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Punkpost: Asking artists to become full-time employees may create a serious ‘’supply’’ problem

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The ‘’Gig Economy’’ series sheds light on the future of work and the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and gig workers.

There is so much chatter right now going on about the gig economy and its merits and faults. And I can definitely see both.

Our guest today, Lex Monson, is the founder and CEO of a company named Punkpost, where beautifully handwritten cards are mailed by artists for you. All artists are freelancers.

Lex Monson Punkpost

Lex, you work with artists and creativity is key to the success of Punkpost. Why do you hire gig workers and freelancers?

We hire gig workers and freelancers because, for the majority of people, the type of work that we do is not something most people can do full time. Writing cards full time takes a legitimate physical toll on your hand, not to mention, we see lettering as something that people tend to do as a hobby, so rather than turning it into a "job", we've kept it as a sort of hobby that people get paid for. On top of that, our writers are able to work when it fits their schedule. We don't deal with micromanaging their schedules, instead, they complete assignments by the due dates that we give them. It allows more flexibility and freedom on both ends. More people are able to commit to working with us since it is something that they can do in their free time, which allows us to find the most talented artists to work with since they can keep their day job or keep that time that they need to be a parent as is. Writing for Punkpost is just a little something extra that they do while allowing artists to continue to work on and improve their lettering skills, be inspired by others in the community, and meet people who have similar interests to their own. I think we would have a serious "supply" problem if we asked people to become full-time or even part-time employees of Punkpost. One of the reasons we have such a good, strong, and robust community of freelancers, is because it is a gig and freelance work in substance. 

Many business owners are still skeptical when it comes to relying on freelancers only. What if they are not available when you have an urgent order? Are freelancers and contingent workers less motivated and loyal than full-time employees?

People are people no matter if they are freelancers or full-time employees. Their level of loyalty really depends on the person more than their employment status. If someone is excited about the product they are working on, they are as loyal. If a person is lukewarm about the product they are working on, they are less passionate and therefore have less drive for it. I personally have been in plenty of roles where I've done something on the side and given it more than something, I might be doing in my 9-5. And I see the same with our crew of handwriting artists. You don't need to be a full-fledged employee of an organization to give what you are doing your all. You just need to be excited about the work you are producing. I don't see loyalty associated with employment status whatsoever. 

Do you think that freelancers having more than one client add value to the company by bringing in fresh ideas and innovation? 

Absolutely. We've had more than a few writers in our community who work with companies who we consider our competition. Being able to bounce ideas off of them and ask if our competitors have experienced something similar and how they dealt with it has been extremely helpful in navigating our own ship. Not to mention, the more experience and backgrounds you have in your organization, the more likely you are to find someone who can help you solve a problem. More minds, more experience, more insights, there is nothing in that mix that is going to hurt you. So rather than being fearful and feeling ownership over a person who is working with you, give them freedom and fluidity in what they do and who they work with. If you can't get there mentally, then hiring freelancers might not be right for you, but if you can get there, you'll see that their experiences will add great benefit to your organization. I think the type of people who are drawn to freelance roles are often more curious, adventurous and have excitement for problem-solving. So, opening yourself and your organization up to people who think along those lines is anything but detrimental. 

In that same vein, we've seen that having a team of freelancers has really helped us find the right people for our full-time team. You can see who takes initiative and is willing to do more and where their strengths lie before taking them on to do more. You can send them extra work and see how they handle the responsibilities if they take ownership of it if they problem solve and take the task you gave them and come up with systems and ideas to make it better. It happens naturally. You will see if they would be happy taking ownership of something full time before you hand over the responsibility fully. 

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?

Absolutely, people don't necessarily want to be chained to a 9-5 schedule, to a commute, or to office politics. Giving workers the chance to make their own schedules and do the work on their own time is empowering and, in my opinion, good for mental health. With our team of freelancers, they all work from home, on their own time, they are able to earn money for a hobby that they love, they are full-time and part-time mothers, full-time and part-time fathers, teachers, students, full-time employees elsewhere, part-time employees elsewhere, have other gigs, freelance other places, have other side hustles, and sometimes their own side businesses, they live all over the US. The one thing they have in common is that they like the product they are working on. And getting to work with people who have that in common, who can learn from each other and teach each other, who have the opportunity to help build and grow something that they are passionate about, it's all so empowering. None of us are chained to anything. We're all here because we want to be. Letting go of the old school constraints is better for everyone at the end of the day. 

That all being said, there are some things that need to change in the United States for the gig economy to be sustainable in the long run. For example, universal healthcare. No matter people's employment, they should be given basic healthcare. When people are reliant on their employer for health insurance, they often stay in jobs for security and not because they are excited about the work they are doing. And it's hard to do your best work when you're just doing it for the security. It's truly a disservice for both the employee and the employer. Build systems that give people the freedom to do gigs they want to do, when they want to do them without all of these security needs that force people to take full-time employment when freelance work might be more fitting to their skill set and their schedules. 


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.

About Transformify

Trusted by recruiters from 150+ countries, Transformify offers an integrated solution comprising of HR Software, Freelance Platform and billing & payments.