Freelancing In HR: What’s The Deal?

The start of the decade saw hundreds of HR professionals swapping life at the office for interim roles. Competition was tough, and new players found themselves earning dramatically less than their more established counterparts — but what’s changed? And is freelancing in HR any more of an option than it was back then?

Demand

A quick glance at any freelance job-site will tell you that the opportunities for freelance HR professionals are significantly lower than in other fields. There are thousands of listings for freelance writers and web developers, but at any one time, there are usually less than 100 per website for HR professionals. The wages aren’t fantastic, either — but that’s to be expected when the field is this crowded. 

As IIM director Ad van der Rest said as an interim in a recession, you are a commodity and the supply and demand ratio is not in your favour.’ It was true in 2010, and, unfortunately, it’s still true now.

HR professionals with experience in change management, employee engagement, mergers and acquisitions, and talent management are the most sought-after right now. If you’re confident of your skills in these areas, you may be able to succeed as a freelancer — just be prepared to lower your fees until you’re fully established.

Resources And Support 

There is a surprising lack of online resources available to HR interims. Considering the support available to freelancers in others fields, this seems rather unusual. Practically nobody is blogging about freelancing in HR, or offering how-to guides for other freelancers. Is the competition really so tough that sharing tips and experiences is inadvisable? 

Freelancing As Temporary Work

Plenty of new interims make the mistake of thinking that they can freelance between full-time positions. Many who have been made redundant go on to apply to be interims, without much knowledge of what the job entails. Interim work is not temporary work — and if you approach it with this attitude, finding agencies to take you on will be incredibly difficult. 

Setting yourself up as a work from home freelancing professional takes time and effort. You will need to brand yourself, build your client base and set yourself up with an accountant. Whether you’re hiring anybody else or not, you’re essentially starting up your own business when you choose to go freelance.

Technology As Competition

Being affordable and easy to manage, HR software is becoming increasingly popular with small- and medium-sized companies. Some packages have training tutorials, and others allow managers to send motivational ‘thank you’ messages to members of staff. If you want to compete with this, you need to offer something that the computer can’t — like employee engagement, for example. It’s no coincidence that the skills in highest demand are the ones that HR software can’t offer.

Thankfully, most companies will agree that a video lesson or information booklet can’t compete with face-to-face tutorials and discussions, either. And, although payroll software can make things easier, it still requires an HR professional to get the most out of it, so interims shouldn’t worry too much about being replaced by computers — at least not yet.

Guest Writer Bio

Sam Wright is a freelance writer based in Norwich, Norfolk. He has written extensively about HR and small business for a number of publications. Find out more.

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