Freelancer or full-time? Your guide to smarter hiring amidst a global talent shortage

Figuring out which roles need full-time workers and which can be freelancers is challenging. Learn how.

March 7, 2024

If you currently have roles you’re trying to fill, chances are you’re feeling the pain. Hiring is more competitive than ever and more and more workers are quitting their full-time gigs in search of freelance work and more balanced lives. Although there’s a chance you can scoop up someone leaving a different full-time position, there’s no denying that the full-time pool you’re trying to hire from is only continuing to shrink

As with previous shifts in workforce trends and attitudes, the most successful companies of tomorrow will adjust their hiring strategies to take advantage of The Great Resignation, instead of simply trying to stay afloat through it. After all, the number of workers hasn’t really changed, just the amount of workers looking for traditional full-time jobs. 

Relying more on a contingent workforce — and building a workforce that strategically blends full-time workers and freelancers — is the best way to ride the wave of The Great Resignation instead of swimming against it. But for companies that don’t typically hire freelancers, it can be hard to understand which roles could be freelance, which roles really should be full-time, and what falls somewhere in the middle. 

Below are the five questions you should ask yourself each time you’re hiring for a new role, to help you understand how to find the best talent for that specific need. 

What will timeline and bandwidth look like? 

If you’ll need a person on an ongoing indefinite basis, the general consensus is that you’ll need a full-time employee. But when you think about it, the idea that all roles will need someone working roughly the same 40 hours each week really doesn’t make any sense at all. 

Although freelance rates tend to be a little higher, in some cases it’s cheaper to bring on a freelancer indefinitely than to assume each role needs a full-time employee. If a role is only going to take 10-20 hours per week, it probably makes more sense to bring on a freelancer. Not only do they tend to have more experience and higher skill levels in their fields, but many of them also enjoy ongoing freelance jobs. These types of jobs give them the stability of knowing they have consistent work and pay coming their way without sacrificing the autonomy they get as freelancers. 

What can you offer this person? 

This isn’t the first thing hiring managers usually think about, but it’s one of the most important questions to ask yourself. Can you offer this person career growth and development? Many full-time hires are going to want the opportunity to develop and move up within the organization — sometimes very quickly. And they might not stick around very long if they don’t feel like they’re going to get those things.

Freelancers, on the other hand, usually want the opposite. Instead of wanting growth or development they typically just want to do the work they were hired to do, and do a great job so that they continue to get hired. A great freelancer can sometimes stay longer and be easier to manage than a full-time hire looking to climb the corporate ladder.

How much autonomy do you need from this person? 

In addition to wanting long-term development and career growth, full-time employees are often lower level and might require more support as well — particularly when it comes to the specifics of their job. Whether you’re looking for a copywriter or a software engineer, freelancers tend to be better at working autonomously. That means needing less support from you on a day-to-day basis, as well as less support when it comes to doing the specifics of the job they were hired to do. 

If you need someone who will work more autonomously, a freelancer is often your best bet. And because they tend to have more experience, they will often produce higher-level work for you as well. 

Do you need a specialist or a people manager?

Generally speaking, freelancers are typically better for specialist roles and full-time employees are better for people managers. And if a specialist role requires a really specific skill set, a freelancer will make even more sense for this role as many freelancers go freelance so that they can specialize in certain industries or aspects of their field. 

But a specialist role doesn’t always make the most sense as a freelancer. If your company is experiencing high growth you need to also look at what the future of this role and function will be. If you’re hiring for a specialist role but think there may be a chance that their department or team will grow in the next few years, then a specialist role today could potentially be a people manager role tomorrow. In these cases, it might be better to hire a full-time worker so that they can build out the team down the line when the time comes. 

Are you looking to build out a new department?  

Let’s say you’re a startup or a quickly growing company and you’re looking to build a marketing department. But you don’t know anything about marketing, whether you’re ready for a marketing team, or how you would support them. You can hire a freelancer as a consultant to help you understand whether or not you’re ready to hire for this area yet, what you would need in place to help them get started, and what to look for in the right candidates once you do start hiring. 

Building a process for freelancers that works — both for you and for them

Once you have more of a framework in place to help you decide whether different hires should be freelance or full-time, it’s worth taking a look at the way you manage your freelancers. Many companies tend to manage their freelancers without a set process or system in place, but the more you grow — and the more freelancers you manage — the less sustainable this gets. 

Worksome lets you consolidate every area of working with freelancers — sourcing, billing, payments, onboarding, and management — into one place, eliminating the need for back and forth aligning since all of your information is housed in the same system. It also automates a lot of the more manual admin tasks, all to free you up to focus on more strategic tasks. Request a personalized demo today to learn more about how Worksome can help your business succeed.