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How to onboard freelancers compliantly

Ceylin Güven

Setting aside time to onboard freelancers is one of the wisest decisions your company can make in the current business economy–and I’m not just saying it because I’m one of them! Solo work is rapidly becoming one of the most popular work models of our age, which is why freelancer onboarding is an important addition to your company skillset. Choosing to hire freelancers is a wise decision in many ways, but it can be challenging to onboard this particular population since there are different regulations in place for onboarding off-payroll workers. We’re here to help you discover the wide range of possibilities offered by onboarding freelancers, and explain step-by-step just how you can onboard them compliantly.  

Why you should include freelancers in your workforce

Bigger hiring pool

According to World Bank’s statistics, nearly 47% of the entire worldwide workforce are self-employed (which includes work models such as freelancers, independent contractors, and solopreneurs). And considering these numbers are from 2019, it would be fair to assume that this number is close to–if not over–50% by now. Freelancing is definitely one of the fastest-growing career choices of the modern world, especially after the world got used to working away from the office during the pandemic. People saw many benefits in working from home, which deterred them from returning to the traditional setting. Here are some of the reasons why freelancing can be more appealing to a large majority:

  • The ability to work from anywhere they want, whether it’s their home office, a shared coworking space, or working while traveling the world as a digital nomad
  • Wider access to career opportunities
  • More personal autonomy and flexibility
  • Less time commuting, more time to focus on skills and projects  
  • Better work-life balance and time management options

Fast integration and agility

Compared to traditional workers, freelancers can be integrated into the workplace much faster. Since they are used to working with a wide range of clients for dedicated periods, they are skilled at grasping the company policies, business practices, and can perform at a much higher speed in this process. This makes freelancer onboarding much easier as well.

Specialized skills and expertise

Freelancers are usually extremely skilled in their niche or expertise, shaped by official education, years of industry experience, or maybe even both. In this way, hiring freelancers can bring a unique and specialized skill set to the table, which you will need if you want to stand out from your competitors.

More diversity

Adding freelancers to the table is a great way to diversify your workplace and enrich your process. Different people with different backgrounds, identities, and work niches can provide a varied amount of insight that is very hard to get otherwise. Alongside working with freelancers, this also covers non-discriminatory hiring practices that you should put in place. Your work setting should feel safe to every employee, accommodate their needs, and promote allyship.

More output in shorter time

Last but not least is the increase in productivity that working with freelancers will bring to the table. Their expertise, combined with their singular focus on a particular project, can guarantee more output in a shorter time, and everything will be taken care of much faster compared to a traditional work setting.

Making sure your onboarding process is compliant

Before you start your freelancer onboarding process, you should make sure that you are onboarding compliantly. Any arrangement between a worker and an employer needs to be legally compliant, so your contracts or work-service agreements have to abide by certain laws depending on your country’s regulations. The two main regulations you should be aware of when contracting independent workers are the IR35 and the GDPR. But, keep in mind that the following information is for educational purposes, and that you can benefit from an official legal consultancy and/or a trusted online service to create your contracts and agreements.

Freelance Isn’t Free Act (US)

The “Freelance Isn’t Free Act” is a United States law that was imposed in 2017, aimed to protect the rights of freelance workers in case of contract or payment time frame breaches. There is a penalty for said breaches that ensures freelancers, just like traditional workers, get to do their job under the protection of state law. As a business, you should be aware of your responsibilities towards your freelance talents to avoid having these issues.

IR35 compliance (UK)

IR35 is the UK’s tax legislation for “off-payroll working”, which can cover anything from freelancing to partnerships. This legislation was designed to eliminate tax evasion in non-traditional work orders, and requires service providers to pay an income tax as an employee. In short, if you are hired by an organization that controls your work and how you do it, then IR35 does apply. For more detailed information, the HMRC of the UK government has official resources you can read through.

GDPR compliance (EU)

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation, and it’s a strict law put in place to ensure data safety and protection. And though it’s EU-based, it covers everyone that targets or collects data from the EU, which means it’s a worldwide concern. GDPR is also an important factor for freelancers who deal with sensitive customer data.Of course, these are not the only regulations you should abide by when hiring freelancers. For example, the relevant legislations in Portugal define employees versus contractors very distinctly. It's always recommended that you check the local regulations and find out whether your contractors should be listed as employees in your business.

