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The SME guide to capitalising on the gig economy

Research by global advisory firm, Willis Towers Watson, has revealed that 72% of South African businesses are considering cost saving measures around pay and recruitment to survive the COVID-19 economic downturn. Amidst these pay cuts and hiring freezes, local businesses – especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – should consider utilising the growing pool of skilled freelancers.

This influx of freelancers is partly due to the result of widespread retrenchments and scarce employment opportunities in the private sector, but has also been driven by the growing gig economy – a free market system in which increasingly more people are choosing to occupy temporary or freelance positions, enjoying the flexibility and variety it offers.

For a country like South Africa, which is facing record-high levels of unemployment, the growth of the gig economy is a win-win in this sense – it allows companies to offer work on a short-time basis while they get back on their feet, while providing job opportunities and boosting economic activity for the those seeking work.

To make the most of freelancers, however, business owners should follow these simple tips:

1. Be specific

Freelancers are ideal for bringing in highly specialised skills that may only be required for short or limited time period. It is therefore important to be very specific about what work you are needing done, and what skills are required, in order to ensure that you find the right person for the job.

2. Get referrals and reference check

The best way to find quality freelancers is often by word-of-mouth. Begin by asking your management team and employees if they know of anyone in the required fields of work. Once you have a list of referrals, it’s a good idea to do some background research on the candidates in order to make sure you know who you’re working with, and where their talents lie.

3. Ask for work samples

While a referral is a valuable start, it’s also recommended that you ask for examples of past work – a portfolio, if possible. This will allow you to see if the freelancer’s style and niche aligns well with the required role, while staying true to the company’s brand values or general aesthetic.

4. Draw up a contract

Once you’ve found the right candidate, put together a clear contract that details the role and timeframe. No matter how short or small the job, this contract will ensure that both parties are entering into the agreement with the same expectations, and it will prevent any conflicts or disagreements from occurring down the line.

5. Build up a “Little Black Freelancer Book”

Once you’ve worked with a freelancer, keep their details on file, along with notes about their performance – both positive and negative. This way, when a similar job comes around, you’ll know exactly who to call, and won’t have to go through the whole process all over again.

About the Author: Kgomotso Ramoenyane

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Kgomotso Ramoenyane is our Executive General Manager for Human Resources and has been with our company for 6 years. People are at the heart of Kgomotso’s work and her ultimate objective is to assist individuals to do work that is aligned to their purpose. Kgomotso’s initial exposure to entrepreneurship was through observing her grandmother undertake entrepreneurial ventures in order to survive and take care of their family. True to her innovative nature, she has introduced a blended learning approach and executive coaching to our company. She is particularly interested in women and leadership development. Kgomotso is a mother and enjoys spending her time doing gardening, reading and going on hiking trails. She is our go-to-spokesperson for people management, human resource trends and female entrepreneurship articles.