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Updated: Sep 28, 2022

These 4 tips will help you manage and grow your liquid workforce into a strategic advantage for your company, with agile talent ready to tackle any challenge.

The future of work is the liquid workforce, and trends show that it’s imperative for companies to activate this cohort in order to maintain their competitive edge. Managing your liquid workforce — from freelancers to highly specialized on-demand advisors and consultants — is both like and unlike managing your full-time workforce. Overall, much is similar, but the specific strategies and techniques are slightly different.

Having managed hundreds of freelancers, we’ve learned that to successfully grow and manage your liquid workforce, you need to think like both a human resources leader and a finance leader. Once you’ve mastered this, your company will become more agile, and you will accelerate your own career development.

Here are four tips that can help leaders working with the liquid workforce, whether you are managing a few freelancers or hundreds.

1. Developing Your Talent Pool

How can you attract the right freelance talent for your company? In many ways, it’s similar to searching for the right candidate for a full-time position. When hiring an employee, establishing the strengths, experience, and skills the right candidate will possess is critical. You also need to assess and evaluate the candidate, along with checking referrals. To source candidates, canvas your network for recommendations and use online portals.

From a tactical perspective, these actions are mostly the same when hiring a freelancer or vendor. The main difference is that instead of posting a job, you will post a request for a proposal (RFP).

Your approach to liquid and full-time talent will diverge on strategy for developing those pools. Inherently, your freelance talent is fluid. How often and how long you work with each freelancer will vary. Often, you will want to start freelance work within days — or even hours. What this means is that to fully take advantage of the potential for liquid talent to accelerate your business, you need to approach the development of this talent pool strategically.

Think ahead about the types of skills your business will need over the coming year. Do you already have relationships with freelancers with those skills? If not, consider using smaller trial projects to recruit and vet new freelancers. Keep track of your liquid talent pool in a database or freelancer management system — make it easy to search and find the talent with the right skills and experience.

2. Onboarding And Processes

Just like your company has human resources management systems and processes for managing full-time employees, you need to have the right processes and systems in place to successfully grow and manage your liquid workforce.

A robust onboarding process that includes both automation and customization is just as critical for your freelancers as it is for your employees. The right onboarding process not only gets your project off to the right start but also ensures your company is compliant with regulations. Make sure your onboarding process includes executing independent contractor agreements and nondisclosure agreements, as well as collecting all the W-9 information your company will need for filing 1099 forms.

Your systems and processes should also make it easy to manage and pay your freelancers. As you grow this team, keeping track of projects and invoices can become complicated and time-consuming very quickly. Plus, as your liquid workforce becomes a critical part of your overall workforce, you need to have robust financial management. Your company needs to not only accurately track payments, but also track cash flow and future expenses for your freelancers. To become an expert manager of your liquid workforce, you have to be more than an HR leader — you have to also be a finance manager with complete control and visibility into current and future expenses.

In my experience, depending upon the number of freelancers you hire, you can easily save 20 or more hours every month by using an FMS instead of manual processes and spreadsheets.

3. Evaluating Your Team

Effectively managing your liquid workforce is about much more than handling RFPs, contracts, and invoices. Providing feedback to your freelancers throughout a project is critical to successful project completion and to building long-term relationships — 360-degree feedback matters for freelancers, too, not just employees. Gather feedback from anybody who worked with an individual freelancer. Use the responses to share feedback and to review their performance.

As part of your review, remember to think ahead to potential future projects. What types of projects is this freelancer best suited for? What level of complexity can he/she handle? Keep notes on working style or other factors to help you, partner, even more successfully on the next project.

4. Retaining Your Freelancers

Managing Freelancers and Vendors?

Our customers report saving 20 hours per month (on average) when they use Liquid’s complete contractor and vendor management system.

Like your employees, freelancers want to be valued. Would your employees still want to work for you if they were underpaid? What if you didn’t pay them on time? Are you offering the freelancer routine work, or is it more interesting, challenging, and intellectually stimulating? Do you provide positive and constructive feedback? Are you committed to the freelancer’s success and providing support when needed? Think about these factors from the freelancer’s perspective; this will help you build long-term relationships with your liquid workforce.

Don’t forget that for most freelancers, one of the critical benefits of freelancing is flexibility. Make sure you are supporting this and respecting any boundaries set on available hours for communication and meetings.

Beyond Liquid Workforce Leadership

As you develop, manage, evaluate and retain your liquid workforce, you’ll expand your skills as an HR professional and position yourself for executive-level advancement. What’s more, using these tips will help you grow your liquid workforce into a strategic advantage for your company, with agile talent ready to tackle any challenge. You and your company will be ready for the future of work.


Note, this article was originally published on Forbes and appears here under license by the author (Liquid’s CXO Yolanda Lau).



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Four Tips For Managing Your Liquid Workforce

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