Employer brand: Building for freelancers

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Employer brand statement, or employee value proposition, is a term widely used in the industry. LinkedIn cites employer branding as an essential tool for attracting and retaining employees. It also noted that 59% of employers are investing more in employer branding.

UK-based startup HR consultancy Talentsmoothie describes employer branding as “the mix of characteristics, benefits, and ways of working in an organization. It is a deal struck between an organization and employee in return for their contribution and performance. This “People Deal” characterizes an employer and differentiates it from its competition.”

When effectively composed, an employer brand communicates a “give and get” contract based on three commitments between company and employee:

  • What the organization stands for, its values and priorities.
  • How the organization will provide the employee with superior work experience.
  • Your contribution to the organization: What the organization expects from employees in return.

We can call these the “WHY” commitments.

Consequently, this brand is not only for salaried employees. Now we will look into creating and living an employer brand that appeals to freelancers. This puts organizations at an advantage to stay in the competition and attract the best remote talent.

Attracting top talent via branding

Employer branding is gaining importance rapidly. As a result, the shape and composition of the workforce are also changing. Many organizations now increasingly demand a blended workforce consisting of temporary or project-based freelancers doing strategic work. We call them agile talent. They scale organizations despite challenges like procuring top technical and strategic resources.


Even more, startups depend on agile talent to a large extent. This is to compete with more mature and well-known competitors. Executives in a survey by Agile Talent stated the advantages of a blended workforce. The workforce has unique expertise, learning from agile talent who worked in other organizations, headcount savings, and speed.

Mostly top freelancers are in demand and they are highly competitive too. Like a competent full-time employee, freelancers too have to decide between multiple opportunities. Essentially, employer branding is a key tool to attract and retain worthy agile talent.

Some savvy executives comprehend this, especially those leading firms for whom technical excellence is their identity. Let’s take the case of Mark Zuckerberg. Intended as a general statement, several years ago, he pulled off this branding:

“We want Facebook to be one of the best places people can go to learn how to build stuff. If you want to build a company, nothing is better than jumping in and trying to build one. But Facebook is also great for entrepreneurs/hackers. If people want to come in for a few years and move on and build something great, that’s something we’re proud of.”

Demands of top freelancers

In order to create an exciting employer brand for agile talent, it is crucial to understand which qualities freelancers prioritize in client organizations. Based on that, freelancers expect these traits from organizations: good employer reputation, challenging and meaningful work, continue to build and demonstrate expertise, collaborative workspace, work-life balance, and reverent administrative treatment (contract, treatment, reasonable administrative requirements).

To lure the best agile talent, an employer should emphasize the criteria above in their employer branding. Also, they should inculcate the best day-to-day practices for freelancers.

Not having an employer brand

Most young companies with the intent of creating an interactive culture tend to ignore the employer brand. Either they don’t create one or it is not good enough. It’s fine if the organization does not send the employer brand to its full-time employees. Still, an employer brand for freelancers is a great tool. There is no specific format to create branding for freelancers.

As mentioned previously, organizations should implement “WHY” in their brand to attract the best agile talent.

Creating an effective employer brand

An employer brand is a commitment made by the organization to the employee for providing certain work experience. However, creating and addressing the brand is just the beginning.

Five areas of organization and process make or break the quality of relationship an organization has with top freelancers. Consider a freelancer’s viewpoint. He expects authenticity in the employer brand. Even in most cases, false promises are generally caught red-handed. Also, they cost the organization. A survey by LinkedIn reported that significant variance between the employer brand statement and employee’s actual experience proved costly in a number of ways: they have to attract employees with higher pay, and fewer employees were interested to work there. The bottom line: Say less, do more.

In order to find the best practices for agile talent, you can view freelancers as customers of the organization. Bain consultants Katrina Bradley and Richard Hatherall suggested a series of principles to gain customer loyalty. Three of these customer-centric principles fit nicely in considering the ability to attract top freelancers:

  • Examine the experience from the outside in: Bain reminds leaders that the intended experience of customers – or freelancers in this case – should drive decisions about structure and process, not the other way around.
  • Meet customer expectations consistently: The obvious message: it’s not enough to depend on occasional success. Leaders must establish a baseline of consistent performance in building effective freelancer relationships.
  • Differentiate where it matters most: The organizations that are best at attracting top freelancers are those that understand their most important needs best. For example, many organizations withhold freelancers’ pay until 60 or even 90 days after the freelancer invoices. Exploiting freelancers to manage cash flow is just not worth it, considering that reliable income is one of the highest priorities expressed by agile talent.

Final word

Several years ago, research by Towers Watson indicates that those companies who were meaningfully involved in the creation of employer brand were five times more likely to report highly engaged employees. Also, they tend to have financial performance above competitors who invested less in their employer brand. Furthermore, most companies fail to achieve these results. It is so because their actions are not consistent with the promises in the employer brand.

On a final note, it is clear that many organizations are swapping to a blended workforce. Since it is more efficient and provides quality work. Therefore, executives should insist on demonstrating freelancers and agile talent as driving forces of the company.

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