Talent Development & the Gig Economy

Carrie Cassidy

Director, Global Marketing at Appriss Retail

Learning Objectives

Marketing has a long history of hiring outside talent to fulfill specific, limited roles. How is managing a gig team different from managing staffers? Where do responsibilities lie for building understanding, developing cohesion, and continuing the relationship? In this presentation you will learn why it is important to give and to take, how to prolong key relationships, and when Fivver is not your best option.


"If you manage the freelancer effectively, if you provide them the information they need to create a quality project, and if you work out the logistics, you can see tremendous productivity, great loyalty, and more. "

Carrie Cassidy

Director, Global Marketing at Appriss Retail

Transcript

Hello, everyone. Welcome to talent development in the gig economy. I am Carrie Cassidy. I have been called here today to explain to you that you need help. Now, maybe it’s because you have more work than headcount. Recession has been hard on everybody. Maybe you have some specialized tasks the two needs to deliver, such as a video, if you haven’t been doing video internally. Maybe there’s a unique project. Maybe you’re launching into a new market. Maybe you’re in a big hurry. You don’t have enough time, say, before the end of the year or the holiday season next year to get something done. So freelancers are essential.


I’m Carrie Cassidy and I have been managing freelancers for many, many years. I can tell you that they are a tremendous asset, but you do have to manage them correctly. You can cut many hours out of the process if you take some important measures. We’re going to cover those. Now, I will point out the insights you’re hearing today are from my own experience. You need to decide for yourself if it applies to your business. I also encourage you to work with your HR department to ensure that any independent contractors, freelancers, taskers, etc, are all appropriately recorded. There are different tax and legal ramifications defining the job classification. We want to make sure that you’re conforming with those.


For a copywriter, I often provide a checklist of acronyms, as well as industry jargon. I provide links to a website, both my own, competitors, and industry publications. I provide print magazines, if I have any. I provide e-newsletters and suggest that if it’s going to be an ongoing project, that maybe they want to subscribe. Sometimes, I’ve even gone so far as to offer up a couple hours of paid time, in order for them to understand how the words within the industry go together if they’re a copywriter, or to do some of this research. It’s not that I expect them to spend hours and hours and hours who become experts. But it is important that what they develop is of the same tone in nature, as is typical in the industry.


Think about the difference between promotions you’ve seen for contractors versus promotions you’ve seen for lawyers, versus monster trucks coming to town or buying a car—they’re all very different. You need the person to be comfortable in creating an outcome that will mesh with what you need.


As I said, I provide company information, competitor information, information and jargon, graphics guidelines. One time, I worked on an art show. In those publications, at that time, all ads are printed in reverse. So a dark background with light text. If you wanted to really blend in and look like you’re part of that industry, that was a style you had to accept. If you wanted to stand out in contrast with that industry, then it was the last thing you wanted to do. Clarify what you’re looking for from your freelancer. Ask yourself, how is it different? Is it easier? Is it harder? Yes to both. It is easier, and it is harder.


Taskers are gonna require that you know what you want before they get anywhere near the place because there is no way to fill their time. Every minute you’re paying for, so the whole project has to be set up and ready to go. You need to be explicit with them about the ground rules. I once had a freelancer show up with a big plate of scrambled eggs in a waffle. She was so excited. She was going to eat her breakfast, and bill me for it. Can’t have them. Be explicit about the ground rules if they’re working on site with you because you can’t control what’s happening at home. They work from there. But if they’re on site with you, talk about breaks, talk about what counts as too many breaks. Don’t expect them to work straight through. They are human beings. They do need the occasional break.


You also want to arrange to make sure that the you can answer their questions quickly. Epecially at the beginning, perform frequent quality checks. Make sure that they’re getting through the amount of content you expect him to get through. Maybe you underestimated it. Maybe you need to make arrangements for them to come in another day. Maybe you can see that they’re really dragging their feet and need a little motivation.


Consultants, at the other end of the spectrum, are really there to manage you. But it’s up to you to control the destination. You will need to provide them with very detailed company information, so that they can take their broad industry knowledge and tailor it down to answer the questions that you have hired them to answer. When you work with them, it’s going to be more of a pure exchange. They will be very open about what they expect you to deliver, and you need to be very open with the information you give them. The more frank you are, the better the quality of output you’re going to get.


Some consultants also require contact with people who aren’t you—other members of your team, other divisions of your company. You are going to be expected to schedule that time. I recommend that you stay with them during those meetings to make sure that everyone on the meeting stays focused on the outcome of the trip looking forward. If you don’t, you’re likely to get a very general, even cookie cutter report at the end of the consultation. Sometimes, they look as if they’ve just filled in the blank. You don’t want that. You want something quality. That requires a significant time investment.


