Boosting the Impact of Your On-Demand Workforce With Better Data

A freelancer checks her watch and works on her laptop

The future of freelancing is in the details — collected data around pricing, performance and project management can enable organizations to select best-fit candidates, deliver improved security and streamline project completion.

There's no stopping the gig economy. As jobs like web design and freelance writing continue to gain popularity, sectors such as finance, agriculture, education and healthcare are leveraging the on-demand workforce.

New talent firms are sourcing highly experienced and skilled gig professionals to work with top-tier enterprises. What's more, most freelancers say they'd prefer their current gig opportunities to full-time jobs and would rather seek out new clients to bolster their financial futures.

What does this mean for enterprises? Sourcing the best and brightest talent demands increased interaction with the gig economy. The scope and complexity of this market presents a new set of challenges. Businesses must collect and leverage critical freelancer data to make informed decisions, produce results reliably and boost the impact of on-demand workers.

But what's worth collecting? How can organizations use this data effectively? And what solutions are available to reduce overall complexity without sacrificing security? Read on to find out.

Decoding the Gig Economy Data

Freelancers represent countless data points that are untethered to existing corporate HR departments. Unlike traditional full-time equivalent employees, the data generated by freelancers is a combination of public and private information. While it may be possible to collect information about a candidate's previous job performance and quality by looking at online portfolios or published work, other points like freelance rates, specific skill sets and the personal information needed to process gig worker payments typically require contractor permission to obtain, use and store.

In a freelance market driven by data, organizations must choose metrics that offer reliable ROI. While there's no industry standard, businesses looking to decode the gig economy tend to be best-served by data such as:

  • Performance history — For freelancers, this is effectively their online reputation. This category includes what businesses think of their overall work quality, timeliness and value for cost. Initial data points here can be gathered from workers themselves and from previous contract references, but the bulk of the data comes from first-person interactions with freelancers once they've completed their first few assignments for your organization.
  • Skillset — Freelance writers tend to have different areas of expertise. Some may be adept at technical pieces, while others may excel at more conversational content. Web designers, meanwhile, run the gamut from technically proficient to artistically inclined. Creating a regularly updated database of freelancer skills that would suit your organization's needs is critical to finding the right person quickly.
  • Cost — The gig economy allows for significant variations in cost, deliverables and milestones. It's often difficult to compare freelancer costs at a glance, even for small-scale projects. A centralized, rule-based cost reporting system can help ensure that your organization is getting its money's worth.

Boosting the Freelance Impact

Organizations are already using freelance worker data to improve services. For instance, ride-sharing services leverage real-time data to track their drivers on the road. But that's an obvious example — how can businesses that need content creation, web design or high-level professional services leverage collected data to improve the impact of their own on-demand workforces?

Just like any technology deployment, it's worth identifying pain points to effectively target data use. Let's break down three of the most common ones:

  • Poor Performance — This is the most worrisome outcome of freelance-based projects. What happens if finished products don't live up to expectations and independent contractors aren't willing to meet you halfway? Better data can enable you make better decisions. Performance ratings of current contractor pools can help you avoid glaring missteps, and if new freelancers prove difficult to work with, updating their profiles can help to limit total loss for future projects.
  • Ballooning Budgets — Freelance budgets are typically set in advance, but if the scope of work changes or significant revisions are required, budgets can quickly get out of hand. Here, two factors are critical: contractor communication and offering-versus-outcome costs. Organizations can avoid spending too much for too little by seeking information on how quickly their freelancers respond to messages and their ability to hit target budgets.
  • Freelance Frustration — Even freelancers get stressed. If you have go-to workers that are suddenly underperforming, data about the number of jobs recently undertaken, expected turnaround times and number of revisions can help you spot contractor problems before they become serious and give you the chance to avoid losing great talent.

Managing Supply and (On) Demand

Data drives better decision-making, but the sheer scope of on-demand workforce data can quickly overwhelm even experienced IT teams and create two critical concerns: supply complexity and security management.

Let's tackle the last point first. Increasing compliance expectations around the handling, protection and usage of personal data can pose a problem for organizations: How do you ensure that freelancer data is properly vetted, managed and protected? How do you effectively vet contractors who may be working with compliance-regulated data from third-party organizations or in-house databases?

It's not enough to simply collect necessary data. Organizations can benefit from a freelance management system (FMS) like WorkMarket, capable of consistent data classification, unified tracking and reporting, and reliable scalability to ensure that information is protected.

Supply complexity, meanwhile, can create productivity pitfalls if organizations don't have an effective way to sort, categorize and retrieve freelancer profiles. One solution is automation. Seventy-eight percent of surveyed business leaders said they could save 360 hours each year by using automation. For the on-demand workforce, this means leveraging FMS solutions that are able to automate the process of freelancer data capture, classification and updating. This can provide businesses with current and reliable freelancer profiles that detail skillsets, pricing structure, previous performance and current workload.

A Data-Driven Future

The future of freelancing is in the details — collected data around pricing, performance and project management can enable organizations to select best-fit candidates, deliver improved security and streamline project completion.

Go Deeper

[Webcast] The Future of Work & "Gig Economy" - How will you manage the compliance risk associated with using freelancers at scale? What can we learn from companies who've already done so? Launch this webcast for the latest information.