Small businesses can bring some worthwhile benefits to their operation through using freelancers to carry out some of their work or outsourcing it to other firms.
With the financial climate making it very risky taking on full-time, permanent staff, freelancers and outsourcing offer an opportunity to manage budgets well and remain flexible, while also opening up the company to the expertise of outsiders.
A survey of 1,600 small businesses in the UK by Freelancer.co.uk found that 60 per cent would rather enlist self-employed invididuals than employ a new staff member. Some 40 per cent also say that all the money they spend on one employee could be used to hire a multitude of freelancers all with diverse skills and 50 per cent insist sole traders increase their capacity to grow.
“Small businesses get more for their money if they hire a range of skilled freelancers than one or two employees,” said Freelancer.co.uk chief executive Matt Barrie.
“Small businesses [...] are hiring in experts to undertake the work that they can’t do, from designing smart IT systems to help run their companies more efficiently and dynamic e-commerce sites, to marketing, financial and accounts experts.”
When and what to outsource
There is no defined time when small business owners should make the move to outsource. It should come naturally at a point when the day-to-day duties become too much to handle and having some extra help may provide the extra resources and time to allow the operation to grow.
Aylish Jarvie, community manager at PeoplePerHour, believes businesses can benefit from outsourcing from the beginning.
“Business owners are expected to have multiple skill sets and juggle many tasks on a daily basis. It's just not realistic to think they'll be expert at every single one. Whether it's accounts, branding or marketing, you probably won't want to hire an employee straight away for these tasks, so it makes sense to use freelancers,” she told the Guardian.
Outsourcing jobs that require particular technical skills or expertise should be at the top of the list. While a business owner may have the basic capability to draw up a logo or sort out web hosting, the end result will not be of the best quality and may take much longer to do. Freelancers will be able to do jobs like these quickly and to a high standard, freeing up time and energy to dedicate to other duties, such as building a base of customers.
How to find the right freelancers
Hiring freelancers may seem very daunting at first for entrepreneurs, as it is putting something they have worked very hard towards in the hands of others. Therefore, finding someone who is a perfect fit for the job is paramount, taking into account budget, timeframe and requirements. Picking the cheapest option is not necessarily the best move, so it is important to do the research and find the best balance between value and quality.
Neil Murray, founder of Sussd.it, explained that word of mouth is one of the best ways to find the best freelancers.
“I would start by asking around your network and contacts and discovering if others have outsourced, and if they have who they would recommend,” he told the Guardian.
“By asking in your network and industry first then it is likely that the outsourcing company will have relevant experience in your area as well as being trusted in it.”
Remember that transparency and good communication are clear to fostering a good working relationship. Ensure that freelancers know exactly what they are doing and when it needs to be delivered, while it also important to stay up to date on their progress during the process.
Once a good bond has been established between a small business owner and an outsourcer, the operation will quickly see many benefits.