There are a lot of smart reasons to bring on a freelancer.
The desire to save money isn’t one of them.
In fact, working with a (good) freelancer might actually cost you more in the short-term than hiring a full-time employee! Imagine that.
Well, why on earth does anyone work with freelancers then?
Let’s talk about what nimble, growth-minded businesses know about the freelance economy that’s helping them run circles around businesses ingrained in the old way of thinking.
Freelancers Aren’t Cheap
Let’s just get that right out of the way, shall we?
Of course, that’s kind of like saying, “Wine isn’t cheap.”
Well, some wine isn’t. A bottle of Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2010, the first result that comes up when you look up “expensive wine,” is going to set you back more than a cool grand. But Trader Joe’s has Two Buck Chuck on sale this week for something like $4 a case. (Don’t quote me on that.)
Not all wine is cheap. Not all wine is expensive.
Now, consider that lots of very extensive studies say more than half the working population will be freelancing in some form or another by 2027.
There’s bound to be – and already is – a lot of variability in that market.
So, we can agree that “freelancers” is a really nebulous term. Within that bucket you’ve got a lot of people moonlighting under the table for extra cash. You’ve got some top-of-the-pack folks who are probably more likely to call themselves “consultants” than “freelancers.”
And then you’ve got a huge heap of full-time freelancers whose experience ranges from one year to three decades and beyond.
Kind of like the makeup of any medium- to large-sized business.
There’s probably someone in your office right now who makes less than $40,000 a year. He’s likely right out of school, or super new, or maybe he didn’t have any relevant experience and was happy to get a foot in the door in your industry.
There’s also someone (maybe it’s you!) who earns two, three, maybe ten times that who offers more experience, more expertise, and who theoretically brings a lot more value to the table.
Freelancers are kind of like that.
The good ones? They’re not cheap. And why should they be?
They’ve got a wide (really wide) array of experience that can only come from working with dozens or even hundreds of clients over the time. That’s value.
They’re specialized, because they had to be if they ever hoped to carve out a little freelancing niche of their own. That’s value, too.
And they’re independent, which means you’re not responsible for them if something changes or if they rack up tons of medical bills falling off their electric scooter on the way to get a half-caff soy latte.
Which brings me to my next point.
Aside from saving money, there are actually a lot of totally justifiable reasons to hire a freelancer.
Why Should You Hire a Freelancer?
Working with freelancers isn’t all about the warm fuzzies you get from adding someone new and exciting to the team. No, there are plenty of reasons hiring a seasoned freelancer can actually be a very sound business decision.
Benefit: Freelancers are Flexible
Of course they are. The word “free” is right there in the title! And not flexible as in, “Hey, this project would be really good for your portfolio…would you take 50% off your rate for me?” but flexible as in, “We’re shifting strategies a bit and won’t need your service any more starting next month. That okay?”
Yes. Yes, it is okay, because freelance freedom cuts both ways.
Freelancers don’t have to yoke themselves to any one business or client, and businesses don’t have to make any kind of long term commitments they’re not sure they can keep! It’s an understanding baked-into this kind of business arrangement.
It’s precisely why hiring freelancers makes so much sense for startups, small businesses, fast-growing companies, and any other organization whose needs are impossible to predict from year-to-year.
Benefit: Freelancers are Objective
Sometimes you need someone to jump right in and just get it done. Freelancers work fine for that.
Other times you need someone to take a second look at something. To offer totally objective guidance. To add insight where your team is coming up dry.
Freelancers are excellent for that.
Experienced freelancers have their own processes and systems and they use them because they work. When you’re a one-man or one-woman shop, there’s simply no time for inefficiency. Freelancers tend to be razor-sharp and ready to solve problems because for us, every hour counts.
Before or during a major business shift is a terrific time to bring in the help of a freelancer. Plenty of businesses get so mired in their own way of doing things they lose sight of the bigger picture. They over-complicate, they create redundancies, and they learn to accept sub-par results.
By nature, we’re process-driven. We’re quick on our feet. We’re all about creating workarounds that make better use of our time because that’s exactly how we made our own micro-businesses successful.
Businesses are complex, oftentimes to their own detriment.
The ability to streamline is a universal skill almost every experienced freelancer has cultivated.
Benefit: Freelancers are Cheap
Wait, what? You just said freelancers weren’t cheap. I read it. Right up there! Scroll back up and look.
You’re right. I did say that.
But let’s talk this through. So, like I said, freelancers aren’t cheap in that you shouldn’t expect to pay one $18/hour and get out-of-this-world results. But…and it’s a big one:
Incorporating freelancers into your business strategy can save you some serious money.
The average benefits package of a full-time employee accounts for a full third of what they cost their employers. That means if you’re paying someone a $90,000 a year salary + benefits, you’re really paying $120,000 (and likely more) to keep that person on-staff.
That’s a big difference.
Meanwhile, Glassdoor says it costs somewhere around $4,000 to onboard a new full-time employee. Office space costs are anywhere from $1.72 (Atlanta) – $6.16 (San Francisco) per square foot per month, and that was in 2015. Then you’ve got to consider paid time off, sick days, and extras like employee wellness plans and the Keurig coffee pods. Oh, the endless coffee pods.
Freelancers are expensive?
Employees are expensive, my friend.
Should You Work With a Freelancer?
Maybe! I don’t know your business.
It’s not uncommon at all, though, to hear of businesses finally turning to freelancers as a last resort, only to have them inject much-needed life and growth into the company. A lot of these businesses never look back and decide to make the gig economy work to their advantage rather than lament it for Killing the Desk Job.
When should you consider hiring a freelancer?
If any of the following sound like you, it might be time…
My business is in its early stages. I’m just not sure what I need or how long I’ll need it for and I don’t have a lot of capital to bring on new employees.
I don’t know how to do this particular thing. I could probably have so-and-so in accounting do it, but she’ll probably just be winging it, too.
Wow! Business is exploding. We need more hands on deck but I don’t have time to vet and onboard a bunch of new full-time hires.
I’m stuck. I keep running into this same issue over and over again but I’m not really sure what the problem is or how to fix it.
I spend so much time every day doing X, I don’t have time to do X, which is the real reason I’m in this job in the first place.
Ready to Hire a Freelancer?
There are approximately four million ways to find a freelancer.
You could, of course, go to a freelancer marketplace like Upwork and post your job then spend hours raking through all the applicants. This will have around the same success rate as taping a flyer to a telephone pole with your email address written on little tear-off scraps.
The most foolproof way to hire a freelancer is to ask your network who they know.
Looking for a great copywriter? Ask your LinkedIn contacts.
Need a good graphic designer? Ask for recommendations in that Entrepreneurs Facebook group you’re a part of.
The absolute best freelancers aren’t on Fiverr. They’re not in a race-to-the-bottom on pricing because they’re really, really good at what they do. They don’t take on any project that comes their way…just the ones where they know they can really add value.
Freelancers can be stopgaps if you need them to be, but they can also be incredible assets to your business.
So, if you find a freelancer you really respond to and her rates are a bit higher than you expected? Don’t cut and run.
Embrace that hesitation. Pause. Ask yourself whether saving a few thousand dollars right now is worth having to do the whole thing all over again next year.
Remember: Valued freelancers produce valuable results.