Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Freelance culture - what it can mean for your project

How many of us employ freelancers on our projects? In iMedia it seems to be quite the norm to supplement the team with extra skills from the freelance pool. We should admit that we can’t work without them. But with their non-conformist, free-spirit culture do they fit in with a team ethos?

iMedia development needs a mix of skills, creativity, technical know-how, hard-graft, attention to detail, time sensitivity, business nous, market awareness and project management. It’s a project development activity that cries out for a team of people. Quite often the client wants something that makes a difference whether in look or feel, and a team that has gelled through working together can operate more efficiently but may lack the spark of difference. This is what a new member may bring. Will the existing team squash or embrace the newbie freelancer? Will you? Will your management?

The interface between employees and freelancers has not been the focus of much attention when it should be. It poses risks and benefits that need managing sensitively.

The good news is that iMedia freelancers along with general creative freelancers have a pool of resources to help them. They have become more professional, tap into one another and listen to advice from more experienced freelancers. It is not the isolated black art it used to be and we can’t relate to it like that any more. Perhaps it’s time to reappraise it. Take a look at the analysis from an experienced freelancer, Jacques van Heerden, who explodes 5 myths in 5 freelance myths busted from the start. Do any of these myths reflect your attitude/ your company’s culture?

To understand freelancers better, why not take a look at how they need to relate to contracts that you may offer them. Often companies just have standard tweaked contracts for freelancers and it can cause a lot of trouble when they query them. But they do so with very good reason and we need to employ them so we should do it right, shouldn’t we? Hopefully you have recourse to legal advice and after reading 10 things to be wary of when signing a consultancy contract, by James May, from the interesting FreelanceUK site, you’ll be able to read your own company freelance contracts with a bit more appreciation.

The 10 points here relate to the IR35 tax regulations where if freelancers are not seen as sufficiently independent in the revenue’s eyes, they will be treated as employees when it comes to tax and national insurance. This could be detrimental to the contractor but it can also have knock-on effects for the company who hires the freelancer, and these can be applied retrospectively. Remember this only relates to IR35 and the ‘employment’ position but of course there are other issues that need to be addressed in a freelance contract, such as intellectual property and liability.