No more than a few years ago, most freelancers would get their gigs from dedicated platforms, referrals, return clients, and of course, brands approaching them for an offer. Project-based, contract-based, or long-term, these collaborations may have varied in format, but the substance is the same: freelancers were often treated as external workers who don’t play a key role in the company culture.
In these past few years, however, things are rapidly changing. Today, we have a growing number of businesses and their recruiters actively looking for freelancers, but with a twist. Now, more organizations are happy to treat freelancers as employees — to the extent it’s allowed — and integrate them into their core activities and culture.
That said, it’s important for freelancers to understand what they can expect, what they can ask for, and how they can improve their chances of being hired for the best gigs out there. Here’s what we can learn from recruiters and how we can leverage that knowledge to grow our freelance careers even more.
Setting clear communication goals
One of the more pervasive freelancing myths is that the business is always the one setting communication expectations you have to abide by. Some companies do insist on taking the wheel on this aspect of the collaboration because they need their workforce (freelance and full-time) to be available at a certain time of day.
Others, however, are more than happy to adjust and provide ample flexibility in terms of collaborating with their freelancers, especially when that’s the price for working with someone they are really impressed with.
So, while the recruiter might not say so directly, you can definitely share your two cents on what you feel will be the best way to cultivate effective communication between you and other team members.
- Depending on the duration of your collaboration, you might want to avoid joining all of the platforms they use, be they Slack, Discord, or anything in between. You can save time and avoid all the back and forth if they can share what you need to know via email, weekly calls, and the like.
- Make sure you discuss your availability with the recruiter – not everyone expects you to respond to emails within ten seconds, but perhaps there’s a general rule you can comply with that works for everyone.
Recruiters can be freelancers, too
When you’ve got your foot in the door and you feel that you’re already at a disadvantage for being a freelancer talking to a recruiter, keep in mind: the recruiter you’re speaking with might be a freelancer, as well!
This is a career path on the rise, meaning that you will be increasingly likely to come across recruiters who work for a multitude of clients, or maybe a single one, but that fully understand where you’re coming from.
Whether or not they are freelancers, recruiters can also be rookies, unfamiliar with the specifics of your job or workflow and new to the concept of hiring freelancers. To be a successful recruiter, they need to learn on the go and make sure they find a good fit both for the company and for the candidate. That said, make sure you don’t leave anything important unsaid and share your concerns, ask questions, and don’t make assumptions.
The best way to find a great gig — and possibly a wonderful referral later on — is to treat the recruiter as the person who needs you as much as you need them.
Be mindful of the recruiting process
Recruiters are just one piece of the recruiting puzzle. That is why recruiters often want freelancers to keep this crucial fact in mind: every recruiting strategy is different, and therefore, you cannot approach every gig with the same mindset.
That means that you might:
- Need a different resume focusing on different aspects of your career to capture their attention.
- Want to ask about the specifics of the project if they’re not already outlined — before you apply and waste your own time as well as theirs.
- Need to prepare additional documents such as examples of your work or referrals when applying.
- Need to learn to answer questions like what is your greatest weakness and the like in order to get into the right mindset and understand the different types of applicants and roles.
Too many times, recruiters rule out someone because the person simply hasn’t provided enough information to consider them for the role. Not sure? Ask them.
Automation can be tricky
Automation is a buzzword that’s reshaping the business world as we know it, and the recruiting sector is no different. Chances are, the recruiters you’re speaking with (or attempting to speak with) use some form of HR workflow automation to eliminate menial tasks and focus on the core of their work.
What that means for you is that you might not even get to meet the recruiter until very late in the process, so your approach to each project needs to be on point. You should ask if you, as a freelancer, get access to some of the company perks in case you will collaborate on a long-term basis, and how you can leverage them if they’re automated and only available to full-time staff.
Always ask about onboarding
This ties in nicely with the previous topic of automation – if some aspects of HR and recruiting are automated, that means some kind of software will be in use. It can be extremely helpful for companies to use remote recruiting software to find and hire freelancers with as little hassle as possible, but that also means you need to understand what their onboarding entails.
Busy recruiters jumping from one conversation to another might not mention the specifics, and it’s best for you to ask. Check what the onboarding includes, if you will go through some kind of training, how long it lasts, and of course, how you will be compensated for the time you spend integrating into the company if there are no deliverables to charge for during that initial stage of onboarding.
Over to you
With more companies recruiting freelancers for long-term collaboration and not just project-based work, it’s crucial to know which questions to ask and how to adapt your expectations. It also means you might boost your chances of landing that dream gig, so it pays to understand the recruiting side of the process before you apply for your next project or contract.