What are the Upsides and Downsides to Hiring Freelancers

freelance worker

A job in 2017 looks very different from a job in 1997. Making a living no longer means wearing clothes from G2000 and resigning yourself to tolerating your boss.

The freelance economy has been growing rapidly the past couple of years, and a higher number of fresh grads are taking up freelance or part-time positions immediately after graduation, rather than jumping into full-time employment.

And firms, in turn, are now hiring more freelancers than ever. Online platforms are making it easier than ever to source for and hire freelancers. But is this really what’s best for these companies? Let’s examine the pros and cons of relying on freelancers to a particular job instead of hiring a full-time employee.


PRO: You pay them only when you have a job that needs to be done

We’ve all seen those employees surfing Facebook all day long at the office, getting paid to chill out in the pantry and take suspiciously long toilet breaks.

When you hire a full-time employee, you have to keep paying them a full-time wage even if you don’t have enough work to keep them occupied full-time.

Freelancers enable employers a commitment-free way to pay only when there is work that needs to be done, or to pick up the slack when existing employees are inundated.

For instance, marketing departments often outsource tasks like graphic design and copywriting to freelancers instead of hiring more full-timers.

When the work peters out, instead of having to retrench someone they simply stop giving out assignments, which is cheaper and doesn’t generate as much bad karma.

For most firms, the main reason they hire freelancers are for the cost savings. You might be paying them more per hour than your full-time employees, but they are engaged for fewer hours in the long term.


PRO: No need to pay CPF, benefits or raining costs

A full-time employee is more expensive to hire than his salary might suggestion.

Employers are obliged to pay the employer’s portion of the employee’s CPF contributions in addition to their regular salaries.

What’s more, they also need bear the cost of any benefits such as medical insurance, paid medical leave, employee bonding lunches and so on. Freelancers get none of that.

Employees also need to be trained to take on more responsibilities the longer the stay with the company, whereas freelancers are usually hired precisely because they already have the skills and so do not incur training costs.


CON: Less control over how they work

Like it or not, that full-time employee has to show his face at the office week after week, making it possible for the employer to control and micro-manage him if they want (beware, however, as micro-managing can also push the poor employee to quit).

Heck, particularly annoying employers can even tell employees they don’t like their work outfits, complain about how messy their desks are or insist they name their first child after the company (only slightly kidding).

Employers don’t have that kind of control over freelancers. They often work offsite, and even those who work on-site are not there on a long-term basis. That gives the employer significantly less control. And as a freelancer isn’t an employee, employers have less control over how they work and present themselves. For employers who like that kind of power trip, freelancers can be frustrating difficult to subdue.


CON: Less quality control

Companies who’ve ever tried to hire an experienced freelancer who was charging peanuts should have experienced first hand the warning in the adage “pay peanuts, get monkeys”.

When a new freelancer comes on board, you never know what the quality of his work is like until he submits his first piece of work.

Of course, the same caveat applies to new full-time employees. The difference is that full-time employees join the company at much slow rate, and companies who rely heavily on outsourcing can deal with huge flows of new freelancers. That has the potential to generate a lot of angst.


CON: Not integrated into the company culture

Freelancers are like that classmate you had at university who never ever showed up for class. In fact, you forgot he was even in the class until he showed up at the final exam.

This can leave a company feeling fractured, especially if the company culture is a very collegiate one where everyone is expected to go for drinks at the bar on Friday nights.

Does your company hire freelancers? Share your experiences in the comments!