Your Small Business Might Need a Freelancer
If your small business is growing rapidly, you’ve probably realized you need extra resources to streamline operations like IT and HR in order so that management (which may just be you!) to focus on primary business goals. But, as is often the case with small businesses, you may not have the budget to hire full-time employees. Fortunately, you have the option of working with freelancers. If you’re picturing a pajama-clad slacker dribbling cheese puffs onto a laptop, you’ve got the wrong idea. There are more freelancers in more fields now than ever before, and standards are pretty high. The best freelancers can reliably bring in specific expertise when it’s most needed, often for a good price.
Perhaps you didn’t know that:
- 60 million people from the US will be freelancers by 2020
- Flexible schedule and extra income are the top drivers of freelance work
- Gen Y grads are turning to freelancing as a career
And, because freelancers rely to a great extent on word-of-mouth and referrals—just like many small businesses do—successful freelancers produce great work. The trick is finding the right freelancer for you and the work you need done. Unfortunately, resources offering guidelines for small businesses on why and how to work with freelancers are in short supply. Here, we’ll give you some tips on when to work with freelancers, how to find the right one, and how to make the relationship work.
Do You Need a Freelancer?
Here are the top reasons to choose a freelancer:
- Low Overheads: Freelancers have lower overheads than full-time employees because you only pay for the services you need, and when you need them. While you’re expected to pay top dollar to hire the best freelancers, you don’t have to worry about covering health benefits, vacation leave, and other perks. You simply hire them on a fixed per-hour or per-project rate, based on what they offer. Bonsai’s Freelance Rate Explorer can provide a ballpark notion of what different services may cost.
- Easy Scaling: In most instances, you don’t have extended contractual obligations when you hire freelancers. As a result, you can work with them as frequently as you need to but don’t have to go beyond that. Do you have continuous blogging needs, or just require a post every month? You can easily scale up or down by changing the frequency of assignments and/or the number of freelancers you employ.
- Best Talent: Top freelancers have solid skills and years of experience, usually with a variety of companies and business types. As a result, they’ve learned how to quickly apply their specific skillset. Crimson Marketing’s CEO Glenn Glow told Forbes that one of the strengths of freelancers is that they’ve solved particular problems before, so they can help your business be faster and smarter.
- Team Player: Because freelancers are part of a network of professionals with a variety of skill sets and personalities, they have the essential qualities to be great team members. Freelancers listed with matching services like CloudPeeps are part of a professional network, as are members of traditional professional organizations like the Editorial Freelancers Association or Graphic Artists Guild. There’s even Freelancers Union, which helps independent workers get benefits like health insurance, as well as connecting them with other freelancers. This means that you can have a hybrid workforce that includes freelance and full-time employees. Top freelancers can share the same values as in-house employees, and they’ll do their best to communicate and collaborate with in-house teams to complete assigned projects.
There are other advantages to working with freelancers, but the key benefit is the same. Experienced freelancers can help you determine what skills are needed to complete a particular project and offer their expertise accordingly—and often relatively inexpensively. Selecting freelancers, however, is easier said than done. Where do the best freelancers hang out? How do you identify those who will best fit your needs? Before any contracts are drawn up, you need to learn about what types of freelancers there are for small businesses.
These are people with 9-5 jobs who freelance in their spare time, for instance, a business-employed graphic designer who also does graphic design projects for other companies in the evening. A real-life example is Neil Tortorella who started Tortorella Design while having a full-time job. He says moonlighting in his field, web design and development, is common, and there isn’t a friend of his who doesn’t freelance.
- Temporary Workers
These people are employed on a temporary basis to work for a certain company. Independent consultants are a prime example of this type of freelancer. They may work for a single organization full-time but on a contract basis, meaning their employment status is “temporary.” Temporary workers usually offer services for months-long projects.
- Independent Contractors
These individuals don’t have a traditional, full-time job, and they choose to freelance on a project-to-project basis and may work off-site. They are probably what most businesses consider freelancers by definition. Independent contractors, occupying 40 percent of the independent workforce, work extremely hard to be recognized as experts in their field.
- Diversified Workers
Freelancers with multiple income sources from a combination of freelance work and traditional employment are referred to as diversified workers—for example, someone with a 20-hour accounting job at a bank who supplements her income with freelance gigs.
