Should you hire a freelancer to help grow your business?

Hiring a freelancer is cool

On paper, hiring a freelancer makes more sense now than ever before.

The commercial landscape is shifting quickly. The resulting need for change affects all types of businesses. Because diversification means new skills, it may be that you are thinking of hiring new staff. One of the most expensive overheads a business faces is recruitment and training. Some estimate the average cost of recruiting one candidate to be around £12,000, so can freelancers make a difference?

Freelancers make up our entire crew, and so we feel we know a thing or two about the subject. In this article, we are going to share the pros and cons of freelancing, how people like us can help you, and we will share our best practice guide on hiring your next freelancer.

First; lets look at the concept of freelancing and what it entails.

What is a Freelancer and why would you hire one?

A freelancer is a self-employed person who offers a specific service or services to others. Often freelancers specialise in creative services, (that would be us), IT support, and the more technical areas such as coding and API design. N26 states that there are over 53,000,000 freelancers in the US alone. It also gives a comprehensive list of the most in-demand services

As you look to grow your business, non-salaried skill sets become highly desirable. In fact, you may not have a full-time requirement for the skills a freelancer is offering anyway. Paying as you go, and swapping skill sets as required makes total sense. Many of our clients have a fixed monthly budget for freelance resources which they share among two or three skill-sets. Sometimes we are the major beneficiary of that budget, and sometimes we are a minor recipient, depending on our client’s priorities.

At the front end of this article, we quoted a figure of £12,000 for the recruitment of a single member of staff. Imagine what you could achieve if you budgeted that money over twelve months for freelance work, rather than for training and orientation. Hiring someone is costs far more than their salary. There could be a new desk and chair to buy. Training courses are another factor, and that is before we get into company vehicles, legal fees and benefits.

As committed freelancers, we enjoy the freedom and variety that our lifestyle brings. Although there is always a place for employment and permanence, we find that the world we are living in favours flexibility. That flexibility works for both parties.

Hiring Freelancers from gig platforms.

Hiring freelancers from gig platforms is bittersweet for all concerned. Being completely honest, open, and upfront, without Upwork, it is unlikely that Joined Up Think would have come into existence. That is not to say we couldn’t have achieved what we have achieved. I feel that we wouldn’t have though.

What Upwork provided me as a freelancer, was a way of testing my personal abilities with real-life work, while still getting paid. I had good experiences with Upwork, and I had terrible experiences. One of the main advantages is Escrow. Another plus is trialling services I want to offer within my own business.

Should I hire freelancers from Upwork or similar platforms?

Despite my having some negative experiences, I suggest that you should have these platforms on your radar. Hiring a freelancer is daunting for the first few times. Upwork, and platforms like it, offer great search facilities, a vast range of talent and financial protection.

Having said that, here are some pros and cons that you should be aware of.

The Pros of hiring a freelancer online.

The most obvious pro is that you get to see reviews of the person you are considering. Depending on the platform, you will also get to see examples of their work. These features take a lot of the guesswork out of hiring a freelancer.

The Escrow protects both parties too. You can find out more about Escrow here. Having a third party hold funds is a great way to start building trust with someone who may be on the other side of the world. I started business relationships with two of my regular clients from a beach in Bali.

Most “gig platforms” (which is what the cool kids call them) offer time management tools, comprehensive communication resources, and project tracking features. It is in the interest of the gig platform to keep everything within their infrastructure, as they are often billing both parties for the transactions that take place. This means that the infrastructure is often excellent.

The cons of hiring a freelancer online.

Likely, you are looking to hire a freelancer to allow yourself time to work on your business. You will need to spend a certain amount of time onboarding your freelancer. If you are hiring more than one for a given project, this issue can compound. This can lead to frustration if you make the wrong choice and end up having to repeat the process multiple times.

