How to team up with ‘slash workers’ for small business success

The difficulty of hiring solid talent has been a complaint among small business owners for the last several years. I suspect the convergence of one economic development and one social development may be to blame in large part.

The economic component is our emergence from The Great Recession. As the recession worsened, small business owners cut staff or held off rehiring to fill vacancies. Then, as the outlook brightened many found themselves in positions where they wanted to expand their teams.

But at the same time Millennials, the cohort that should have been coming in strong to the labor market were looking at life and careers from a different perspective than previous generations. Understanding this, I believe, will help small business owners bring on the talent they need to position their companies as leaders in their industries or localities.

Survey insights

This is why I was fascinated to find a very thorough study conducted by And Co on the group now being dubbed the “slash workers.” Slash workers are talented freelancers who provide a variety of services. One might be a writer/designer/developer.

You get the idea.

The And Co study reveals the priorities and attitudes about work, life, and career for these individuals. I suspect if you’ve needed any of the skills and talents these workers possess and tried to reach them through a help wanted ad – even an online job posting – they would never see your outreach. Further, if you did make a connection, but failed to understand their goals and desires, they might not sign on with you. Let’s look at some key results of the study.

Freelancing forever!

Freelancing isn’t a temporary fix between fulltime gigs. Only 6 percent of the freelancers interviewed said they were really just doing it until something fulltime turned up and over 40 percent said they planned to freelance “forever.”

Further, they value the flexibility and opportunities for personal growth that freelancing affords them above the bottom line of a regular paycheck. They don’t get into freelancing for the money and fully a quarter of those in the study said they were “digital nomads.”

The commitment to freelancing and flexibility, and the lessening of importance on maximizing income is reflected in the fact that 68 percent of respondents said their quality of life improved when they started to freelance.

Is the office going extinct?

Add up all of these elements and it looks like either the death or the radical transformation of the office is well on its way. Don’t feel bad; it could mean that you may require less office space even as your company grows. That’s called productivity!

No matter how quickly or slowly this trend develops, I think there’s a strong case for small businesses to connect with more slash workers. Talented individuals who can fill more than one role are ideal candidates for small business teams.

Go where they go

To recruit these folks you need to go where they hang out, like the other top freelancing sites. However, according to the study, word of mouth referrals were the primary driver of new business for these freelancers. This means you may not find the best freelancers.


To bring them onboard and build loyalty, you need to provide them with the flexibility they’re looking for and many times this is easier said than done. Communication and defining your needs before contracting are critical. If you don’t know what you need, neither will your slash workers, no matter how talented or experienced they are.

Also, give yourself and your freelancer time to understand how each other works. Develop some rapport and expect this to take longer via online communication than it would take for someone who is working at your location.

Finally, even though this person may maintain a freelance relationship with you for the long term, let the person feel like he or she is part of your team. Even though the slash workers in the study wanted their flexibility, 61 percent said they missed the feeling of community they enjoyed in traditional workplaces.

Learn how to navigate the world of slash workers and you might be able to beat the recruitment and hiring blues so many small business owners are facing today.