21st December 2020

Is COVID-19 culling freelance culture?


Wind back the clock 12 months and the recruitment industry was discussing opportunities in a blossoming freelance climate. In 2019, the number of self-employed people reached 4.93 million – an all-time high – driven by the burgeoning gig economy.

Then COVID-19 hit.

Although every type of employment is vulnerable to pandemic pressures, the self-employed have been particularly badly affected. According to the Freelance Informer, two thirds (69%) of UK freelancers have seen demand for work decline, while almost half feel they will have to close their business if they don’t receive financial help within the next three months. And the UK government has been criticised for its poor self-employed support package.

Sometimes adverse economic conditions can lead to an increase in freelance workers, as people facing redundancy look for self-starting ways to use their skills. But the global economic impact of coronavirus has turned people away from this option in 2020, as professionals fear going solo in such an unpredictable climate.

This marked change in direction is something that recruitment agencies should be taking notice of. With freelance fortunes on a downturn, there are new opportunities to support skilled people from the self-employed market who are struggling to find work – increasing the quality and size of the talent pool for your clients in the process.

Finding short-term and long-term opportunities for freelancers

As a recruiter, one of your key roles is matching capable people with new opportunities. And the impact of COVID-19 on the self-employed has made that supply of available, talented people bigger. Across the UK, freelancers are now looking for new avenues to earn a living, including employment types they may have never previously considered.

There are two key revenue streams that recruitment agencies should explore in the current climate. The first is short-term roles and fixed-term contracts. Are any of your clients working on projects that require a specific skillset, or do they need certain attributes for seasonal work? This can be a good ‘stop-gap’ for freelancers whose work levels are in decline, leaving them free to build their own business back up when the market starts recovering.

The other opportunity is full-time employment. Not everyone freelancing at the start of the pandemic was enjoying their career choice. For some, 2020’s economic difficulties may have proven to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Now, you can facilitate their return to the employed job market.

Equally, some freelancers may have been forced out of the traditional job market by personal circumstances, such as becoming a parent and needing to be available for childcare. COVID-19 has ripped up the rule book on set working patterns, and good employers are much more willing to be flexible with their contracted hours if it means finding the right person for a role.

Converting self-employed opportunities quickly

As with everything in the recruitment market, timing is critical. Agencies that can explore the ‘freelance conversion’ opportunity quickly, can take the pick of the strongest professionals, presenting people to your clients that they’ve never seen before.

Now is the time to go back through your recruitment CRM system and look for previous candidates that chose to go self-employed, to check whether changing circumstances may have opened their minds to permanent employment.

Additionally, you can pivot your marketing and social media strategies to target those thinking of making the jump back into a full-time role.

It’s also crucial to manage inbound opportunities effectively, to find the right vacancies for available freelancers. Many of them won’t be entitled to government aid, so will be keen to secure an immediate start. Recruitment management software can help you to not only document and match their skills with available positions; the leading solutions include integrated onboarding tools to complete the necessary compliance steps and get people on the payroll as quickly as possible.

Providing stability and opportunity in a tough market

After the upheaval of 2020, professionals in all industries are looking for stability. As a recruitment expert, you are in a unique position to provide this to freelancers whose work prospects have taken a downturn.

With the right marketing strategy and recruitment back-office software, your agency will be able to support self-employed professionals looking for career alternatives, pairing them with the right opportunity for short-term or long-term work.

And in return, your clients will thank you for bringing well-motivated, highly talented people to their attention; people who would not necessarily have taken that role before the pandemic. This will help your agency to stand out as innovative and resourceful in a tough recruitment market – so even if companies are hiring less frequently, you’re the go-to place to source people that will add immediate value to their business.

Making the most of every opportunity

COVID-19 has taught the recruitment industry to make the most of every opportunity. This means focusing on nurturing client and candidate relationships above the back office admin.

ETZ is enabling recruiters to spend less time on low-value tasks with our ultimate recruitment tech stack, which integrates and automates back office, payroll, compliance, and CRM. Book your free demo to see how ETZ can reduce your business admin by up to 85%.

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