6 steps to onboarding freelancers

To ensure that everyone’s expectations are met right from the start, you should make sure you have a proper freelancer onboarding process in place. Here are 5 essential steps to guaranteeing a satisfactory, safe, and compliant freelancer onboarding:

1. Verifying freelancers’ identity

Before you get to the actual hiring and onboarding process, you’ll first have to research and find a freelancer to work with. This can get confusing very fast, considering the large number of options you have. To ensure that you’re working with a talent that will actually contribute to your business, you will have to verify their identity first. Ask for proof of their previous work experiences, a freelancer portfolio if they have one, and confirm their profiles through trusted freelancing platforms. Ruul realizes identity verification of freelancers through its automated KYC process, making it completely safe to work with selected talents on its platform.

2. Formalizing the work relationship with legal agreements

After you’ve started the hiring process, the first step to onboard freelancers compliantly is to create and sign a service/work contract. This is perhaps the most important element to incorporate into any successful freelance relationship. Getting everything in writing will make sure that both parties are on the same page, and help you avoid any misunderstandings or disputes further along the process. Your legal contracts should outline:

  • The scope of work
  • Submission deadlines
  • Payment amounts and terms
  • Copyright and ownership rights
  • Non-disclosure clauses, and any other relevant legalities.

Trying to create one from scratch all by yourself can get tricky really quick. To ease the process, Ruul offers free agreement templates that you can build and customize according to your terms and conditions.

2. Setting up a payment method and schedule

It’s important you establish the terms of payment before the onboarding starts so that there’s no problem down the line. A comprehensive hiring and payment partner like Ruul can help you schedule and track your invoices and payments all from one place. This will eliminate the hassle of handling everything from separate tools by yourself, and save you time you can actually use on developing your business.

3. Organizational orientation

Even though they will not be a full-time employee, freelance workers will still need to get a grasp of vital information about your company in order to be fully onboarded. Otherwise, this can cause them to feel isolated and unmotivated to contribute. These are some of the integral things you should introduce during your organizational onboarding:

  • Technical guidelines for the project: briefs, technical and style guides, etc.  
  • An overall long term schedule and end goals of the project
  • Their co-workers and team members for the time being
  • Other important contacts they might make use of
  • Your brand and company values
  • Rules of company-wide communication and etiquette

For an easy solution, you can also try to repurpose any pre-existing content you use to onboard full-time employees, and optimize them to fit the needs of a freelance worker. This can help you onboard freelancers to your organization much quicker.

4. Collaboration essentials

All the technical details need to be in order for your solo worker to actually do their job. Which is why they need access to all the necessary tools and files before the project can commence. You shouldn’t assume that, just because you’re using an industry standard program, that people you hire will be using them as well–there are plenty of alternatives for tools online. You should communicate on this before the project starts. In addition, the freelancer might not be familiar with certain tools or usage processes you’re accustomed to at all, which is why an extra onboarding process might be needed in some regards. Make sure that you’re prepared for all of these scenarios.Another aspect of this is the privacy issue. Avoid giving access via shared passwords, and create separate files that aren’t in your company wide database for the work you’ll be doing with your freelancers.

5. Open communication

Last but not least in the freelancer onboarding is to ask the freelancers themselves what they need. There might be key things you’re missing, or that you can be doing differently. Asking for feedback can help you finetune and improve your onboarding process, which will help make things more efficient in the long run.Getting feedback is also essential for showing that you care about your employees’ individual wants and needs, and in improving your team communications. Keeping in engagement with your freelancers is sure to improve trust and efficiency over time.

Onboarding and working together is easier with Ruul  

Trying to make the whole freelancer onboarding process compliant can be time-consuming and stressful. To save yourself the trouble, use Ruul’s comprehensive solutions and manage freelancer hiring, onboarding, invoicing and payments –all from one place. Join Ruul now to discover how you can rule your global talent operations with precision.


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