The Smarter Startup

How to Prepare Your Startup for the Future of Work


Startups need to foster a flexible workforce or risk facing hiring roadblocks and difficulties meeting project deadlines.

What will the future of work for startups look like?

Shahar Erez, Co-Founder & CEO of Stoke Talent, joined us on Startup Success to share his thoughts on the future of work around freelance talent and how startups can prepare.

Increasingly, the workforce will be made up of freelancers. In fact, Shahar predicts that 60% of US workers will be freelancing by 2023. To succeed in this new era of work, startups will need to foster a flexible workforce or risk facing increasing difficulties in meeting project deadlines and hiring roadblocks.

Why & How the Future of Work is Evolving

It’s no secret that COVID impacted the way that we all work. But the work landscape was changing even before the onset of COVID. The pandemic only accelerated the evolution. More startups now embrace a remote-first strategy and give employees flexibility in where and when they work. This has caused an increased emphasis on culture as companies grapple with building a team that doesn’t interact in person. At the same time, more workers are choosing to pursue freelance employment, as they like the diversity in projects and the flexibility it affords.

“Companies that don’t adapt to the new reality and create a freelance strategy are not going to be able to survive the changes that are coming.”
— Shahar Erez

The US workforce is in the middle of a perfect storm. We’re seeing the most significant change in how work gets done since the industrial revolution. And with these changes comes the need to hire and recruit differently.

Hire & Recruit Faster with Freelance Talent

Many startups have embraced remote work and are investing in People Operations strategies to build a culture and teamwork in a remote-first environment. However, many of these businesses are still focused on hiring only full-time workers, often overlooking extremely talented professionals simply because they happen to be freelancers. With the world-changing the way it is, that may be causing roadblocks at your startup.

How long does it take to fill a full-time role? Months sometimes. While a startup is searching for that ideal employee, freelancers who could excel in the role are often overlooked. Using freelance talent, even just in the interim, can be a great option. Shahar shared a story where a startup he works with has been looking for two product engineers for six months. If this startup had considered freelance help earlier to address some of the project components, progress on the project would have already been made by now. Instead, the startup has two open job requisitions and nothing on the project completed.

Create a Talent Cloud

How do you move towards a strategy that embraces freelancers? A smart approach is to proactively build a database of potential talent — aka a talent cloud. This way, you have an easily accessible roster of freelancers to reach out to whenever you need help. If you wait until you need a freelancer, you’re already behind.

“Create your talent cloud. This means constantly being on the lookout for high-quality freelancers and adding them to your internal talent pool.”
— Shahar Erez

The Benefits of Freelance

The benefits of using freelancers typically far outweigh the downsides. Sure, you need to have a tighter handle on invoicing and accounting. Still, a flexible workforce will allow you to adjust your budget quickly, take on new projects, and pivot on priorities rapidly. Flexibility is critical for startups that need to be able to change course quickly, which is why many startups see significant benefits when utilizing more freelancers.

“A flexible workforce will give you infinite benefits when it comes to budgetary constraints and execution capabilities.”
— Shahar Erez

Bottom line: if you don’t have a freelance strategy in place, your startup could be at a disadvantage in today’s new work landscape.

Establishing a Freelance Strategy

First of all, be open to the idea of a freelance strategy. This means embracing a philosophy that stops attaching negative connotations to “freelance.” Once you go beyond that phase, start building out a talent cloud and determining who will own it. Shahar recommends HR own the talent cloud. Next, move on to developing a robust onboarding system for your freelancers. A comprehensive onboarding process will ramp freelancers up quickly and help integrate them into the team. A freelance strategy includes setting up a billing process so you can prevent workforce classification breaches. Shahar’s company Stoke Talent can help with this and other facets of your freelance strategy.

Being Competitive within the New Future of Work

Work as we know it has changed, and COVID has accelerated this transition.

More startups are moving to some type of remote work option, whether remote-first or a remote hybrid schedule. Remote work widens the geographical pool from which companies can hire. It can also be very motivating and attractive for workers as they manage their work-life balance. Of course remote work does come with its own legal, tax, and cultural implications, which we discuss in detail in this blog post.

Another reality of the new future of work post-Covid is that hiring is becoming more challenging. Utilizing freelancers can help with this problem. It can also allow startups to be flexible with tight budgets, pivot when necessary, and ramp up quickly. Being prepared with a freelance strategy and talent cloud is an excellent way for a startup to build a competitive advantage in today’s work environment.

This discussion with Shahar Erez was taken from our show Startup Success. The full episode goes into even more detail on being prepared for the future of work.

Browse all Burkland podcasts and subscribe to the show on Apple podcasts.

Find Shahar on LinkedIn and visit stoketalent.com.