One of the most challenging parts of running a business is making staffing decisions: when and who to hire.
We’ve been hearing more and more about businesses looking to freelancers or contractors (rather than salaried employees) to do their businesses’ work. We wanted get the perspective of Wyatt Nordstrom, CEO and co-founder of Maven (a company that connects freelance consultants with companies of all sizes), to learn more about working with freelancers.
When should a small business consider hiring a freelancer or contractor over a salaried employee?
More people than ever – talented, skilled professionals – are choosing to work as contractors or freelancers rather than salaried employees. One study says that by 2020, most people will earn their paychecks as freelancers or self-employed entrepreneurs.
That means there’s lots of great freelance talent available. Working with freelancers can be a cost-effective way to tap into skills and labor, but it makes the most sense under specific circumstances.
Generally, businesses find the most success using freelancers for discrete projects like building a Web site or designing a logo, consulting on a specific initiative like new product development, solving important technical challenges, or for non-managerial specialized work like IT, marketing or administrative support.
Where can I find good freelance help?
First, see if you can tap into your real-world professional network to find people (using LinkedIn can be helpful).
There are now several online sources for finding freelance workers. Most operate as marketplaces, where people essentially buy and sell labor (generally the work purchased through these sites is done remotely, in some cases overseas). Some of the established players in this field are Elance, Odesk, Guru and Freelancer.com.
My company, Maven, connects businesses with professionals offering a wide range of consulting services – everything from short knowledge sharing consultations to long-term projects.
How can I judge the candidates to find the right one for me?
As with hiring salaried employees, references are important. If the freelancer is referred by someone you trust, that’s a built-in reference. Freelance websites sometimes include references as well.
Inquire about the individual’s history as a freelancer. Find out other companies he or she has worked for, and the outcome of those projects (in other words, did they wrap up successfully).
If you’re hiring a creative professional (like a graphic designer), ask to see past work.
Finally, see what kind of rapport you have with this individual. Is he or she someone you can imagine working with happily? If possible, meet with them face to face. If an in-person meeting is impossible, a Skype video call is great way to get to know someone (at Maven, we even use Skype to conduct video interviews of potential employees).
How can I make sure the relationship is successful for me and for the freelancer?
First, go into the hiring process with as clear and precise a job description as possible. You should be able to articulate the project’s goals, scope and timeline.
You should also know the kind of working relationship you want with your freelancer. How much do you want to collaborate during the process and how much independent creativity would you like the freelancer to exercise?
Finally, determine the level of skills you require and what you’re willing to pay.
The most critical aspect to making the experience a success is to clearly communicate your expectations with your freelancer, and to follow through on your responsibilities (such as providing necessary information and access, showing up prepared for meetings). Generally, you’ll want to have a written agreement with your freelancer, and online freelance marketplaces usually build this into the purchasing process.
It’s worth noting that unless there’s an egregious breach on the freelancer’s part, you need to pay them what you owe them on time. Not doing so can have grave implications for your own professional reputation.
Wyatt Nordstrom is the co-founder and CEO of Maven, the Global Knowledge Marketplace. He has over a decade of experience in high technology, investment research and knowledge consulting services. As CEO of Maven, he has led the development of the world’s first online microconsulting service, providing a unique opportunity for knowledge seekers to gain quick, direct insights from a vast global network of tens of thousands of professionals across all sectors, industries and functional roles.