Can freelancers save the cybersecurity industry?
In all my years as a freelancer network analyst working in the cybersecurity industry, I have witnessed hiring practices grow from the traditional ad-in-the-newspaper methods to the outsourced strategy
we use today. Recruiters and online hiring platforms are far more the norm than they’ve ever been, and in many cases, are extremely necessary to meet increasingly niche hiring needs.
In fact, this growing need for specialized, niche talent has led many organizations to look to freelance workers to address their growing need for cybersecurity needs. As much as big companies may not like playing the gig economy game, the enormous importance of effective cybersecurity means they’re going to have to.
But how can companies in desperate need of cybersecurity expertise attract talent to their business? To start, they have to understand who they need to attract.
The realities of being a freelancer
The freelance approach isn’t for everyone, and I don’t just mean on the hiring side. To be a freelancer requires an extremely entrepreneurial attitude
, ability to weather repeated failure and droughts of work, an exhaustive list of client contacts, and perhaps more than anything, a family that will support you when you’ve got 10 cents to your name. As with any business, freelancers also have to handle their business development and admin work, such as -dare I say it- accounting, insurance, and legal. This is simply the reality of the freelance worker’s life
For most, this means that freelance work is not for those looking for a stable income. Traditionally, this has been the baited hook which has led to the dominance of full-time employment. But when you have an industry like cybersecurity -where individuals are highly skilled, with a highly desirable skill- many of the problems of freelancing vanish and are replaced by an attractive prospect. That prospect is this:
The companies need you more than you need them.
As a cybersecurity professional, your value-add to the business is much higher than theirs is to you. Yes, they may pay you well, but you’re in a high-demand field
. Not many competitors have your skillset, so finding work will be far easier than it will be for the normal freelancer. This is something companies desperately need to understand because it’s the opposite of how they’ve traditionally done business.
Is the future of cybersecurity work freelance?
In traditional employment, it can be argued that the employee needs the job more than the company. After all, companies have to compete with far less for staff than staff does to get roles. People rarely interview their potential employer to see if it’s a good fit - they’re far more enticed by the steady employment and financial stability.
This leads to an imbalance.
The supplier (the employee) became subservient to the client (the employer). But in a harmonious industry, where employees were doing their best, most creative work, and employers were receiving the most value… Wouldn’t that balance be more equal?
By opting for a freelancer approach, cybersecurity experts achieve this balance. Cybercrime is growing
and leaving behind significant headlines, so their skill set is in huge demand by companies of all stripes. New technologies are cropping up every day - whether it’s the rise of cryptocurrencies, to VPNs, to AI-driven cloud computing. Each of these is being integrated into businesses and each of these come with unique security risks.
This is compounded by the fact that companies don’t fully understand cybersecurity, so while they know they need it, they don’t know exactly what they need. Start talking about malware to most CEOs and their eyes will glaze over. This is a poor state of affairs considering just how many new, inventive forms of cybercrime are cropping up.
Luckily, the freelance cybersecurity expert is ideally positioned to help. By working with a number of different companies on a gig or short-term contract basis, the freelancer gains a wide range of experience in various kinds of cybercrime, and the various weaknesses present within business systems and practices - knowledge which makes them increasingly better at solving various problems.
How can a business attract freelance cybersecurity experts?
So if cybersecurity experts aren’t just attracted to a freelance life, but it’s actually preferable for them to be one - how do businesses go about attracting them?
As the need for cybersecurity experts is so high, finding in-demand talent requires businesses to step up their game and remain competitive in this hiring space.
The first step in doing this is understanding the position of cybersecurity experts in the marketplace. Much of this article is aimed at aiding that understanding. Yes, like any other employee, they want to work. They probably even want your work. But you need them just as much. This means that they should be treated as an equal, a collaborating partner, not a subservient employee.
They need to be taken on as a consulting role. If your business practices are inherently flawed from a cybersecurity perspective, this isn’t a place for digging your heels in. It’s a place for open collaboration, taking feedback from an expert, and making difficult changes
If a security analyst identifies that you’ve been the victim of theft, fraud or outright scams
, then you have to accept that you’ve lost that money and move on. The most important first step is to stop the bleeding
and seal the breach. This kind of attitude respects the realities of the cybersecurity freelance market but also helps to ensure the safety of your business. By making it clear you’re offering challenging work that is supported by open, honest collaboration as equals, you’re communicating that your business is going to support the cybersecurity experts' best, most creative work.
Like anyone, this is exactly what they want to hear. This is exactly the kind of work they want, so telling them this will put your business squarely within their sights.