The ‘’Gig Economy’’ series sheds light on the future of work and the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and gig workers.
Our guest today is Ben Walker, CEO, Transcription Outsourcing
Ben, many transcription companies work on a project basis and there are times when there is lots of work. Is this the reason why you hire gig workers and freelancers?
It’s way more cost-effective to hire freelancers to do our transcription work, and it is the nature of the business these days because everyone wants to work from home. Many of our gig workers have a college degree and are more than qualified to work in-office somewhere but they choose to work from home on their own schedule.
It helps us cut major overhead costs like office space, computer equipment, parking, overtime, healthcare benefits, and time off. It works out for everyone involved in our situation and provides amazing quality and turnaround times for our clients. Having people working for us all over the US means we are in different time zones and can get things done around the clock for our clients.
Working in different time zones is both an advantage and a disadvantage. It helps to address clients' needs but slows down team communication. In your opinion, are freelancers and contingent workers less motivated and loyal than the full-time employees?
No, this is a 50/50 split between freelancers and full-time employees in our experience. We have had both and have both now. It all comes down to the person and what they want out of their job or contract. We now do our best to screen out the unmotivated people on both the full-time and freelancer sides of our company. This is not always easy to spot in the beginning, so we have to engage in a lot of upfront testing to mitigate hiring the wrong fit. Nevertheless, the extensive upfront assessment is worth it as it ensures a seamless experience later on.
Sometimes, a new hire will tell us they work for other companies, which we don’t mind, and then they don’t turn in work on time. Because we are a new client of theirs, freelancers almost always prioritize us last on their schedules and our clients suffer from it. At this point, we almost always tell them that if it happens again, they will be laid off. If the gig workers agree and work for us and deliver the assigned tasks on time, we don’t have a problem with them working for numerous clients. If it happens again, we let them go, and actually, it rarely comes to that point as the gig workers usually remove themselves by not returning our emails or calls.
You said that you don’t mind if some of the freelancers working on your projects have other clients, too. Do you think that freelancers having more than one client add value to the company by bringing in fresh ideas and innovation?
Again, this depends on the person. We have had great freelancers who worked for other transcription companies at the same time as for ours, and we’ve had horrible experiences as well. It all depends on the freelancer and what they want for themselves in the long run.
Do they want to be helpful and care about their work deeply or do they move on from job to job not really caring what happens in their wake?
We avoid the job hoppers as much as possible here because they almost always end up not being a good fit for us or for themselves. Our clients really like how available and accommodating we are, and if we can’t provide that because of freelancers having different priorities over our work, we have to part ways immediately. We’ve also had a few freelancers that gave us materials for training new people, desk manuals from old jobs, contract terms from old jobs, and even QA scoring spreadsheets broken down so we could use them right away. They wanted us to be a better company and were more than helpful explaining why a former company used what they used and did what they did. This was so helpful in a few instances that we still to this day use some of the materials we were given seven or eight years ago by a former freelancer who worked for us back then.
That’s amazing! It’s not common to see such a level of dedication and commitment. 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?
Yes and no. We have both full-time employees and freelancers in our company. Our good freelancers are eventually asked if they ever want to become an employee or would they prefer to remain as an independent contractor for us. We also have hybrids as well, where we pay them a small hourly rate and a rate for production. It’s more of an a la carte system I see in the future based on what the freelancers and companies both want from each other. Some companies will have to have in-house folks for security reasons, some for pure control purposes. It will all come down to the company and what their specific needs are, and then they will hire accordingly. In our situation, if someone wants a full-time job and we can’t accommodate them within the timeframe they need it, we tell them straight up so they aren’t left wondering if or when something may come open for them. The people we have that are the best freelancers know how to manage their time and resources very well, so making them full-time employees is not always a good idea in my opinion. They basically run their own small business and they do it very well, why would we want to ruin that for them and make them miserable clocking in and clocking out every day? Then there are some people that want or need the job security of a full-time job because they have a mortgage, or kids, or student loans, or simply need that peace of mind they have with a full-time job. It works for us and we like the way it is now with a more hybrid approach to our people.
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.
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