Contractors and freelancers can bring agility to any workplace. But when it comes to building your business, should you rely on such workers--or should you place your bet on full-time staffers? To find out, Inc. coaxed two sharp founders on opposite sides of this issue into the ring.
How can employers know that freelancers have the expertise their company needs?
Libby Brockhoff: Freelancers are really good at providing answers, but I rely on my core team to create questions and to solve problems on a much bigger scale. I totally disagree that all the best people are freelancers. If you look at their portfolios, they're majorly outdated.
Chris Keene: It's a pretty open secret in both advertising and software development that all of the best talent is freelancing. Because they don't want to work for a company. They don't want someone to tell them where to be. They want to do their job.
How do you get freelancers on board with your vision?
Brockhoff: It takes way too much time to train all of these people. Freelancers tend to stretch themselves thin. They don't have the level of commitment, and they don't have skin in the game, to put in the same kind of effort as full-timers.
Keene: With a freelancer network, you can bring in snipers--people with really specialized skills--for short periods of time. You have kind of an infinite bench of labor. If someone's not meeting expectations, it's easy to swap them out.
How do you ensure that freelancers are treated the same as full-timers?
Brockhoff: I try to make our daily work fun, engaging, and extremely productive, but there's no way I feel that I need to go over the top to look after freelancers--the minute you fall in love with them, they're booked for another job. Then you have to go form another relationship with another freelancer. It's a time suck.
Keene: Gigster got started because the founders wanted to freelance but had heard so many horror stories from their friends. We define the price, we define quality, and we use peer review to figure out when people should get paid, so they don't have to negotiate all those things.
A lot of companies rely on freelancers to modernize their operations.
Brockhoff: If you're relying on freelancers to be current, I think you have a big flaw in your company.
Keene: Software is eating the world. If you're a software company, that's good news. If you're not a software company, that's deadly news. Where else do you get the DNA to compete with all of these software companies?
Nothing beats commitment: In a recent Deloitte survey of 7,000 leaders in business and human resources, only 42 percent of respondents said they planned to significantly increase their use of contingent workers in the next three to five years--and many leaders cited some of Brockhoff's concerns.