Should an Agency be Transparent with Their Use of Freelancers?
In recent years, the ways in which people are employed has drastically changed. Whilst many companies would still prefer the fully-focused and constant availability of a dedicated employee, just as many have opted to make use of the services that over 53 million US freelancers can offer. This is a huge number of individuals, with expertise and experience abounds.
For platforms like nDash, the use of freelancers is something that is celebrated. Sadly, this level of transparency can also lead to doubt and worry about the dedication and quality of the work that will be delivered.
Do We Need a Middle Man?
Whether it is an employer looking to get rid of the middle-man, or an employee looking to do the same, there is always a risk of loss to the agency that brought them together.
In hindsight, this thought pattern makes sense. For many traditional agencies, they will have a point of contact that will need to relay the conversation between the company and the freelancer. For both parties, it is likely that they would experience delays in the relaying of conversation due to this extra link in the chain, and as the classic idiom states: ‘a chain is no stronger than its weakest link’.
As an example, one of the biggest threats to productivity is that the point of contact at the agency is a person – a human being – meaning there is a real possibility of illness. This could mean that important emails end up sitting in an inbox for days, disrupting workflows.
These interruptions in the communication process can be a catalyst for anger and frustration when many contracted projects can be time-critical.
Even when agency staff is in the office, freelancers could be sitting for hours, in some cases, waiting for an important piece of information that they requested in an email. Similar things could happen to the hiring company, where high-pressure workloads, with constantly changing priorities, cannot be relayed quickly enough.
Finally, with freelancers only earning a median income of between $10-$20k per year, removing the middle-man also helps to ensure more money ends up in their pockets.
As a result, is it any surprise that many would wish to remove the agency from the picture and work with the contractor directly? No, in this case, it is arguably the sane thing to do. This is why it is vital that agencies streamline communication channels for their clients and contractors, as well as ensuring they provide excellent value for money for the services they offer on both sides.
For example, at nDash, transparency is an integral part of the platform. The company and the freelancer are presented as real entities, rather than being hidden behind pseudonyms. There is still a chance that freelancers and companies may try to circumvent the service and make contact with each other. But overall, the ability to communicate directly with each other, without relaying communications through a point of contact, has meant that both parties have a great experience and get what they need.
Loss of Control
When it comes to freelancers, their freedom and flexibility can be both a blessing and a curse. Regardless of the work being done, it can be difficult to know what a freelancer is doing whilst on a company’s payroll.
When it comes to full-time workers, it is much more likely that they will be working on-site in an office. The benefit of this employee presence is that you can more easily see whether someone is busy working or slacking off. Management is an important part of improving employee productivity, and conversation between a department manager and an employee will ensure that they always have something to be doing.
One of the most notable benefits for freelancers is that work can be entirely done via telecommuting. This can also be a notable benefit for businesses, through a reduced requirement for office space and other employee amenities.
Whilst most freelancers would not take advantage of this luxury, some freelancers will claim for hours that they spend doing other things. Whereas faltering full-time productivity can be tamed through management, a contractor is much more difficult to keep in check. They could have a wealth of excuses prepared for when they get queried on their timekeeping, meaning employers are none the wiser to the wasted hours they are paying for.
As stated in a 2017 study, it was revealed that 96% of freelance respondents had multiple income streams, meaning they could be deceitfully charging one company by the hour, whilst completing a deliverable project for another. Whilst this is incredibly uncommon, it is still a possibility.
Timekeeping is an issue that is present in both types of worker, but with the majority of freelancers working remotely, it means you should be especially wary. An agency will also have a very similar problem when it comes to tracking their contractors time, which is why many are now beginning to charge a flat rate per project, rather than an hourly rate.
Consistency and Dedication to Work
One incredibly important aspect of good quality work is consistency. Using writing as an example, it is highly important that a consistent voice is used across written content. Leaning on multiple freelancers for different pieces can result in different grammatical formatting and inconsistencies in verbiage. Customers may notice these small changes in voice, making them question whether the services you offer will be consistent if you cannot do something as simple as writing consistently.
Another problem is the dedication to quality that freelancers offer. An integral part of many freelance employment contracts is the right to own all content produced by the writer. In short, this means the freelancer is turning over all of their work without being credited as the one who completed it.
In terms of copyright and ownership, this is beneficial for the hiring company. Sadly, this also means that the contractor has no repercussions for creating subpar work, as it will be the company that deals with it due to themselves being credited.
A study found that whilst it is cheap to get work completed, you also skimp on quality. In this case, a graphic designer made a clock wall graphic with only eight lines, versus the twelve you’d find on a real clock. They also made rookie mistakes in basic graphic design methodologies, such as incorrectly sizing fonts and badly spacing elements on the page.
If an agency were to take credit for this work, it would be them rather than the contractor that suffered. In this scenario, it may be better for the agency to pull the contractor into the conversation, so that they are held responsible and to a high standard.
So What Now?
The use of freelancers is going to become more prevalent as time goes on. With freelancers estimated to become the predominant type of workforce by 2027, it is important that you figure out whether disclosing the use of contractors is suitable for your business. In the majority of cases, transparency is the best policy as it instills trust in others, but it is also best to be wary of the downsides that come with revealing how you source your work.
Is your agency transparent to the client on your use of freelancers? Please drop us a note on Twitter and let us know!
Editors Note: This post was written by nDash community member Ciaran Spencer. Based in the UK, Ciaran comes from a strong background in technology. Previously, he was an IT specialist before switching over to freelance writing. To learn more about him – or have him write for your company – check out his nDash writer profile.