The Freelance Economy Will Mean New Recruiting Practices

Contingent workers, consultants, and independent contractors will make up as much as 35% of the total U.S. workforce within a decade. You’ve got new challenges in attracting, and retaining this diverse type of workforce to your organization. Freelancers and free agents are different from the traditional full-time workforce in many ways, which I get into more in a longer version of this post, in the Journal of Corporate Recruiting Leadership.

For now, let me just take one challenge organizations will have in increasing their internal hiring of independent contractors, consultants, and free agents: branding.

Recent studies show evidence that freelance talent is generally 40% to 50% more connected in their industry than their full-time peers. In other words, many of them are considered opinion and thought leaders with the potential to influence and affect positive or negative employer brand perceptions of your company.

Traditional employer brands emphasize the long-term view of working for the organization, as well as tangible and intangible assets of being part of a given corporate community. Organizations will need to increase efforts toward creating an employer brand that communicates effective messages to the contractor community. The marketing messages themselves are highly effective for the traditional workforce, but classic segmentation should be part of the process in order to ensure that different messages are communicated to the freelance community. Those messages should concentrate on the enhancements, new training, and new knowledge that the freelancer will receive if they choose to join your organization.

Companies can take advantage of their ability to use social media infrastructure such as Facebook, Twitter and many of the other platforms. Developing an employer brand and marketing message that are targeted toward the freelance community by effectively using social networks and social media can allow companies to develop a sustainable online image that can be attractive and sustainable.

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Other methods of attracting the freelance community to your organization should incorporate the sponsorship of events where freelance professionals gather, meet, and exchange ideas. Freelance professionals value their own skills and their knowledge in their fields; therefore if the freelance professional feels that your organization is open and generally welcoming to their expertise they will promote your brand as the “client of choice” because they will feel that you value their profession, industry, and community.

Developing relationships with professional sources of freelance talent will also be essential. This can include generalist staffing and temporary services agencies, recruitment process outsourcing firms, and any entity that chooses to mediate between freelance talent and companies that wish to employ them.

Changes in the interviewing process must also take place. Recruiters must remember that professional freelance talent, in general, is highly engaged and will measure the potential of your company through the interview process. Attention must be paid to candidate experience measurement and metrics, and recruiters engaged in the hiring of freelance talent should ensure the continuance of a positive perception by freelancers of your organization.

Joe Shaheen is a leading Washington, D.C., management consultant with over a decade experience in solving tough business issues with a focus on people’s challenges. He has been featured on CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, and the Fox Business Network as an HR expert as well as numerous other media outlets. Shaheen is a former process engineer who became a recruiter, and transitioned into HR consulting some years after he earned his bachelor’s degree in Physics at 19 years of age. He earned a master’s in HR management from Georgetown and an MBA from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. He blogs at Http://, tweets at, and you can find his services at


7 Comments on “The Freelance Economy Will Mean New Recruiting Practices

  1. Thanks, Joe. In light of your 35% of the workforce statistics, a decently paid, well-benefited RFT job will become the province of a decreasing segment of the US population, and not through their choice, either. Consequently, I believe that what I’ve said elsewhere re: RFT employment applies to contractor/consulting employment as well:
    1) If you’re not an employer of choice, you only have to treat your “fabulous 5%”‘ contractors with courtesy and professionalism. The others will come running, take what they can get, and be glad for it, too.

    1) If you are an employer of choice, you only have to treat your organizationally will-connected “fabulous 5%” contractors with courtesy and professionalism.


  2. Hi Joe, this is great article, thanks for sharing.

    I’m particularly interested in what the unique offer to free-agent employees should be. You say: “Those messages should concentrate on the enhancements, new training, and new knowledge that the freelancer will receive if they choose to join your organization.” I think the knowledge piece is key – people with hard-to-find skills will increasingly work with those companies which have the coolest projects. ‘Coolest’ meaning those projects that will generate skills development (and hence longer-term earning potential), and networking capabilities (for future access to work opportunities).

    Also – we recently did some research (in partnership with Inavero) into Free Agency, which found that the actual current number is already 44% of the working population – a 70% increase since 2008. Of that, we estimate 30-35% is the ‘natural’ rate (ie non-recessionary).

    Infographic here, if it’s of interest –

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