Like it or not, we officially live in a gig economy. From the part-time Uber and Lyft drivers to the full-time freelancers turned solopreneurs, contract work is the new normal.
This rise in self-employment is changing the way we do business. Platforms like Odesk and LinkedIn have made it easier than ever for employers to outsource work…but not without headaches. There are so many freelancers it can be difficult to sort the good from the bad. Turnover’s also high (one in six online platform workers are new in any given month). So, once you find great workers, how do you convince them to stick around?
It’s not as complicated as you think. But most of the companies I work with on a daily basis have been slow to adapt, and they’re missing out big-time.
If you’re interested in increasing your contract-based workforce, or would like to build some loyalty with the freelancers you’re currently using, here are six tips:
1. Money talks–but not as much as you think.
Of course, everyone wants to get paid. If you want to attract the best freelancers, you have to offer competitive wages, just as you would to employees.
However, most people begin working for themselves due to the increased freedom and control. It’s always a hustle in the beginning, but once these workers demonstrate value by doing good work, they’ll have options. Which means most won’t work with clients they don’t enjoy working with–at least, not for long.
You shouldn’t short-change your freelancers, but you don’t need to pay them luxuriously either–as long as you treat them well. (Performance-based bonuses are also great motivators, even more for contract workers than employees.)
2. Get creative with your perks.
Stop thinking of perks as an employee-only benefit. Can you pay for some of your freelancers’ tools, like a new laptop or SAAS? Can you cover their transportation costs?
And don’t underestimate the value of small gifts (like gift cards or free meals). You’d be surprised how far this can go in establishing goodwill.
3. Provide training.
Self-development is invaluable for freelancers, as it can help set them apart from the competition. Can you foot the bill for a third-party training course or certification? Or can your company offer special training or strategy sessions (maybe via webinar)?
Most contractors will work hard to keep a good relationship with employers who are willing to invest in them.
4. Give sincere praise.
All of us crave acknowledgement and commendation, and freelancers are no different. Be sure to let workers know, sincerely and specifically, how much you appreciate their efforts. By doing this, you cultivate a pleasant working relationship that they won’t give up on easily.
5. Be as transparent as possible.
Just because a worker isn’t an employee doesn’t mean you should keep him or her in the dark. The more you can share about your company’s vision, goals, strategy and process, the easier it will be for contract workers to align with those factors.
Additionally, they’ll feel more like they’re part of the team–and thus more attached to your business.
(Caveat: First and foremost, contract workers are out for themselves. That means they could take your strategy to competitors, or may become the competition themselves. But the situation isn’t much different than with normal employees, so work to build trust and play it smart.)
6. Repeat after me: Pay. On. Time.
When I finally left my day job to work for myself, the thing I missed most was that regular paycheck hitting my account–on the same day, every month.
Nowadays, more and more companies have adopted a net 60 model, meaning freelancers don’t get paid until 60 days after their work is complete. That is, that’s when they should get paid. The harsh reality is many companies purposefully pay contract workers late, in an effort to maximize their own cash flows.
But that’s all to your advantage, isn’t it? Because if you can pay sooner (and stick to your commitments), your freelancers will keep you at the top of the list.
Putting It into Practice
Attracting and retaining the best freelancers isn’t rocket science–but you’d be surprised how very few companies are getting this right.
If you can strike the right balance between the above tips, you’ll build your reputation accordingly. Then, you should have no problem attracting the best of the best–and keeping them around.
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A version of this article originally appeared on Inc.com.