Should a start-up hire freelancers?
You have your product up and about, and now the next step looms large — how do I scale quickly? The answer lies in hiring people. However, the next question that pops up is, should you hire freelancers to do it or share all tasks with your in-house team?
There is no right or wrong answer to this because it all depends on who you already have in your team and what stage of growth your company is at. However, there are some tips that can help you figure out whether or not you need freelancers. Because if done right, freelancers can be a great catalyst to your growth.
Do you know your priorities?
Is the work you need to hire freelancers for a priority? To understand that, you will need to figure out whether good content, or graphic design or digital marketing can actually move the needle in your favour. It’s okay to experiment, but at the end of the day, the projects need to bring the business some measurable value. It’s easy to get sidetracked by all the well-meaning suggestions to do podcasts, Instagram stories, video content, and everything ‘new-age’, but you’ve got to stay focused and not drown in never-ending ‘what-ifs’. Hiring freelancers for this can make it dangerous too because initially, it won’t cost too much, but if the content is not effective, it will all go to waste. So, don’t end up hiring too many freelancers who will only make lots of poor content. Instead, focus on rolling out one project, hire a few top-notch freelancers for the job and get the ball rolling. It’s a cliché, but it’s all about quality over quantity.
Can you afford a freelancer?
While hiring a freelancer may be cheaper than getting on-board a full-time employee or an agency, you still do need to pay them. Especially if you want to hire freelancers who’ll promise quality work. You need to be transparent, consistent and reliable when it comes to paying them. You cannot also change the budget for a freelancer midway through the project. It’s their livelihood and not just a hobby. And please, don’t offer them ‘exposure’; it won’t pay their bills. They paid a hell lot to get educated, and it’s only fair they get compensated for their hard work with money.
Do you need to move quickly?
As someone running a start-up, it’s understandable that you don’t have time to interview candidates, sort out paperwork or hand-hold them through their job. Here, hiring freelancers will prove useful as they will not only manage work on their own, they will also give you a platform to test all your creative ideas, and give you enough time to work on the gazillion other things more important for your business.
Is your team overworked?
If you’re at the stage where your team is working 20 hours a day and are still unable to meet targets, it’s a good idea to unburden them a little by delegating that work to freelancers. This will also give your staff the opportunity to be more creative and even help you with strategy.
Make sure you have clarity and then brief right
Once you are clear in your head about hiring a freelancer, the next step is to get clarity on your project. The only way to do that is by understanding who your customer is, what they need, and whether this project will provide any value to them. Make sure you and your team are on the same page. If not, then maybe it’s not the right time to hire a freelancer.
Once you do get clarity and hire someone, make sure the brief is crystal clear. You can’t just tell the freelancer you need an infographic. You need to sit with them and make them understand how doing X, Y, Z project will help enhance brand awareness or bring revenue. That’s more likely to hit the mark and ensure that the freelancer gets it right. It’s also okay if you want the freelancer to take the ultimate creative decision, but then you cannot complain about how it doesn’t look the way you imagined it to be. Set the base expectation and then start working. Also, remember to factor in their time for research, and don’t rush them too much.
Think this through for the long run
While freelancing starts out as a short-term need, it does have the potential to transition to a full-time hire, especially if you end up finding the right person for the job.
With start-ups, deadlines are constantly moving and priorities keep changing. When you have a team with a common goal of getting things done, it’s easier to manage them and set your business on the path to growth. While freelancers are good in the beginning, they may end up falling behind when your business decides to go full throttle. Hence, remain open to the idea of offering them a full-time role when the need arises, define a work structure, and help them make the transition so they can deliver better results.
In the end, do remember that bad experiences can still happen. Any business owner or CEO has to make careful decisions about who they hire — whether freelancer or not. But for a start-up to grow, going the freelancer way is a good call. When done correctly, the positives will far outweigh the negatives and ultimately even get more revenue for your company.