you'll make your company more attractive to elite freelancers, and become the reason they jump ship to your team full time. 

Published on: Jul 29, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.