People are often better at selling themselves than they are at actually completing the task at hand. As soon as you post your “gig”, the offers will flood in. Learning to weed out the doers from the sayers will be a necessary skill.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Imagine you are an author. It would help if you had a UX Designer for a website for a book launch, and associated tour, that much you know. How do you know what you need to ask candidates? Sure, you have recourse if they turn out to be bad at what they do, but do you have the time and resources to handle a dispute?

When handling a large project which requires multiple disciplines, project managing can quickly become problematic. Situations, where a client is one country, trying to manage freelancers in three other time zones, are not uncommon. When deadlines are looming, and tensions are rising, it can be very irritating to have to wait for one member of the team who is fast asleep in one country, to react to the project lead.

The majority of freelancers and clients are fabulous people. Freelancing culture is expanding rapidly. I am sure these issues will work themselves out over time.

Hiring your freelancer; the do’s and don’ts

Joined Up Think provides opportunities exclusively for freelancers who work in the performing arts. By engaging with us, you get a project manager who is your one point of contact. This is the vital ingredient that differentiates us from mainstream gig platforms. Our crew is six department heads, each tapping into a self-curated pool of talent. The extended family is around thirty freelancers and rising.

We hire freelancers daily, so here are our top do’s and few pet don’ts.

When hiring a freelancer; Do

Communicate your expectations, deliverables and timeline clearly and concisely in a traceable format. (If you are using a gig platform, you should communicate through that platform exclusively or you may be in breach of their guidelines). Use email rather than WhatsApp or other messenger platforms. Email can be searched easily when one of the party is trying to locate a specific.

Get at least two quotes from non-freelance sources to work out the correct market value for the services you require. This approach will help screen applicants and set a value for the project. Although gig platforms appear to be better valued, things cost what they cost for a reason. Know what things cost before setting your budget. Eliminate freelancers who are wildly under or considerably over that budget.

Have a legal framework in place. A simple contract or agreement is essential. If you are recruiting on a gig platform that will be taken care of for you.

Look for added value. A freelancer who is a time-saving resource can passively follow your brief and deliver exactly what you ask for, which is great if you are an expert in the field that you are hiring. When the freelancer is the expert, and you know nothing about the field in which they are working, look for freelancers whose pitch adds value.

Freelancers who add value will be a bit more expensive. Is your freelancer pointing out potential issues with your plan and backing these observations up with qualified solutions? If the answer is yes, then you may find those freelancers are worth paying a bit more for.

When hiring a freelancer; Don’t

Use generic questions. By that we mean; Why do you think you are the best person for the role? What projects have you done that are most like this one and why? What challenging area of the role are you most experienced in? Yes, I am painfully aware that these are Upwork questions because 99% of every gig owner asks them. Answering the same questions for the fifth time in a morning gets tiring very quickly. Ultimately you are not getting the best responses by using a platform’s generic questions.

Solution: Take the time to craft unique questions that will elicit value-added answers. If you are building a website offering local food delivery in your area, the question; “When building a similar eCommerce site, how did you tackle local SEO as part of the overall strategy?” is arguably more useful to you than “What similar projects have you done”? (A) it separates the doers from the sayers. (B) You will get a balanced answer to a question which you may need the answer for.

Don’t request free work in exchange for “exposure”. Enough said.

Don’t expect a discount just because you saw someone who is cheaper. Negotiate, of course, freelancers will haggle. By all means, pick the cheapest freelancer you can find, but don’t expect talented people to price match every rate you see out there.

In conclusion

We love gig platforms for all of the reasons mentioned. We would certainly recommend that you use them, especially when you are starting a new project or business. All of them have one fault, though. They devalue talent. I believe that someone will work out a system which stops this ugly side of the business and brings balance to both parties.

At Joined Up Think, freelancing has changed our respective worlds, and we are confident that hiring freelancers will transform your world too. A good freelancer will bring valuable resources to your business. Experienced freelancers can provide business consultancy as well as specific services.

Although we specialise in Ghostwriting, Marketing, Design and Content, many of our clients cite us as being a trusted partner. Freelancers are here to stay, and you will reap great rewards when choosing the right ones for your venture.

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