Real Talk About Hiring Freelancers in Your Business: When You Need to and What You Should Know
According to Linkedin, in 2018, 70% of small businesses had hired a freelancer at some point. 81% of those who had hired a freelancer plan to do it again. While 81 is a decent number, it’s disappointing that it’s not closer to the high 90s. This speaks to a few things:
- Their business simply isn’t growing and thus they don’t need the help
- It’s growing so fast they need/want to hire full-time
- They’ve worked with contractors or freelancers and had a bad experience
That last bullet is disheartening for the 55+ million people who work as an independent contractor. One lackluster experience gives all freelancers a bad reputation when they could be a very good solution for your business.
- want to try something new. Maybe you have a new demographic you want to hit, a new product area you want to explore, or a new tone you want to use in your communications. You want to make a switch and bringing in a new person on a temporary basis may help you figure that out without making any long-term promises or commitments.
- need a new set of skills. In keeping with the idea above, maybe you want to do something in your business that you don’t have the skills for. If you don’t completely understand what you need, hiring a full-time person can be difficult. Instead, bring on a freelancer that can help you figure out the process and then you can decide what will serve you best in the future.
- have seasonal overflow. Maybe you have busy and slow seasons. You can bring on an independent contractor during the busy season instead of hiring someone full-time.
- are being taken away from your work (you know, the stuff no one else can do as well as you can) in order to do things that others can do better. For instance, if you are a brilliant salesperson who never met a client you didn’t close, it makes sense to keep you in that role bringing in money for the business. Anything that distracts you from that should be handed to someone else who excels in those other areas.
- need a very specific skill. There are times when you need a very niche skill set. Some of those times are temporary, like needing someone to set up a process or procedure for you or something like creating an app. If that project won’t continue into the future, it may make sense to hire it out.
- want to save money. Freelancers have very little overhead. Even highly-paid freelancers often cost less than employees when you factor in the savings on benefits.
Also, if they bill upon completion, pay as quickly as possible. Most freelancers who bill this way issue the invoice “due upon receipt.” If it takes you an additional month to pay, you’re actually two months in arrears from when they started doing the work for you. If you want to be a preferred client, and you want them to “squeeze you in” on occasion, you want to do your best to achieve that preferred designation in their mind. Paying on time will help with that.
There are certain companies that operate in reactive mode, it’s just the nature of their business. Let’s say you hire a freelancer to write up your sales contracts. You may not know exactly when that order is coming in so you can’t give your freelancer a schedule. Unless your freelancer does this work part-time and has very few clients, you will likely need to pay a retainer fee to keep your freelancer “open” for your work at least part of the week. If this is the nature of your business, be upfront about it in initial discussions. Some freelancers can accommodate quick, unexpected turns. Many cannot without a retainer.
- They can drop everything to take care of your emergency. Sometimes they can, but not always, unless this is something in your contract.
- They are irresponsible. If they are a full-time freelancer, they want to see you succeed. One of their most effective marketing strategies is referrals. Good freelancers deliver on time.
- I need someone in my office not someone in PJs at home. Some freelancers work on location. If that’s what you require, ask them.
- It will take a long time to explain what I need and to bring them up to speed on our culture. Freelancers “blend” into businesses every day. Don’t let this concern hold you back.
- Sites like Upwork are the only place to find freelancers. Like any employment agency, these sites take a chunk of income and keep prices low. There are plenty of quality freelancers who refuse to work off of them because of this. Ask people in the community for referrals.
- They’re all a bunch of twenty-somethings with no work experience. Freelancers run the gamut from an experience standpoint. You can find beginners and people who left very successful careers for more independence. You can match your experience needs with that of the freelancer.
If you’re considering hiring a freelancer, remember there are some differences between them and a traditional employee. Think of them the way you would a vendor business. They have their own clients, aside from you. Perform your due diligence in scouting them and talk to other business owners to see who they use. Don’t assume your business friends aren’t using freelancers. There may be quite a bit done behind the scenes that you are unaware of.
Christina R. Green teaches small businesses, chambers, and associations how to connect through content. Her articles have appeared in the Midwest Society of Association Executives’ Magazine, NTEN.org, AssociationTech, Event Managers Blog, and WritersWeekly. She is a regular blogger at Frankjkenny.com.
As an introverted writer, she’s on a quest to bring great storytelling to organizations everywhere while single-handedly combatting the overuse of exclamation points.