The benefits of a Freelance hire in today’s Omni-Channel Economy | Connector Team Recruiting.jpg

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is nearly reaching full employment. In our space within the Big Ticket and Furniture verticals, we are hearing a consistent common thread from clients about the staffing shortage.  Some have provided examples of conducting a dozen or more interviews and taking two weeks to find a single salesperson.

And now retailers and wholesale companies going vertical are adding new boxes to their organizational charts in support of Digital stores and those support areas that are needed to create a seamless customer experience.

The Omni Channel shift in Furniture

According to the recent publication of the Blueport Commerce 2017 Omni-Channel study, the Benchmarking team highlighted the following; in today’s $100B furniture vertical, an enormous shift is taking place that for a time, furniture retail appeared to be sheltered from the e-commerce storm. Protected by consumer preferences for furniture stores and the challenges of shipping large items, many furniture retailers watched from the sidelines as other retail categories bore the brunt of Amazon and other Pure-play insurgents. In 2017 – everything appears to have changed a year in which Amazon announced the possibility of opening furniture stores and the construction of large format warehouses that could deliver furniture. Meanwhile, Wayfair redoubled their efforts to build a proprietary distribution network for large furniture pieces. Traditional retailers have responded, adding the technology to enable the convenient shopping experiences that are central to so-called Pure-plays’ success. 

By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers?

According to Bryan Rashid a contributing writer at Forbes, “There are 53 million freelancers in America today. By 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers (this does not mean they are all full-time freelancers, but one of every two workers will be freelancers in some capacity). This on-demand work, instant gig economy is moving more and more into independent professionals that are using mobile and technology to create ecosystems of work they enjoy.

Who says you can’t drive an Uber in the morning, design websites all afternoon, and cater your own food company at night? The old economy would lead you to believe that you should pick one job, work hard for the next 40 years at that company, and then retire. Not the new economy. The more diverse your skill set, the more opportunities come your way. 

What are Independent Contractors or Freelancers?

Independent Contractors, sometimes called Freelancers, are independent workers, contractors, and temporary employees (full or part-time) who work for themselves. People in just about any career or profession can be Independent Contractors, such as Microsoft Certified Trainers, Uber drivers, artists, carpenters, software developers, photographers, network engineers, plumbers, video editors, salespersons, UPS drivers, public speakers, graphic artists, ethical hackers, authors, nannies, private investigators, etc. Independent Contractors have certain skill sets that they market and it’s common for them to work for multiple companies at the same time.

Most Independent Contractors are self-employed and therefore are responsible for paying their own taxes. Because the employers report the contractors’ annual income to the IRS on Form-1099 MISC each year, the Independent Contractors are often considered 1099-employees, to differentiate them from Full-Time Employees (FTE). Technically, they are not employees per se, but that’s quibbling over semantics.

In the Furniture industry verticals, we’ve seen evidence that the use of 1099 contractors in some key areas is on the rise including; Event Sales, Interior Design, Visual Merchandising. Not to mention the wholesale vertical with 1099 outside Sales Representatives carrying a bag of lines.  Many of our clients and companies, however, have never thought of hiring a free-lance employee. Many have only used temps in the Distribution Center a couple of niche’ labor pockets. This is where they typically hire so-called “lumpers” to unload containers or a delivery driver for a day…in other words, non-skilled labor.

So how can the industry benefit from the free-lance workforce in the coming years?

From my seat as an Executive Recruiter, we are seeing a rising focus on Digital store sales within our client base.  Many of the retailers both at the micro level right up to the Top 100 players are all paying attention to this area.  Even if they are not currently addressing this area of their business, nearly everyone we speak to has expressed interest or concern about being left behind.   The ones that are not concerned are fortunate to own their own real estate and they have no desire to explore beyond a pure in-store shopping experience.

Here is a list of departments that we see changing on the organizational  chart as companies expand their workforce in support of E-Commerce and Omni-Channel efforts;

Digital Marketing – Brand Marketing – Affiliate Marketing

Supply Chain – Category management – Procurement – Shipping and Logistics – Final Mile

User Experience – UX Design – Business Logic – Servers and Networks

Here are some of the plus benefits of using a firm to hire a contractor or freelance hire:

  1. Speed: A speedy process without a long, complex hiring processes quickly you the skills and experience you need!

  2. Talent: Flexibility and adaptability (most contract hires are highly adaptable, low maintenance and high productivity.

  3. Results: Fill in those critical skill gaps to keep your critical operations running and your results on track.

  4. Flexibility: Contractors are available for assignment lengths ranging from a few days to multiple years.

  5. Employer of Record: A firm that provides the employer of record and a connection to the contractor ensures that you are satisfied with the work.  Within days a great firm can find another should the contractor leave the assignment or not be a great fit.

Closing Thoughts

So get ready as we ride the next big wave of change. There is some evidence that Furniture and Big Ticket purchase transactions could continue to have some shelter from the Digital Retail revolution.  But from what we are seeing nearly everyone in our industry appears to have reached the enlightenment stage and they are reacting to Amazon’s interest in the big ticket verticals.

From a consumer standpoint, there is also evidence that people are literally dancing their way to their devices under the constant barrage of WAYFAIR “drop the mic” commercials…right?

Filling the org chart gap with a Free-lance program

Here are some common positions we are seeing requests for Project Leaders to assist with creating and maintaining a Digital store. Some of these positions include; Web Developer, UX Design, Digital Sales Team Chat, E-Commerce Buyer, Manager of Final Mile Solution.  In addition, many companies are re-thinking their buying team and adding a Supply Chain Planner to their organizational chart.

We believe that many of these roles can be filled by a free-lance contractor.  Whenever you have a new area to fill that includes a whole new skillset and a younger talent pool you may want to re-think the traditional way of filling in the organizational chart.  A Free-lance hire gives you the flexibility to not only attract the right candidate for the job but also provides a scaleable solution. This will ensure that you have the right level of support before making a permanent hire.

Bill O’Malley is Managing Partner and Chief Recruiting Officer of Connector Team Recruiting. The company is based in Charlottesville, VA and is an affiliate office of MRINETWORK Inc.