Freelancers, favorite people in the middle, are able to deliver, as we’ve mentioned, specific skill. You need to prepare check points and milestones to make sure the project stays on track, but you don’t need to micromanage them. They are going to make some judgments, you may have to go back and correct some of them, they are [unintelligible]. But overall, you can expect a quality outcome if you have provided the information I mentioned earlier.


Also, please be sure that your systems are compatible. An unfortunate thing that happened to me one time was that the freelancer I hired did a beautiful job, but he had installed the software extension in his sign program. It’s one that the printer didn’t have. We worked for hours. We could not figure out—the printer and I—could not figure out why the files weren’t outputting. When we called the freelancer, she knew immediately. We got the name of the extension, the printer installed it, but I did waste a lot of effort, because I didn’t make the important step of ensuring that the systems were completely compatible.


So you look for a freelancer, you want to make sure that you find someone who fits timing, the hours that they work, how they get paid, what they get paid, logistics of delivering the project. So important. If they are going to be working in your office, company culture is also important. It’s not that they need to match, it’s just they don’t need to conflict.


When you approach a freelancer, you want to make sure that you’ve been clear about the duration of the project. Is it a week? Is it a month? Is it three months? Are there phases of the project that are going to indicate the term approaching the end or even the midpoint? How long do [inaudible take place? Do you consider that the beginning? You should, because some projects are [unintelligible] to say, “Yes, it’s completed, we’re done.” Other times, you need approvals from executives, other departments etc. Be clear about that. Be clear about the deadlines. Set deadlines for the phases as well as the final. Is the deadline carved in stone, like a trade show date? That shows happening with or without. Whereas, there’s some flexibility. You don’t want to appear to be too flexible, because you want your project to stay top of mind. But also, don’t be fake about the deadlines. Just be realistic.


Work out in advance how payments are going to work. Are you paying by the hour or by the project? Sometimes, a project price looks really expensive. But I have found that they are not more expensive than paying by the hour, and sometimes they’re less. Don’t be afraid of it. Work out with your Freelancer how frequently they’re going to be paid? Is this something that they are paid a deposit at the beginning, the midpoint, and at the end? Are you hoping that you they will only get paid at the end? It’s not a good idea to expect a freelancer to go months without being paid. So work out a schedule in advance. How are you going to track the time? Do they need a timesheet? Do they just keep a tally of of their time?


Also, work out how they’re going to get paid. Do they want a check? Are they accepting credit card? Do they want Venmo? There are a number of options out there. Work it out in advance. You don’t want to be put in an embarrassing situation where you can’t pay on time because you didn’t ask the question of method of payment. This is also a good time to point out that you need to clarify with your HR department and or legal department depending on how you’re structured. Because non employees who deliver work to you have different legal classifications, no matter what I’ve called them in this presentation, work out whether they’re actually a subcontractor, an independent contractor, freelancer. So just work it out. Don’t be surprised at the end of the project.


You also need to work out the logistics. Not only does the software that a project is created and needs to be compatible, but you also want to make sure that there’s a way to get the final product to you. Are you expecting them to drop off [unintelligible] drive? Are you expecting them to ship boxes by UPS? Are you expecting them to employ courier so that it reaches you same day? Figure out how it’s going to be delivered, and whether that’s practical for the person to do, or I should say, allow them to figure out the little details that you need to explain the delivery.


Also, communications. It’s important to communicate with each other very clearly. I suggest that you narrow down your options for channels of communication. You don’t want to have the job fragmented. Perhaps you use the telephone and email or you use a particular texting app and email. Where are you going to look to find communication from them, and where are they going to look to find communication from you? It’s important to figure that out in advance. If they’re working on site with you or if they are working remotely, but assisting many members of your team, you need to be clear both with them and with your team who has access to their time and whose job has priority. Otherwise, you will find that there’s a squeaky wheel who is going to absorb the bulk of the time, and inadequate amounts will be left to complete all projects.


Maybe you will meet a freelancer who’s fabulous, and you want them to be on staff full time. As I mentioned earlier, not everyone is looking for them. That doesn’t mean that they can’t continue to be your freelancer. At the same time, 30% of people are looking for a full time game. These are especially true in the people under 35. Very often, they’re using freelance to fill in between full time engagements. Certainly, feel free to approach a freelancer if a full time opportunity comes available.


It’s very important though that you never hire someone you can’t fire. Sometimes, a freelance gig doesn’t work out. You need to find a good stopping point. Be diplomatic, but also explain why they’re being let go. Maybe it’s because you’ve run out of budget. Maybe your project got cancelled. Maybe you’ve decided to launch an entirely new direction. But maybe it’s because their quality of work was subpar. Maybe it was taking too long. You don’t have to be ugly or angry. You can still be pleasant, but explain the reasons why because they’re never going to improve. It’s not fair for people not to know how they should go forward and improve.


