The legal grey areas surrounding reliance on contractors instead of full-time employees might scare some employers away from online freelancer marketplaces.
“The Gig Economy Won’t Last Because It’s Being Sued to Death,” was a Fast Company headline last year. FT.com employment reporter Sarah O'Connor has explored “What the small print tells us about Uber, TaskRabbit, and Upwork,” and the “Legal ambiguities of the gig economy.” And the NYC nonprofit publication CityLimits, labor activist Katie Unger has blogged about the disadvantages of such arrangements for workers.
But if you’re not worried about all of that, then you might consider it worth handing over your email address in exchange for a free copy of The Modern Marketer’s Guide to Hiring a Freelance Designer. The eBook is out today from the gigantic freelancers’ marketplace Upwork, which has had its share of unflattering gig economy press since it evolved from a merger of Elance and ODesk last year.
Upwork says it aims to help businesses tap into the wealth of talented free-agent designers in the “era of distributed creative production,” and it knows there’s a need. The company claims that nearly 300,000 design-related jobs were posted on its platform in 2015, up 28 percent from 2014. Its own research shows that more than 60 percent of companies today tap outside talent for “content marketing” (the practice of posting useful or interesting content to lure paying customers to your pages). As opposed to the average 43 days a company spends finding a traditional hire, Upwork says most can find a freelancer online in just 3 days.
To be sure, Upwork’s guide doesn’t address those murky legal/labor issues. But it does offer advice on how to decide which endeavors to entrust to freelancers. “Projects that are core to defining the future of your brand, or that are foundational to your company, should remain in-house,” according to the guide. “Your distributed team members should create work based on the essence of your brand, as opposed to doing work that defines it.”
Projects that Upwork says are best done by an in-house designer include “design and structural work that’s built on a deep, thorough understanding of your users or customers accumulated over time, like UX design for a major product line” and “materials for IPOs, defining product launches, major events you’re hosting.”
But when it comes to long-form content such as eBooks, research papers, and white papers, Upwork recommends entrusting a freelancer. Contractors can also handle landing pages, online ads and social media graphics, infographics, promotional videos, product tutorials and customer education courses, and website graphics, according to the guide.
If you need a team to manage and execute a big project such as a brand campaign, logo redesign, or social media stunt, but nothing further, then a traditional creative agency could be your ticket. “The added overhead can be justified if you’re looking for eye-popping results that push the envelope,” Upwork says. Or if you’re just worried about the legal ambiguities of gig work.