When you start your own business, you inevitably reach a point in your business’s growth where you simply can’t do it all. There’s too much work there for one person and it just won’t get done if you’re the only one sailing the ship. Usually, when you reach this point, you’re also not ready to bring on a full-time employee. Either the budget or the work or both aren’t there to sustain a full-time salary. That’s why many business owners start looking for a freelancer to fill the gap.
What is a freelance employee or a freelancer?
If you haven’t encountered the term yet, a freelancer is someone who is self-employed and uses his or her skills to do work for other businesses. Some people call them “gig workers” others call them “1099 employees”.
No matter what you call them, a freelancer is someone who is not employed directly by your company but still does work for your company.
What are the benefits of hiring a freelancer?
For business owners, there can be a lot of reasons to hire a freelancer.
You don’t take on the financial liability of an employee
One of the biggest reasons is that there’s a lot less liability that goes with it. You have very loose ties to this person both financially and legally.
As Fundera explains, “Since your level of oversight over independent contractors is relatively low, your level of financial and legal responsibility is low, as well. 1099 workers pay both employee and employer self-employment taxes — so, if you choose to hire an independent contractor, your business doesn’t need to pay payroll taxes. And, as their own business owners, 1099 workers aren’t eligible for the benefits you might offer your W2 employees, such as health insurance, paid time off, and overtime.”
You’re hiring a highly-skilled professional
When you hire a freelancer, you’re hiring a highly-skilled professional at a fraction of the price. Think of it this way, maybe you want to redesign your website. You don’t need a full-time or even part-time web designer to do it, so instead, you hire a freelancer. This person will probably be paid hourly, but for fewer hours than you would offer an employee. In the end, you’re getting a skilled person to do the work at a fraction of the overall price. Graphic designers, marketing professionals, accountants, and human resource professionals all make great freelancers for a growing company.
You can end a contract with a freelancer at any time
Many people have experienced hiring someone that does not fit with their style or they have worked with someone that’s not the right fit for the company. In those cases, it can be a lot of work to simply sever ties with that employee. There’s a lot that went into hiring that person and there’s a lot that goes into letting that person go.
However, with a freelancer, those ties don’t exist. In most instances, the employer can end the contract at any time.
What are the disadvantages of hiring a freelancer?
Some of the benefits of hiring a freelancer can also be considered negatives.
Competition with other businesses
For one thing, just like your business is not tied to this person, this person is not tied to you or your company in any way. More than likely, a freelancer has other employers aside from you. That means that your work is just one of a handful that a freelancer is completing at any given time.
You need to know that your work isn’t going to get priority.
Freelancers have control over their schedule
Some businesses control a freelancer’s hours by requesting that he or she work specific hours on specific days, but most don’t have that kind of control. Most freelancers have become freelancers because they can control their schedule. That can be tough for the business owner.
There is no vacation approval with a freelancer. If he tells you he’s going on a month-long trip to South America, there’s not much you can do about it. You can hire someone else and hope that their work is comparable, or you can wait for the freelancer you like to come back.
You have no control in this area.
Rush jobs are also at the whim of the freelancer. They may only get completed if it fits into the freelancer’s time.
Training can be harder and take more time
If you’re lucky and you find the right freelancer the first time around, then you might be able to form a great relationship that lasts years. However, there are a lot of small factors that can cause a relationship with a freelancer to sour faster than it would with an employee.
If the first freelancer doesn’t work out, you may find yourself starting over with a new one in just a month or two. Be prepared for a few starts and stops before you find the right fit.
Where can I find a freelancer?
With the freelance industry growing year over year, there are plenty of places to find freelancers. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr make it their business to connect freelancers with businesses. Just know that with sites like this, you will be paying a continuous fee on top of what you’re paying the freelancer.
To avoid that fee, you can explore your personal network to see if your colleagues or friends have someone to suggest. You can also try hiring sites like Craigslist, Monster, and LinkedIn. You’ll avoid the continuous fee that you pay with freelance sites, but you’ll likely pay a one-time fee to post your job listing.
Tips for hiring a Freelancer
Despite all the downsides, hiring a freelancer is still one of the best ways to go for a small business that’s still in the growth phase. Like any hiring process, some ways of doing it can be more productive than others.
Find someone you share common ground with
You want to find someone that fits with you, your business style, and your personality, especially if you’re looking for a freelancer that you plan to have a lasting relationship with. What kind of schedule are you looking for? How much of a time commitment is she offering? What is her work style? Does it mesh with yours?
This is someone that needs to get along with you, understand how you work, and what your expectations are. If you need a long-term freelancer, put the same effort into hiring him or her as you would into hiring a full-time employee. It will save you time in the long run.
Never start a freelancer out on a massive project if you can help it. The benefit of a freelancer is that there’s no salary holding the two of you together. That means you can dip your toe into the water and if it’s too cold, you can jump out.
Start freelancers off with a small project whenever possible. See how the communication goes and how the project turns out. If you like what you see, you can go bigger. It’s a feeling-out process for both of you and it works better if there aren’t huge expectations right off the bat.
This one can’t be emphasized enough. You need to keep the lines of communication open at all times. Outline your expectations on projects and be sure to fill in the blanks if a freelancer asks for clarification. Not only will this make sure that your project is done correctly, but it will also help you establish a good relationship with the freelancer.
If you find a freelancer that does excellent work, you want to cultivate that relationship. Remember, this is someone who has no ties to you and has other clients. You can be fired as a client just as easily as he or she can be fired as a freelancer.
Once the project is done, offer honest feedback. Give details on both the good and the bad parts of the project, especially if you want a productive relationship to continue with this freelancer.
You must also be prepared to receive honest feedback in return. A freelancer is just like an employee and there needs to be honest communication on both sides to make the relationship work.
Remember, you get what you pay for
It’s easy to look at a market of freelancers and think that the expensive ones are just greedy. More than likely, the expensive ones are just very good at what they do and they can afford to lose clients because of their price point.
Do not fall into the trap of hiring someone simply because he or she is cheaper. What you’ll often find is they are cheaper because their work is worthless.
Freelancers who charge market rates often do so because their work is worth market rates. The adage, you get what you pay for often rings true when it comes to freelancers. If you pay too little, you’re likely throwing money down the drain.
When done correctly, adding a freelancer to your business can help you achieve that next level in business success. You now have someone on your team helping you achieve your goals. That can be empowering and it will free you up to do the things you need to do to make sure your business grows in the right ways.
A freelancer is one of the best tools you can use to take your business to the next level.
If you think maybe hiring an employee is better for you, be sure to check out this previous post on the 4 qualities to look for when hiring an employee.
Written by Erika Towne