Independent contractors are a versatile and flexible workforce, often brought into organizations for both short and long-term projects. While independent contractors are largely seen as a readily available source of highly-skilled labor, many organizations also see independent contractors as a risk, which does impact decision-making a great deal.
If you’re considering bringing independent contractors into your organization, it’s important to consider both the pros and cons of doing so.
Pros of Hiring Independent Contractors
Independent contractors or freelancers have a lot of positives and can greatly benefit your organization in several ways.
- Flexibility – Independent contractors can be quickly hired and brought in on a needs basis to fill out flexible and versatile roles. An independent contractor is a very low-cost way to complete short and mid-term projects and goals, giving you the freedom to bring needed skills into your organization, without creating permanent roles or positions. This increases your organization’s agility because you can quickly adapt and meet needs by hiring someone from an external talent pool.
- Reduced Training Costs – Bringing an independent contractor into your organization means hiring someone who is completely ready for your role or project right then. You won’t have to adapt internal structure, offer training, or otherwise provide coaching to get your hire up to speed, to prepare them for a role, or to build skill, because you’re hiring someone who’s already there.
- Reduced Office Costs – Independent contractors work remotely, in-office, and in flex situations but most-often bring their own equipment, supply their own tools and software, and are not covered by office benefits and perks. The result is a worker who operates with significantly lower costs, although this may be offset by a higher hourly wage.
- Diverse Experience – Freelance workers typically operate at high-volume, taking on very diverse roles in organizations of all sizes. The end-result is often a very flexible employee who has experience in diverse roles and is able to leverage that for your benefit.
Cons of Hiring Independent Contractors
While hiring independent contractors offers a great deal in terms of pros, there are cons as well.
- Lack of Loyalty – External contractors work for themselves. They are very often passionate, creative, dedicated to learning, and highly self-motivated, but for their own benefit. This can result in more productivity for your organization in the short-term, but your external contractor will never be as dedicated to your organization’s goals, values, and business strategy as a full-time employee.
- Complex Office Integration – Most organizations work to separate independent contractors in terms of software, tooling, and systems. This is especially true when contractors bring their own equipment. However, the result is often isolation. You could hire an excellent UX designer to support design teams, but if that person isn’t in same system everyone else is using, they often won’t be utilized to their fullest. If you do integrate independent contractors, it’s important to treat them like employees rather than outsiders, so that they can contribute to their fullest extent.
- Difficult to Invest In – A full employee gives you opportunities to invest in that employee’s development and future, because it has a high chance of benefiting your organization. This means that independent contractors will limit your ability to invest in leadership development, employee skills, and training, because that person can simply take those skills elsewhere at any time.
Independent contractors have pros and cons, but they can be good in many situations. For example, if your organization could benefit from a skill or role but doesn’t have the budget or need for a full-time employee, an independent contractor could help you fill gaps and increase quality until you do need a full-time role. In most cases, you can conduct a needs analysis on a role-by-role basis to determine if a full-time employee or a contractor is a better solution, so that you always make the best choice for your needs.