Whether you are a sole trader, owner of a SME (small to medium-sized enterprise) or CEO of a transnational corporation, the last few months have undoubtedly pushed you into a digital world. The global pandemic created a pressing need for businesses to adopt digital practices in order to safely provide business continuity. This entailed a host of new practices – such as remote working, flexible hours and freelancing – in order to adapt to the ‘new normal’. However, while lockdown measures are easing and there is now the possibility of returning to ‘business as usual’ – the question is, should we?
From the perspective of consumers, they would rather enjoy the security and convenience of online practices – like shopping or on-demand media – than contend with the restricted (and potentially dangerous) physical versions. Likewise, businesses and their employees would rather stay online in order to continue working remotely and retain the agility needed in the current economic climate.
While the practices implemented during lockdown – like remote working or eCommerce – aren’t recent inventions, they were novel to the many businesses that began using them. For many, this necessitated new investment to ensure that these practices were possible and that employees understood how they could harness the array of new tools and business processes, such as remote working and e-commerce. And while this investment is being supported by the chancellor’s £160bn support package focusing on skills in the workplace, it is unlikely that all sectors or businesses will benefit from this directly. Instead many businesses may be expected to foot the bill of this necessary investment to prepare for the new reality of a more digital world.
Why Are BusinessesLooking to Freelancers?
According to Fiverr’s latest remote working survey, 42% of businesses have found freelancers to be more productive than regular staff. This figure shouldn’t necessarily be surprising given that many full-time staff were only exposed to remote working for the very first time early this year. Inevitably this had a damaging effect on their focus and impacted productivity, especially given the many other stresses they will have likely had to deal with at this time. On the other hand, most freelancers have been working remotely for their whole career and – while the stress of the pandemic may not have escaped them – their deep experience with these working habits will have allowed them to remain more productive overall.
Another consideration is that freelancers as a group are adept at thinking on their feet. A significant number of SMEs agree that flexibility and agility are the greatest asset they bring to the table. Not only does this make them useful during times of crises – where work objectives may change on a daily basis – it aligns freelancers with the current goal of many businesses presently. Coming out of lockdown, most businesses are prioritising flexibility and agility. Customer wants and habits are changing and businesses need to adapt in order to retain them. However, this agility can only be enabled through an equally agile workforce – which is where freelancers come in.
Making the Most ofFreelancers
Now that freelancers are providing more value to businesses than ever, it will be reassuring to hear that they are also more numerous than ever before. But while it may be no difficulty to find a freelancer, a recent Deloitte report has highlighted that 23% of businesses have little to no process in place for sourcing and managing them. As a result, this pool of talent remains untapped. In the first instance, businesses should improve their agility by implementing processes and infrastructure to allow for the hire of freelancers.
Businesses have always turned to freelancers to help tackle workload that they don’t have the internal capacity to manage. In recent months, freelancers have been on hand to support UK businesses who have had to make redundancies or furlough staff. However, as we look to the ‘next normal’, there’s an opportunity for businesses to tap into freelance talent to really add value from a digital perspective, rather than just make up gaps in capacity. The present issue though, is that many businesses don’t know what kind of digital help they need. For many UK small businesses, SEO strategies and maintaining a company blog have not been top of the agenda – and perhaps understandably – but in this new digital world, these kinds of digital skills are in high demand for good reason.
Now is a watershed moment for many UK businesses. Digital is clearly positioned as the way forward and businesses of all sizes need to make sure they are moving with this change rather than resisting it. This entails agility in both mindset and practice but this can only be enabled through implementing the right practices and investing appropriately. Though these changes are occurring quickly and businesses can’t afford to fall behind, all the resources needed to equip themselves for this digital world are at their fingertips if they look closely.