The Freelance Economy is a Competitive Advantage

The freelance economy can be your organization’s secret weapon — but only if you develop the internal capability to manage it at scale.

Many business leaders see the freelance economy as a threat to business as usual — with good reason. As more highly-skilled workers choose the independence and flexible lifestyle of freelancing, they are less likely to commit to full-time employment at a traditional organization. 

In many ways, this is exactly what is happening. Businesses everywhere are struggling to hire skilled workers, especially those with highly desirable skills in areas like data science, supply chain modernization, program management, and all things digital. At many companies, this skills gap impacts the most important strategic work happening within the organization. 

And there’s no sign of slowing down. In a recent survey from Harvard Business School and BCG, 60% of leaders said they expect their full-time workforce in the future to be “much smaller” than their current one. 

This is where the freelance economy offers a huge competitive advantage. Businesses that adapt to the freelance economy and leverage it at scale will see enormous gains in efficiency and speed. Those that are slow to adapt will continue to limp along behind the competition.

Imagine that instead of a six-month search for a key strategic hire, you had the right person in place in less than a week. Imagine that person was aligned not to a job description but to a specific business outcome. Imagine the speed of moving quickly from that outcome to the next without endless hiring cycles. Imagine finding one or two consultants with exactly the right experience who can deliver at a fraction of the cost (and three times faster) of a large consulting firm.

The freelance economy delivers fluidity of talent to meet the fluidity of work, without the financial commitment and rigidity of FTEs or large consulting firms. Of course the freelance economy doesn’t replace FTEs or consulting firms entirely — it simply offers a new way to access high-end talent at a moment’s notice. Organizations that develop internal capability to manage and scale their use of the freelance economy will build a distinct competitive advantage. 

The benefits are very real. HBS and BCG researchers found that organizations that leveraged the freelance economy saw three primary benefits:

  • Increased speed-to-market as organizations were better able to find the right people at the right time to launch new products or move into new geographies. 
  • Innovation through new business models as organizations could test new products and ideas more efficiently without committing internal resources to them. 
  • Increased labor force flexibility as organizations can try new ideas without committing to increased fixed costs in the form of full-time employees.

Leveraging the freelance economy is about more than just “hiring more freelancers.” We’re already seeing businesses develop sustainable advantages by integrating the freelance economy into their strategic plans. Developing a robust internal capability is the only way to maximize the advantages of the freelance economy. 

As the economy roars out of its COVID malaise, there’s never been a better time to develop this capability. Many organizations are rebuilding their labor forces after large layoffs. Even more have become more comfortable supporting remote work with new collaboration tools. Thinking more strategically about how work gets done, and who does it, is critical to nearly every organization at this moment.

At Catalant, we’re making it easier than ever to find experts for projects in categories like market research, corporate strategy, project and program management, supply chain modernization and more. Enabling our customers to get the right people on the right work even faster brings the freelance economy to their doorstep as they build their internal capabilities. 

Check out our revamped Expert Marketplace to see how you can get the most out of the freelance economy.

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