Business 101: SME guide to capitalising on the gig economy

Ben Bierman, Managing Director of Business Partners Limited


Research by global advisory firm, Willis Towers Watson, has revealed that 72 percent of South African businesses are considering cost-saving measures around pay and recruitment, to survive the Covid-19 economic downturn.

Businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), should consider using the growing pool of skilled freelancers partly due to widespread retrenchments and scarce employment opportunities in the private sector.

The freelancers have also been behind the surge in the gig economy – a free market system in which increasingly more people are choosing to occupy temporary or freelance positions, enjoying the flexibility and variety it offers.

For South Africa, which is facing record-high levels of unemployment, the growth of the gig economy is a win-win as it allows companies to offer work on a short-time basis while they get back on their feet.

It also provides job opportunities and boosting economic activity for those seeking work.

To make the most of freelancers, however, business owners should follow these simple tips:


Freelancers are ideal for bringing in highly specialised skills that may only be required for short or limited time period. It is therefore important to be very specific about what work you want done and the required skills to ensure that you find the right person for the job.


The best way to find quality freelancers is often by word-of-mouth. Begin by asking your management team and employees if they know of anyone in the required fields of work. Once you have a list of referrals, do some background research on the candidates in order to make sure you know who your business is working with, and where their talents lie.


Ask for examples of past work – a portfolio, if possible. This will allow you to see if the freelancer’s style and niche aligns well with the required role, while staying true to the company’s brand values or general aesthetic.


Once you have identified the right candidate, put together a clear contract that details the role and time frame. No matter how short or small the job, a contract will ensure that both parties are entering into the agreement with the same expectations, and it will prevent any conflicts or disagreements down the line.


Once you have worked with a freelancer, keep their details on file, along with notes about their performance – both positive and negative. This way, when a similar job comes around, you will know who to call, and will not have to go through the whole process all over again.

Ben Bierman is a managing director at Business Partners Limited

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