Fast Company

Freelancing 101 for Employers

The holiday season is busy for everyone. But especially busy for me. It's not because I'll have a house full of family members all Christmas week. Or because I have Christmas shopping to do, or office parties to attend, or errands to run. No, the real reason I am so busy this time of year is because companies are outsourcing more.

While it is obvious that outsourcing is not for every agency, it definitely has its benefits. Still, some are skeptical about handing work over to someone they hardly know. If you are giving it some thought and still not sure if it is right for you or your company, this article will help provide some insight.

Money talks. Let's get the obvious advantage out of the way. It costs money to have employees. More than you might think. Two weeks paid vacation, health insurance, 401(k) plan, and the monthly paycheck that goes out no matter what the company is bringing in. Can you say overhead? On top of that, add office supplies, phone lines, internet access, and office space and you come up with a pretty large number. The best part about hiring a freelancer hands down is that you don't pay any of this. You pay for the services rendered and that's all.

Keep the team happy.
Egos get bruised from time to time. This is usually the case when a firm has a large project that needs several directions as a starting point. Rather than start off by having the team contribute their ideas, hire a freelancer for some mock ups. Chances are, the freelancer will provide some ideas to pull from without having to shoot down one of your own colleague's. Plus, it is much easier to have the team openly critique an outsider than one of their co-workers. You end up with a great starting point with a team that is now focused and without any hurt feelings.

Fresh eyes. You know what the client likes. You know the fonts they prefer. You know the color guidelines. You know their safety zone. You know these things so well in fact that working on one of their campaigns takes little if any effort. It's just a matter of time before you become bored with their brand. And this is precisely when you will either drop the client or they will drop you. Protect your relationship with your long term client and bring in an outsider. By having them collaborate on a project, they will likely breathe new life into the project and refresh your interest.

Every job is a job interview. I've heard it said from HR reps that the hardest a temp will work is when they are working toward full time employment. If this is the case, then imagine what it is like for a freelancer. A freelancer must look at every project they work on as a job interview. After all, if they don't impress you with project A, chances are you won't be contacting them for project B. A good freelancer knows that they have to meet or exceed your expectations in order to get that all rewarding repeat business from you.

Standby Mode. One of the key benefits for employers is having a good freelancer in your back pocket. This can be extremely beneficial around holidays and staff vacations in the summer. But it also comes in handy for emergencies or last minute projects. You don't want to pass up on a project, but your staff is busy wrapping up a campaign. This is an ideal time to...

[NOTE: I was just called by a client while writing this. They have a last minute project for me to work on. Thanks for helping me prove my point!]

As I was saying, this is an ideal time to call for backup. Most freelancers are happy to take on work and depending on your relationship with your freelancer, they will likely jump through hoops to make you happy.

Walk away guilt-free. You weren't completely satisfied with the freelancer's work? Then you simply don't call them again. Did your personalities clash? Don't worry, you never have to work with them again. Firing a full time employee involves HR, paperwork, and a bit of office politics thrown in for extra stress. For a freelancer this is part of the risk of being out on your own. Not everyone is going to get along perfectly, so treat it like any other relationship. If things are getting rocky and one of you is unhappy, then it's time to part ways.

Overall, the benefits to working with a freelancer far exceed the horror stories you've probably heard. So now all you have to do is find the right one. This could very well be an entire post in and of itself. But here are a few pointers. Ask why they don't have a full time job and choose to freelance instead. Ask to see their portfolio and samples. And most importantly, ask for references. If they are a professional then they should have previous employers that can vouch for them.

Hiring a freelancer isn't for everyone, but for the agencies that truly know how to use them effectively, they can be lifesavers. And with that I have to end this blog entry. I have a life to save. (AKA a last minute project to work on)

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