Now, let’s get to the good stuff. In this presentation, we’re going to talk about filling the gap in your workforce, choosing non employees, developing knowledge among employees and freelancers alike, and the nuances of freelance management. I break freelancers into three gig categories: taskers, consultants, and freelancers. Like I said, these are their different legal qualifications depending on where you live. So it’s important to make sure that even though I might be calling them a freelancer in your site, it might actually be some other category.


Taskers do one thing repeatedly. They don’t need a big picture view. They’re doing things like stuffing, gift bags for your user conference, or they are counting tickets for your company picnic. They’re used to doing data entry for a database. They are collating materials, things like that. Very simple. They are available through sites like Fiverr, TaskRabbit, Hire, even just networking through members of employees, families, if that’s allowed at your company. In fact, I find that those are some of the best people you can get. Because you have not only the fact that they’re working for you, to encourage them, but their family members, it will also make sure that they do a good job, because the family member doesn’t want to be embarrassed.


Consultants are at the farther end of this spectrum. They have very broad industry knowledge, very broad knowledge, but they want to tailor it to you. Maybe you hire a consultant to help you transfer your database from one system to another. Maybe you hire them to help you launch a product or reach a new market. The point is they’re going to need a lot of information from you to guide them to the expected outcome.


Everyone in between these two, I lump in as freelancers. They usually have a specific skill set, but they are making some independent choices. For them, you need to provide perspective so that the outcome that you receive is the one that you’re really hoping for. Is this the right time to hire a freelancer? Well, is this a one time project or is it one that repeats? You certainly don’t want to pay for training and learning skills for one time project.


Also, will an employee be disappointed if you give this project to someone else? Their emotional status is not the only reason you would make a decision, but it is a key factor. If you have been promising this project, and then suddenly end up going out of house, you may have a disgruntled employee. That will impact other performance elsewhere. Are you looking to add this skill to your team permanently? Again, maybe freelancer is not the right choice if it’s something you want to have so permanent addition. However, I have found very successful to keep certain projects, certain skills separate from my employee base, and continue to use them for a long time.


One of the benefits of non employee labor is that you can get very high quality work in a very short term, because you’re not doing any training of skills. Sometimes, you can get them to work odd hours or off hours. I had the benefit one time of finding a freelancer who could work second shift. She chose that because her husband worked second shift. So they were able to live a normal household life, and I was able to benefit because I could drop off a project in the evening and receive it completed in the morning. Work on it all day, take it through whatever approvals that were needed, drop off the corrections in the evening, receive the changes first thing in the morning. It was almost as if magic fairy came in and was doing work.


Non employee labor can also help you build out the skills that you’re able to offer to the rest of your company. If you’re in the marketing department like I am, they’re often asked to do a great many thing. But you’re asked usually with a pretty lean team. So it’s important that instead of being able having to say no, “No, we can never do that,” it helps you say, “Yes, we can do that.” Of course, there is always the idea that you may find talent for future hire. Now, please, if you don’t really think there’s going to be a future hiring situation, don’t imply that there is. Most freelancers—70% of freelancers—in fact, prefer not to have full time. Clarify that with your freelancer before you hire them.


Did you know that freelance may cost a lot? When you hear a freelancers rate, and you say, “Wow, that’s a lot.” You want somebody $5 an hour, but I only pay my employee $40 an hour. Well, guess what? Your employee is actually costing you about double their salary. There’s a big range here depending on bonuses and how they fall in an average pay bracket. But as a rule of thumb, employees cost twice the salary. Freelancers working on site costs about 1.2 of their wage. So big savings, right?


The thing you want to do is provide them with information, training that can help focus their performance on the goal you want them to achieve. You also want what they create or deliver to blend with what other people in the company are doing. For instance, if you are having a freelancer design a brochure for you, you’re going to have to provide information that makes it possible for that to look like the rest of what you create. If you’re asking them to share in their own development, their responsibility for accepting and understanding a project, as well as conducting the training to do the project is a divided responsibility. It’s up to the freelancer to keep their skills up to date. It’s up to them to train out for new skills that they might want to market somewhere. Those aren’t your problem. That’s the beauty of freelance.


On the other hand, it is your responsibility to provide company specific information and industry information as well as the ability or training on how to use a unique tool. Sometimes, you will find a freelancer who’s very well versed in your industry, but isn’t used to particular tool. It’s often easier just to train them on that small thing. Now, I have been complimented many times by freelancers on how easy it is to work with me on a project even as they’re starting out in a new industry. That is because I provide them with details that they need.


Here we are ending up this presentation. I want you to remember that, from time to time, we all need help. Freelance is a great way to hire the right skill for your team for right now and can be a way to keep your offerings from your team, your deliverables in [unintelligible] with expectations. If you manage the freelancer effectively, if you provide them the information they need to create a quality project, and if you work out the logistics, you can see tremendous productivity, great loyalty, and more. You will reap very many rewards. Thank you for joining me for this presentation today. Now, get out there and knock him dead.


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