Freelancers are becoming more and more common. According to a recent study, roughly 30 percent of companies fill at least some roles with freelancers and short-term contract employees. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported an increase in the number of people engaging in temporary or contract-driven work over the course of the past few years. As of 2015, about one-third of the total U.S. workforce was classified as freelance, and it is estimated that that percentage could rise to 50 percent by the end of 2020.
“Thanks to the emerging gig economy, business owners today have an almost endless array of options for finding and hiring a helping set of hands,” David Ciccarelli explained in Forbes. “Whether you’re looking for a writer on Upwork or moving your whole office with UShip, it seems like there is a marketplace for every skillset that a company could want or need.”
However, finding freelancers to meet your needs and ensuring arrangements with them are mutually satisfying can be quite a challenge. It can be hard to know how much to pay freelancers and what kind of projects to use them for. Luckily, we’re here to make things a bit easier for you. Before you hire your next freelancer, be sure to check out these tips to find help and make it work.
Get the Job Posting Right
When you’re finding a freelancer, the first thing to keep in mind is that you absolutely need a clear and specific job post. The role shouldn’t be too broad and should specifically detail what key tasks will be done. Before you even post the job, you need to make sure that you have a project plan that the freelancer can tackle, that you know exactly what you’re asking of the freelancer, and that you have a plan in place to ascertain whether the freelancer is successfully completing what is required. Remember, you never want to put a freelancer into a role with ongoing responsibilities – the role should be well scoped and limited.
Understand When It’s Appropriate to Use a Freelancer
As a general rule of thumb, you should be using freelancers for projects with a relatively limited scope, both in terms of time and content. If you have an ongoing need that isn’t been met with your core personnel, then you probably need to hire another member of staff, not rely on a continuous string of freelancers.
“Taking advantage of the gig economy means that businesses can minimize the risk of a long-term commitment to projects and personnel. If either doesn’t work out, then you won’t be ‘in as deep,’” Ciccarelli explained. “However, the best projects for outsourcing are those that have a very limited scope and no internal resource with the time or related skill to take on. Hiring a freelancer for translation services for your app could be well worth the investment. However, if you need to communicate with customers in another language on a regular basis, you may need to add someone who is fluent to your team.”
Don’t Expect to Get Cheap Labor
If you’re looking to go freelance because you need a job complete quickly and only want to pay peanuts, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Remember, you get what you pay for. If you want compelling content for your company’s blog but are only willing to shell out $5 per piece, chances are you can find someone to work at that rate but what he or she is producing probably isn’t going to be very good.
The reality is that while when you go freelance, you can certainly find people who are willing to work for low rates. However, you’re better off implementing a transparent and competitive pricing scheme for your freelance labor. Consider the quality of a prospective freelancer’s work, his or her credibility, and any ratings or reviews he or she has received. Then, set your rates accordingly.
Moreover, be cognizant not to abuse your freelancer’s services. Before you dash off an email asking for “one quick favor,” make sure to consider whether the favor falls within the scope of his or her scope of services and consider how quick it really is. Is it really within your web designer’s scope of services to come up with 20 keywords for your new web content? Or will it really be quick for your content writer to dig up five very specific statistics about an obscure topic for an upcoming blog post? If you’re just burdening a freelancer with unpaid hours after he or she has signed up for the job without upping the rate, you’re going to zap out the freelancer’s motivation and energy quickly. If you need to adjust the scope of the project, you can certainly negotiate that with the freelancer – but you’ll also need to negotiate a new rate.
Recognize That Managing Freelancers May Take a Bit More Work
Managing freelancers may take up a bit more of your time than managing an employee, primarily because you can’t just pile them up with a load of work and say, “go.” Because freelancers are often working for a range of different clients, it may take a bit of extra effort on your part to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes workload, deliverables, and deadlines. You’ll need to put in this extra effort to maximize results.
“If you're used to working with employees on your payroll, then you may be in for a bit of a shock when it comes to freelancers. While you can tell your employees exactly what to do and when to do it, freelancers have the freedom to march to their own beat,” Anna Johansson warned in Inc. “They are ‘independent’ contractors and don't have to abide by the same rules as your employees. You aren't their only client and you won't commandeer 100 percent of their attention.”
Don’t be afraid to lay down some ground rules. Clearly communicate how many hours per week you are expecting them to work, what the deadlines are for specific tasks, and any process or procedural points on how specific tasks or pieces of work should be completed. Rules and requirements early on lay the foundation for a successful relationship.
Make Sure You Classify Correctly
If you don’t follow IRS and Department of Labor rules around freelancing, an employee you’ve hired as a freelancer could ultimately be classified as an employee, which could cause tax problems down the line.
“Many people assume the difference is in the amount of time an individual works for the business. But the IRS and the Department of Labor are actually more concerned about the level of control exercised over a worker,” Russ Fujioka advised in Inc. “If you hire someone under a freelance contract, but end up providing necessary materials, asking her to work out of your office, or giving constant direction over the work, the government might consider the worker to be an employee.”
Make sure you take these kinds of things into consideration, and when it doubt, your best bet is to seek out legal advice.
In conclusion, freelancers can certainly be a valuable addition to your business. However, in order to make things work between your company and a freelancer, you need to take proactive steps.
Consult with 10twelve today on more benefits of hiring freelancers.