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How to Scale Up Your Holiday Workforce the Right Way

There's a right way and a wrong way to staff up for the holidays. Here are a few tips for keeping you on track and out of the IRS's headlights.
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As we enter the home stretch for 2013, many businesses are looking at the next 60 days as the final push to hit year-end numbers. Whether that means capturing seasonal sales, closing one last deal, or offering holiday discounts to drive additional activity, this can be an exceptionally busy time in business. What is the best way to manage this uptick in activity? For many companies, the answer is hiring freelance talent.

You may scoff at the benefits of staffing up for short-term needs -- especially when you factor in the time it takes to train and manage new workers -- but the process can work if you know what you're doing. The savviest of companies use talent on-demand, both because of the variability of the cost structure and because of the access to talented professionals.

Here are a few tips for helping you meet your seasonal-worker needs:

Be clear about the job description. If you are hiring for a short-term and seasonal assignment, make sure your job description reflects the narrow scope of work. Tightly defining the job description will naturally weed out those who lack the skills or interest to do your assignment. For example, on Work Market, we see a direct correlation between specificity in job descriptions and success in filling short-term positions.

Related: How to Make The Most of This Year's Ultra-Short Holiday Shopping Season

Look for talent in a trusted place. Sure, you can ask friends or go to general job sites to find freelance labor. But the better option is to go to a platform that’s specifically focused on connecting businesses with freelance talent. You are more likely to find people who are serious about freelance work. Platforms also offer a full-service solution for finding, managing and paying contract talent. In addition, the ratings systems these platforms utilize show you how an individual has performed in the past and aligns incentives on future work. Over 50 percent of all freelancers on Work Market have received a work offer during the last thirty days. This kind of engagement shows the benefit of going to a focused freelancer network of buyers and sellers.

Have a good screening process in place. Especially if you are hiring teams of freelancers, you cannot waste time with an extensive interview process. Establish a clear set of objective criteria and let those be your guide for hiring decisions. This screening might include a background check, drug test, skills assessments and insurance requirements. Again, using an online platform enables you to quickly set up these gates and let search algorithms do the work for you.

Related: Small Businesses Gearing Up for a Strong Holiday Shopping Season (Infographic)

Read up on compliance. Never has the U.S. government been more interested in whether a worker is properly classified as an independent contractor or W-2 employee as right now. As I recently wrote in " The IRS Wants to Know If Your Freelancer Should Be Getting a W2," before working with a freelancer you want to make sure to look at a number of factors including: one) whether the person you hire is truly a freelancer, two) whether you have financial control over the person doing work, three) the extent of control you have over the freelancer’s day and four) how the person’s work gets performed. When you are bringing someone on as a freelancer, make sure you do your homework.

Have a ratings system. Holidays are not the only time you will need freelancers. In fact, the average enterprise client sends freelancers nine assignments per year. Take the time to review your best freelancers. Tracking this data will inform your decision making when you need to quickly staff up again, be it for the holidays or any spike in demand.

There is a reason that the freelance economy is exploding. Companies want to operate a flexible, on-demand labor force that can respond to revenue demands. Individuals want to work on their own terms. You might just call it a holiday miracle.