When you're running a small business, you tend to wear a lot of different hats. Whenever possible, you'll end up opting for a DIY approach in the name of saving a few dollars. But in cases where you just can't stretch yourself any thinner, outsourcing some of your work to a freelancer is a smart way to go.
Many small business owners have already realized the benefits of hiring freelancers over hiring full-time employees for certain tasks. Not only are you able to get projects accomplished at a lower price, but you're also eliminating the distractions and costs associated with having an employee in the office.
"[Businesses] pay for the services rendered, and there is no frivolous downtime that a full-time employee sometimes engages in when there are daily distractions at the workplace," said Faith Bandklayder, president of Welcome Home Senior Services & Placement Co. "With a freelancer, work is done on a project-by-project basis at an agreed-upon rate, and they [can be] much more efficient at getting the work done in order to get paid."
If you're looking to incorporate freelance workers into your business strategy, here are a few tips to help you find, evaluate and hire the best ones. [3 Tips for Hiring Freelancers]
Where to find freelance workers
There are numerous popular websites— Upwork, Freelancer.com, Fiverr, FlexJobs — where freelancers and businesses can connect to work together. These sites may seem like an obvious first place to look, but Gregg Landers, managing director of consulting and internal control services at business consultancy CBIZ MHM, advised speaking with fellow business owners to see if they have any recommendations for you.
"[Ask] business acquaintances ... if they've used anyone they've been happy with," Landers told Business News Daily. "Get references from people you know and trust."
If no one in your network has an appropriate connection, freelance marketplaces usually do allow for client reviews on workers' profiles, so you should be able to find some information about a potential freelancer. Freelancers will often provide links to their online portfolios or websites containing past work samples for further reference.
As another option, university career centers may have a supply of student freelancers looking for experience, and because they're students, their rates tend to be more competitive, Bandklayder said.
What to look for
The process of hiring a freelancer isn't the same as what you'd go through when hiring a regular employee. There are different expectations, and you typically don't have to go through an arduous and extensive interview process for a freelancer if you're hiring the person for a specific skill and project, Bandklayder said.
"Geography, working hours, cultural fit and even language skills aren't as important as they would be for a full-timer," added Aron Susman, co-founder and chief financial officer of commercial real estate brokerage TheSquareFoot.
However, there is one skill that matters most, perhaps even more so than for employees: communication.
"It's easy enough to communicate with an employee who's sitting next to you in the office, but freelancers have to be responsive, often from many time zones away," Susman said.
To get an idea of a freelancer's work and communication style, Landers recommended asking a few preliminary questions before bringing him or her on board. For instance, you should explain your project and ask if he or she has ever worked on anything similar. You should also ask how the freelancer might approach your project if hired, and how he or she typically keeps clients updated on the progress of a project.
"Ask how you would know the status of the project throughout," Landers said. "Would [the freelancer] provide status reports or milestones? What can you expect [so you] know it's on track? I'd ask him or her to give me an idea of what the deliverable looks like when it's finished."
Finally, Landers noted that businesses should make sure any freelancer they hire has a basic understanding of cybersecurity to ensure that any sensitive data the worker handles remains safe.
"If [your freelancers] do anything with sensitive information, you need to know where it is and what's done with it," Landers said.
Working with freelancers
If you have remote employees, working with freelancers can feel very similar. However, you need to remember that a freelancer is not typically "on the clock" and likely won't always be available during your regular work hours as an employee would be. Therefore, you need to be aware of when your schedules line up to make communication and relationship building as easy as possible.
"It's harder to develop that personal relationship that you would have with an employee, but working with a freelancer on a small project can also give you the benefit of exploring whether or not they would be a good fit for your organization," Bandklayder said. "Use video and telephone conferencing to build more of that one-on-one relationship [with a freelancer]."
It's also important to get all the terms and conditions of a freelancer's project down in writing, usually as a formal or informal contract, so everyone understands what's expected. Your contract should cover everything from the timeline and scope of the project to the pay rate and schedule.
"Make sure that the guidelines are clear, especially about the money," Susman said. "[You don't have to] pay everything up front, but be fair in compensating the freelancer for his or her work."
Landers agreed, and added that if you have any concerns about accidentally violating labor laws, you should speak with an attorney to make sure any independent workers you hire aren't technically classified as employees based on their workload and level of supervision.
For more information about hiring freelancers, visit Business News Daily's guide.