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If you’re thinking about hiring a contingent worker, the question isn’t if, but when. And that time is coming sooner than you may think.

One reason is because the talent pool is becoming shallower, especially if you are filling tech roles. The ratio of unemployed Americans to open jobs is a low 1.4 to 1. It’s worse for roles involving digital and big data where technology is moving faster than we can keep up.

  • 1.3 million software jobs opened last year, and it’s estimated nearly 513,000 remain unfilled
  • 73 percent of businesses with <1,000 employees are having a hard time finding tech employees

What’s more, many of the professionals you need are rejecting traditional jobs for the life of a freelancer. Nearly 4 out of 10 workers in the U.S. are freelancers. That’s a 55 million strong workforce—and it’s growing.

What is a contingent worker?

Before going further, let’s clarify what a contingent worker is. Contingent workers are people who only work on a project or temporary basis. This label applies to all workers of any skill type or experience level.

The workforce includes a large variety of workers from temporary employees provided by an outside staffing agency to freelancers and other independent contractors.

An agile way to stay competitive

In our fast-paced, tech-driven world, contingent workers can provide companies significant flexibility and advantages. Many companies make this workforce part of their growth strategy.

One large web hosting company wanted to drive additional revenue by creating a new add-on service—affordable website design. Needing a cost-effective way to create and test different designs, the company built a virtual team of 70 freelance website designers. Customers enjoy the new service because they can get a modern website within 72 hours for a low cost. The company enjoys a new revenue stream, another way to attract new customers, and more revenue per customer.

Hiring contingent workers can provide so many advantages, over half of employers admit that’s how they plan to get more done. For greater success, consider these four tips.

4 things to do before hiring contingent workers

1. Brainstorm use cases
There are numerous ways contingent workers can help companies grow by expanding market reach, taking advantage of customer trends, and so much more. That’s why before you engage freelancers, think beyond getting help for typical projects.

A leading university built an eLearning platform in three months, within budget, and with a single staff member. How? By using remote talent to complete the entire project, and by bringing on highly experienced talent at the right time. They brought on project managers, developers, added continuous integration and deployment capabilities, had an expert manage the code acceptance, and had a usability expert transform the design in under four weeks.

One tech company engages users by innovating constantly, and by responding quickly to user trends. New ideas flow at a rapid pace and usually require fast execution at high-quality levels. To keep up with their many projects, they hired freelancers across 20 countries. The freelancers provide the agility and scalable resources to get the important projects done on time. And just as importantly, test new ideas.

When brainstorming all the different ways to stay ahead with freelance help, don’t limit the possibilities. This agile workforce can meet those needs more easily than you may think. In the end, your staff will have more time to focus on other tasks. And you’ll get more done—usually at a cost savings.

2. Get classification help
Before starting a contingent worker, you must classify them properly. Many companies use third party classification services to help process a flow of freelancers and other contingent workers quickly and accurately. Be sure to choose one that’s reliable and thorough. The Upwork Enterprise Compliance solution classifies every freelancer per project in 180+ countries. And they offer indemnification against misclassification risk.

3. Automate processes
Sourcing, vetting, contracting, and paying a flow of contingent workers takes a lot of time. The extra work can quickly overwhelm HR and procurement. That’s why many medium- to large-sized companies turn to freelancer solutions such as Upwork Enterprise.

Robust solutions like these combine technology and services to help you build a reliable talent pool. These platforms also automate contracting and payment processes to reduce administrative time and provide optional compliance services to classify workers.

When choosing a solution, make sure they offer the talent trifecta:

  • large talent source
  • administrative support
  • solid classification process

4. Adopt an agile work style
Many companies primarily engage freelancers and independent contractors. It’s important to note these types of contingent workers function as their own businesses. This means you never control when, where, or how the work is done.

You simply tell them what you need done (e.g., front-end developer to SEO your site from the bottom up), then step aside and wait for them to deliver.

To avoid misclassification risk, use the following rules as guidelines.


  • Do let them decide how much to charge for each project.
  • Do require they pay their business expenses.
  • Do allow them to choose their own work location, methods, and work hours.
  • Do permit them to work for other clients.
  • Do let them delegate tasks to their subcontractors or employees.


  • Don’t provide tools or equipment to do the work.
  • Don’t train on skills needed to do the work.
  • Don’t specify process steps or work methods.
  • Don’t include them in regular or frequent meetings, calls, or activities that aren’t relevant to their project.
  • Don’t require work that’s not specified in an agreed-upon contract.

Hiring contingent workers can seem daunting at first. Especially when you’re searching for in-demand talent. But remember, you don’t have to do it alone—you just have to do it differently. Take advantage of technologies and services that make sourcing and engaging faster, easier, and safer.

See how easy it is to get more done, and affordably, with freelancers. Visit Upwork Enterprise today >