- Freelance Business Owners
These are business owners who hire no more than five people for their company. What’s fascinating is that this group hires freelancers yet are themselves classified as freelancers. For instance, a popular freelance web developer who recruits a team of other web developers to build a small development agency would still be identified as a freelancer.So which of these freelancers is cost-effective? The answer depends on your business and the particular job you need done. If you’re looking for a helping hand with a temporary project, then independent contractors can be cost-effective, but moonlighters, temporary workers and freelance business owners may offer competitive quotes as well.Diversified workers and freelance workers would be cost-effective for a long-term freelance position, as other types of workers with less free time may delay day-to-day tasks. These two types of freelancers are likely to deliver a better ROI on long-term (1-5) year projects than other types of freelancers.
Will Your Freelance Match Be Made in Heaven?
With the rise of freelancing comes an overwhelming pool of candidates. How do you find the person who do the job you need done – and do it well?
Here are some tips to help you out:
- Choose a Credible Website
It’s essential to only use the best websites for locating freelancers. The following are the most commonly used websites and what they’re useful for, so you can do an informed screening before selecting a candidate:
- General sites: Upwork, PeoplePerHour, Fiverr and Freelancer.
- Freelance writers: Problogger, Contently & WriterAccess
- Freelance developers: Guru, Stack Exchange & Toptal
- Freelance designers: 99designs, DesignCrowd & The Best Designs
- Freelance translators: ProZ, Pro Translating & Vling
These sites feature top freelance designers, writers, designers, and more, and offer a free account to list your job. However, a freelancer’s presence on one of these sites is not a guarantee of quality. Don’t skimp on doing the legwork to determine whether or not you’ve got the right person.
- Create an Effective Job Description
It’s important to specify as many details as possible about your project requirements and what competencies are you looking for in a candidate. Here are some tips:
- Convey your business’s identity: Explain what your business does and include details like what the job requires, how long it would last, and if there are any other things the freelancer needs to consider. For instance, you might be willing to offer a new performance-based contract.
- Include a unique identifier: This is to filter out applicants who apply to jobs regardless of whether or not their skills and experience match a job’s requirements. The unique identifier can be a silly phrase that applications should include at the top of the email, a pre-defined subject line, or something similar.
- Ballpark your budget: Provide a sense of the rate/salary you’re willing to offer to help freelancers in preparing a fair proposal. If you’re not sure of the exact figure, write the closest number to that figure and include “open to negotiation” in the description.
Being as specific and detailed as you can now will save you time later in the process.
- Look at Prior Experience, Ratings & Reviews
When you post the job, you’ll receive hundreds or even thousands of resumes. While formal credentials are important to consider, in the freelancing industry, prior experience will likely tell you more about a candidate. Clearly, someone who has written for small business websites in the past would be better suited for your small business blog than someone who specializes in writing for healthcare sites.Freelance websites also include ratings and reviews for each freelancer profile. Be sure to look at these two factors to know what kind of experience previous employers had. Someone with four-star ratings and positive reviews about meeting deadlines and work quality might be a better fit than someone who has finished more hours of work but received average ratings and reviews.
- Conduct the Interview
Once you select a pool of candidates, start a stringent interview process to narrow down your search. Video interviews work well if you can’t meet candidates face-to-face. Ask open-ended questions, and don’t shy away from pushing candidates to elaborate on their answers.You can also see if candidates are passionate about the role to which they’ve applied. And if at the end you can’t decide from among a few candidates, you can try them out on a smaller assignment first, to see which of them is the best fit. It’s also important to talk with candidates about who will have the legal right to the finished work. Be sure to ask them to sign a nondisclosure agreement if you want to have the rights.Lastly, when you hire someone, keep in close contact with your freelancer. Someone refusing to keep you in the loop may be portent of unpleasantries to come. Likewise, you want to give milestones to your freelancer and ensure prompt payment to maintain motivation.
A Stitch in Time…
Although you may encounter obstacles due to the unique nature of your business, following these guidelines significantly increases the likelihood of recruiting an awesome freelancer. Put in the time now to find a reliable freelancer you can use over the years and take some of that mountain of work off your plate! It will be a relief to know you’ve got a writer, designer, web developer or other professional you trust ready to pitch in when you need it.