How to Hire Freelancers for Your Small Business

How to hire freelancers for your small business

Congrats! It’s time to grow your business and hire new team members! If you’re on a tight budget, you might not have the resources available to hire a full-time employee — the tax withholdings, the benefits, the paid time off can really add up — but don’t panic. A freelancer might just be able to help.

Freelancers (sometimes referred to as contractors) are self-employed individuals acting as independent contractors and are not considered employees of your business.

Why Hire a Freelancer?

Freelancers can offer top-notch skills without the added expense of having to pay full-time benefits or commit to a long-term hire. You can have top-quality expertise anytime you need it with minimal overhead when you use a contractor rather than taking on a new employee. Most are paid hourly or on a flat-fee project basis and can be utilized as consultants, on-call for ad hoc work, temporary or ongoing, or hired for specific contracts.

There are many freelance professionals you can leverage to extend the reach of your company’s limited resources. You can hire freelancers for a variety of projects in a variety of specialties: marketing, consulting, web development, writing, accounting, graphic design, social media, and teaching/tutoring are some of the common freelance professions in the gig economy.

But why would someone want to freelance?

Don’t they prefer the security of a traditional 9-to-5 job?

Not necessarily! Many freelancers consider their work more stable and love the benefits of it. Freelancer Melyssa Griffin said, "With freelancing, you have the power and autonomy to change anything that doesn’t fit your vision. This also creates the potential to earn more money, since you’re in control of how you earn your income."

Ready to hire a freelancer for yourself? Before you get started with that help wanted ad, make sure to think about these things…

What to Think About BEFORE Hiring

There are a couple of important options to consider when it comes to adding to your team, whether you’re hiring full time or freelance. Make sure you think about the following…

1. What type of employee are you hiring? How much work do you have? The type of employee you hire depends on the hours your company needs and customer demand. Only need occasional help? Consider someone on a contract basis. Need someone to assist every day? Then an ongoing freelancer or full-time employee is necessary. RecruitLoop cautions you to remember that these choices matter: “It’s important to realize that your obligations differ depending on what basis your employees are hired.” Contractors, and employees in at-will states, can terminate their employment, or be terminated, without any notice; whereas full-time employees will be entitled to paid time off, sick leave, etc. Make sure to consult with a hiring expert or employment lawyer to cover all your bases and learn your state’s employment laws.

2. What exact role do you need? Make sure to consider the responsibilities this professional needs to cover. Do you need someone to write product descriptions and social media posts for you? Or do you need guidance on marketing or taxes? Writing down a list of specific duties and responsibilities will help you make a good fit between your needs and a potential employee or freelancer’s skills.

3. What can you afford? Have a firm hold on your finances and make sure you can support wages, benefits, taxes, etc. if you’re hiring a full-time employee. If you’re hiring hourly, what is your budget? Freelancers have a wide range of costs, so make sure you know what you’re comfortable with.

4. Where are you looking? Keep things simple for yourself by only posting your “help wanted” job ad on a couple of sites. A staffing agency is a great place to start if you want to skip the hassle of posting, sorting through, and vetting candidates. For a small fee, they will handle all of the details. If you want to take on the task yourself, we recommend using legitimate online job boards that attract the best professionals: LinkedIn, Glassdoor, ZipRecruiter, and Indeed.com are all good options.

Now that you’ve posted your job and the resumes are coming in, here are a few things to keep in mind…

Things to Remember When Hiring Freelancers

1. Check Credentials: Assure your freelancer is indeed qualified and experienced in the area of knowledge or skill that you need. Outside of their resume, check their work via online portfolios and talk to their references.

2. Review Carefully: Look at samples of previous work and check out their LinkedIn recommendations to see if they’d be a good fit with your company and industry. However, do not expect contractors to give you free samples; their past work is indicative of their skill and talent and many consider being asked to complete a small, unpaid assignment (called spec work) to be incredibly insulting. If you don’t see something in their portfolio, do not hesitate to ask if they have more. Most creatives have tons of samples and their online presence is only a small, curated collection.

3. Communicate Clearly: Always be ready to quickly provide answers and information on the full scope of the project during your interviews. How long will you need help? How many projects? Make sure you can articulate how and when you’d like to be communicated with and that you have an idea of project deadlines in mind as well.

4. Expect to Pay Fairly: Professional freelancers are not discount employees, so don’t expect cut-rate fees for top talent. Pay fast and fair to lure the best freelancers to your project or company. Yes, you can find a $5 website designer, but you always get what you pay for.

5. Hire ASAP: As soon as you know you have the need for outside help, start your search to allow enough time to find the right person and for the work to be done properly; if it is a rush job, offer higher pay for that inconvenience.

6. Pay Correctly: Don't know if you need to provide a W-2 or 1099? Read this, then consult with your accountant. Make sure you’re ready to provide a time sheet for tracking hours — or will you receive invoices? Feeling that you might not be able to afford the type of talent you want? Read on!

How Can Small Businesses Attract Big Talent?

The competition can be fierce when you're searching for talented, dedicated professionals, especially in the freelance space. Large companies can offer jazzy, coveted brand names and high-paying rates that allow them to attract top-notch talent. If you own a small company, how can you find a creative resource that elevates the business? How can small businesses attract big talent? We polled our talent acquisition teams and discovered ways for small businesses to become just as attractive to a new hire as the big players in the market.

Consider these tips:

1. Offer Flexibility It’s not all about fancy perks like free Perrier; freelancers of today want to avoid a rigid time clock-punching environment. Consider allowing flexible working arrangements. Offering the ability to work from home or to set their own hours will go a long way toward selling a job prospect on your company or project. Is your business in the suburbs of a major city? Many creatives don’t want to travel, so being open to offsite work will give you more options.

2. Think small but mighty Being a small business brings lots of benefits many freelancers are seeking. The fact that small companies lack bureaucracy is a huge plus! Leadership and employees work elbow-to-elbow to engage customers and build the business — all of this is potentially attractive to a new candidate. So don’t hide the fact that you’re small! Tout the fact that future employees won’t be just a cog in a machine but will be on the front lines with the CEO slugging it out with the competition for new customers and helping shape the company’s future.

3. Contribute to THEIR Success Most freelancers know that to stay competitive in their fields, they need to constantly be updating and improving their skills. Being supportive to that kind of learning will help you attract the best talent. How? Forbes suggests continually providing feedback, including freelancers in team events and training, and helping them improve their personal brands and reputations by providing publishing and speaking opportunities. So ask if they’d like a seat at your next lunch and learn or a login to your CRM. Providing referral to another client after your assignment has ended goes a long way too.

Go Forth and Hire!

Keeping these tips in mind will set you up for a successful, profitable experience with your new freelancer.


Author Bio: Cameron Douraghy is the Vice President of Artisan Talent, a digital, creative, and marketing staffing agency focusing on leading the way to successful matches between talent and clients. After almost 20 years at Artisan, he knows who’s who and what’s what — so feel free to reach out for finding talent and guidance with Artisan on Twitter: @ArtisanTalent.

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