All modern startups live and die with a lean mentality -- or so they think. To truly go lean, you need to eliminate the superfluous and work within your means. That requires agility and speed, in order to apply business principles to your unique situation, not just copy other success stories. And in most cases, you must act quickly or go belly up.
But many entrepreneurs on a lean budget commit the startup sin of overhiring right out of the gate. It’s understandable to want your dream team to come together from the start, but behaving like a fat cat without sufficient resources is a recipe for disaster. So, instead of maxing-out your budget on full-time personnel, recognize that it’s time to bring in the savvy entrepreneur’s secret weapon: freelancers.
When freelancers become lifesavers
A business always needs in-house staff for mission-critical tasks -- a core team that keeps the company on track as it scales. But many positions don’t require someone on hand full-ime.
For example, creative roles -- writing, design, PR, social media, etc. -- are some of the best positions to contract out to freelancers. You should also consider bringing freelancers in for short-term projects. For example, if you’re launching a major marketing campaign, you might need a market research team working full-steam for a few weeks. But you certainly don’t need to keep them on after the project is complete.
Hiring freelancers can benefit budget-conscious startups in quite a few ways. For one, freelancers provide talent on demand, allowing you to scale business operations to fit your company’s dynamic needs and fluctuating resource supply. Freelancers also give you the opportunity to work with an incredibly diverse talent pool. You can easily find freelancers with niche skills -- such as coding in Chinese -- or impressive experience to add to your team.
Cost is another huge advantage. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has pegged the average employer cost at $29.71 per employee per hour. Roughly 70 percent of that figure accounts for wages, and 30 percent goes toward employee benefits. But because freelancers are technically self-employed, you save 30 percent with each hire. Those savings can go a long way for a startup on a budget.
Optimize your freelance experience
Freelancers have the skill sets necessary to help carry your startup. But to make the most of this experience, you need to consider a few best practices:
- Do a trial run. If your mind isn’t made up about hiring freelancers, test it out first. Hire someone to fill one position for a short-term project. Take inventory of the benefits and drawbacks, and decide whether it makes sense to branch out in the future.
- Evaluate where you’ll save. Review your company structure to find where freelancers might be a good fit. Outsource any short-term tasks or assignments and ongoing projects that aren’t absolutely critical to daily operations. As new projects arise, consider the ways outside talent could build a stronger but more cost-effective team.
- Keep records of your freelancers. Evaluate them once they complete a project, to gauge performance and nail down specific skills you should look for in future hires. You can also keep track of freelancers you potentially want to offer jobs to later on.
- Be prepared to adapt. Expect a learning curve when working with freelancers, for both you and your new hire. Cloud-based tools, collaborative software and frequent communication will lessen the barriers of working with external help. But you can build a strong working relationship faster by clearly defining project goals, setting reasonable deadlines and checking in on projects.
In the past, finding a qualified freelancer could be as difficult as finding a qualified full-time employee. But today, there are hundreds of websites and resources ready to match you up with a freelancer that’s right for you. Sites such as SuperTasker are also dependable resources for completing standardized digital tasks.
Whether you’re cash-flow positive or in the red, like every entrepreneur, you'll need to tread lightly when making early hiring decisions. Freelancers could be the money-saving solution you’ve been looking for. Just make sure to outsource the right tasks to the right people, and your lean mentality will get you seeing green sooner than later.