For any business, there will be times where the need to hire more help arises, and with that decision comes the inevitable barrage of questions - Where will you find your perfect hire? What type of salary can you afford? How will you know when you find them if they will stick around? What if you hire the wrong person?
For a company of any size, these are very real questions that can have a significant impact on the success of your business. The good news, in today’s wide world of technology, there are far more options available to employers than the traditional full-time, local, on-site talent.
The availability of technology today has allowed businesses as well as employees the invaluable benefit of flexibility. Because geography, budget, and time constraints don’t present the same limitations they used to, you are free to focus your search on a finite set of credentials to find the most qualified talent. The talent you find may be a remote employee, freelance contractor, or independent consultant working within a defined budget or project.
As with any change to traditional paradigms, this shift comes with unknown territory. However, the benefits of hiring an outside contractor can far outweigh the apparent risks.
Perhaps the mother of all questions is – how much is it going to cost? At first glance, independent contractors may have a higher hourly rate, but overall – after calculating in full-time employee benefits and equipment costs – they are in fact LESS costly.
You only pay when you actually use the consultant – either when projects come up, or during the specified hours for the week or month which is agreed upon in the contract.
Want to keep your small business “small”? If you have limited office space or are worried about crossing the headcount threshold for health insurance coverage – independent contractors are not considered “employees” and are a great way to still get your goals accomplished!
EMPLOYERS' RISK REDUCTION
With independent contractors, there is no unemployment insurance, no worker’s comp benefits, and no worries about EEOC – so employers are free to partner with the most qualified contractor/consultant, no matter what.
FOCUSED EXPERIENCE/GUARANTEED SPECIALIST
Consultants within a particular industry can offer an employer a huge benefit: the ability to focus on the intricacies of a specific industry while shedding light on their expertise – whether that is Marketing, IT, HR, or Sales.
Going deeper, some industries (for example the Commercial Development and Architecture/Engineering/Construction (AEC) industry) can further benefit from professional service providers who have extensive experience in their industry.
Many firms are limited in the level of experience attained in new hires due to a cap on a salary; forcing hiring managers to bring on board less qualified and less experienced team members. Independent contractors can offer the experience of a senior employee but at a fraction of the price, also reducing time and money needed for training.
Firms who do their research to find the most qualified consultant for their industry can reap incalculable benefits by being able to tap into this well of knowledge.
Because independent contractors only focus on their line of work, perhaps even in a specific market or industry, they can get started as quickly as needed or at a predetermined date, whatever works best for you. Although there may be some particular idiosyncrasies about your company, the learning curve is usually less as contractors have “been there, done that” with similar clients – and can even share learned best practices in the industry.
Freelancers, independent contractors and consultants typically run on repeat business and recommendations through word of mouth. Therefore it is mutually beneficial for the contractor to provide the best quality possible, within the defined budget and time constraints.
Especially for small firms and start-ups, you may not know exactly how much work you will have to justify a full-time employee. The benefit of hiring a contractor is your expectations can always be discussed and changed as your firm grows. This is especially handy for certain industries where business is more irregular or seasonal.
INCREASE REACH AND DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
An outside consultant – especially those who work remotely – can bring to your firm an outside perspective and with it experience in other markets, regions, and industries.
So that’s the good… now what’s the downside to hiring independent contractors? There must be, right? Well – maybe, but they’re all easy to prevent. Let’s take a look at some of these assumptions.
“Independent contractors and freelancers are only available on THEIR schedules, not OURS.”
While this is true to a degree – consultants have other clients they must juggle – there are a few best practices to keep in mind when unexpected needs pop up.
First, consider the type of contract you engage:
- A Month-to-month Contract guarantees a set number of hours per week/month dedicated to your firm completing pre-arranged responsibilities. If the contractor is local – consider requiring a number of days or hours to be present in your office where they only focus on your work alone. You can discuss plans, results, and goals in person on a regular basis.
- A Retainer Contract can secure a fixed amount of hours/time for your firm on a monthly basis as they arise;
- Or Hourly (pay-as-you-go) contracts give you the flexibility to only pay for the contractor’s time you use. It’s that simple.
“Contractors are unaware of the inner workings of the firm which would deter them from building relationships and fully understanding the extent and impact of our brand.”
For ANY addition to your team, whether they are full-time employees or independent contractors, they are always more successful the MORE they know about your firm. They are hired by your firm and are therefore an advocate for your brand, regardless of the contractual relationship. With this understanding, a consultant should be armed with the information they need in order to promote, protect, and enhance your brand.
“All contractors use a one-size-fits all strategy.”
While this strategy might work for smaller, quick turnover projects, all clients want to feel like they are the #1 priority. Quality independent contractors will create customized deliverables and solutions tailored to your firm’s needs, while utilizing best practices from their past experiences.
How to Decide:
Your firm first needs to determine your priorities, most important to least. Cost, quality, experience, reduction of risks, and time constraints can all factor into your decision – it’s up to you how flexible you want to be to find the best fit for your team.
Should your firm choose to hire a freelancer, an independent consultant or contractor, the key is to find a partner dedicated to the success of your firm – not an expendable asset.