Find graphic designers
Graphic • Logo • Web
Walk into just about any business opened in the last 5 years and you'll probably find an open floor plan with staff chatting over tiny desk dividers, or employees with their headphones in and Spotify turned up. It's not an uncommon scene.
But then there's always that desk that's separated from the pack. No nameplate, action figures, or printouts of funny memes to be found. It's barren, not "lived in." It's the freelancer's desk. The I'm-here-but-not-really-here desk.
Today, many organizations go to great lengths to create an office culture their employees will want to be a part of and to which they'll want to contribute. And many organizations also employ freelancers – individuals not necessarily looking for the same things, in the traditional sense, as full-time employees.
So how do organizations strike a balance between these two types of workers? How can each support the other to create a stronger organization all around? Here are 3 key tips on creating a company culture that includes freelancers.
For Dan Fletcher, director of strategy at Contravent, a Salt Lake City-based digital creative agency, freelancers represent an important part of the organization's workforce. Whether they work remotely or in the office, Fletcher says one of the keys to integrating freelancers into their office culture is by first understanding how they fit into a project.
"Define the [project] need and then seek out someone who can accomplish what you defined," he says. "We look to freelancers when we need specialization that is uniquely suited to a [client] task." Contravent, who also employs around 60 employees, brings on the right freelancer for the right client, rather than bringing on any freelancer for any client.
By pursuing freelancers with greater intentionality and aligning individuals to the right project, Fletcher believes the organization is creating a stronger workforce, not diminishing the spirit of the existing one.
In seeking to fill a specific need that isn't or can't be met internally, the office culture is strengthened by outside collaboration and exposure to a wider range of backgrounds and skill sets. "Diversity makes a project better," says Fletcher. "Age, gender, ethnic background, skill set background, people from different industries and fields – the more you're able to facilitate that diversity, the better your work is going to be."
What comes next is where the rubber really meets the road. Even if the best freelancer is hired, one perfectly aligned to you and your client's needs, the threat to office "flow" can still rear its ugly head. Where Fletcher has witnessed this most is in the onboarding of freelancers.
"The effort that goes into onboarding a freelancer pays off in spades in the long run if it's done in a way that builds rapport, trust, and casual relationships between the freelancer and the teams they're working with," says Fletcher. This step is especially vital when the freelancer is on-site.
Robyn Segal knows what it's like to be both the freelancer and the employee. Now an art director at Edelman, a global public relations agency, Segal was first hired as a freelance designer before being converted to a full-time position five years ago. "I intentionally came into the office. In our industry, it can be harder to work remotely because of the amount of meetings we have for projects," she says. That intention paid off, too.
Instead of falling into what can become an "out of sight, out of mind" trap, Segal found herself taking on more and more freelance work simply because she was physically present to accept it. The team brought her into ad hoc meetings and projects, and trusted her to take on the additional work.
Segal recalls an invitation to the annual holiday party and later an off-site all-staff meeting as early points of inclusion that helped her feel a part of the team, even as a freelancer. It's something Contravent aims to do, too. They host weekly happy hours and invite employees, freelancers, partner organizations, clients, friends, and family to join. In this way, Fletcher and his colleagues are bringing the culture with them wherever they go. And inviting others to join in.
Besides being a resource to an organization, freelancers help employees better achieve business goals and provide specialized expertise. It often just makes good business sense. Freelancers come without a lot of overhead – no health insurance, no benefits, no paid time off – which means profit margins increase and more money stays in the organization.
Businesses who use freelancers get an injection of exactly what they need, when they need it, without the administrative or financial obligations an employee requires. It might not be that sexy, but it's a piece of office culture most people can get behind.
Viewing freelancers not as "separate from" but rather as "a part of" strengthens office culture; it doesn't dilute it. New connections are made, gaps are filled, and different energy finds its way into projects. "Think hard about new people that you bring in or seek out," says Fletcher. "Freelancing can be a gateway to bringing new relationships and people to your business."
Chat with a LinkedIn team member.