Our guest today is Matt Benn, the founder of Soundplate, a record label and music technology company based in London. Soundplate creates technology and tools to help independent artists and record labels become successful. Their latest tech product allows artists and labels to create innovative music smart links, analyse their marketing data and promote their music more efficiently.
Matt, creating tech products for independent artists is not far from hiring independent contractors. Was it a natural decision to hire gig workers and freelancers?
We use freelancers in several different areas in our business ranging from copywriting and creative to web development and even legal services.
As a small business, using freelancers makes perfect sense. Rather than hiring someone full time, you can create teams based on individual projects and bring in expertise as and when you need it. This allows us to save money and bring in talent and expertise we may not have been in a position to hire on a full-time basis.
We often require specialists for a short period of time to work on a specific project, the freelance/gig economy is perfect for fulfilling these requirements. Our business could never have grown and developed the way it has without the brilliant and talented freelancers we have had the pleasure of working with. Using freelancers also helps keep creative fresh as it allows us to use several people who all have different ideas.
Using gig workers also helps deal with spikes in workload / demand as you can hire them very quickly for as long or short as you need. Once you have a bank of reliable freelancers to call, it becomes very quick and easy to bring in extra help when you need it.
Are freelancers and contingent workers less motivated and loyal than full-time employees?
Freelancers being less motivated and loyal is a really common misconception about the gig economy. I think freelancers are actually often more motivated than full-time employees. Freelancers always want to impress and rely on getting repeat business and recommendations for future work. If you find the right gig workers, they will often be more passionate as they are only working on the specific area that they specialise in and nothing else is distracting them.
If you are not happy with the work delivered by a freelancer, you can easily replace them without the red tape of getting rid of a full-time employee. We generally start working with freelancers on small single jobs to test out how they fit with our company. If they are good and we are happy with their work, we increase the amount of work we give them. One freelancer we worked with last year has impressed us so much and been so motivated to help us, that we have now brought him on full-time. Other freelancers we have used have become key parts of our team that we use on a very regular basis.
Using freelancers can be a great way to find new reliable team members. I imagine more full-time employees will get their start as freelancers in future as they find clients that value their skillset and suit their way of working.
Using freelancers allows to scale your operations up or down literally overnight and most startup businesses need that flexibility. At the same time, those freelancers that are not given a new gig are likely to secure work with another client. Do you think that freelancers having more than one client add value to the company by bringing in fresh ideas and innovation?
I think this is 100% true. Good freelancers often have a very wide range of experience to draw from and are specialists in their own fields.
Small business do not always have the resources to hire specialists for every task and area of the business. As a result, founders often spend a great deal of their time trying to learn new skills to fill the gaps in their team. Freelancers can be the perfect middle-ground providing specialist skills on tap when you need them without the price tag of a permanent member of staff.
Great freelancers are also by their very nature independent, self-motivated and entrepreneurial, all traits that fit very well with the ethos of our business. Some of the biggest steps forward in our products have come from the ideas of our freelancers.
There is always the risk that a particular freelancer may be taking on too much and the quality or work can suffer or take longer than expected. This, of course, depends on the individual and how well they balance their time and different work commitments. In my experience, clear and open communication about the task in hand and client expectations usually prevents this from happening. As I mentioned before, starting with smaller tasks to 'test' the freelancer is also a good way to ensure expectations are met from both sides.
Being independent and able to secure several sources of income is important for those working traditional jobs, too. Full-time jobs are no longer making promises of either professional or financial security to today's workforce. Do you think that the gig economy is the future?
I think there is a place for both. Being self-employed is not for everyone but I do believe the number of people working as freelancers will continue to grow. Freelancers can work in whatever way suits them best, freedom and flexibility are a big plus for many people. I believe the demand for freelance talent will continue to rise as more and more businesses find value in hiring them.
Having said that, being a freelancer comes with difficulties and stress on its own. Not having a predictable income or fixed work schedule can be a big drawback. Workers’ rights are also different for freelancers and being self-employed also has legal/tax implications that need to be thought about. Companies may also find that finding reliable freelance workers can difficult and time-consuming.
In my opinion, the trend of remote working will continue to grow, the internet brings people together and means physical location is less important than ever. An awesome freelancer can come from anywhere in the world as long as they can effectively communicate with the client.
At Soundplate, we are building a remote, international team. In a traditional corporate environment, the staff is expected to be working at all times and to work strict rigid hours. Freelancers set their own schedules and work in whatever way is most effective for them. In my opinion, this is a healthier and more efficient way to work.
Freelance work is not for everyone and is not the right way for all companies to build, but I do believe it will become more common and 'normal' as companies and talent both discover the benefits of the 'gig economy'. A freelancer can be the perfect addition to a team when you do not need a full-time 9-5 worker but have a need for infrequent work, extra help or one-off tasks.
About the author
Lilia Stoyanov is CEO and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.
Trusted by recruiters from 150+ countries, Transformify offers an integrated solution comprising of HR Software, freelance platform and billing & payments.