Running a small business is like being on a competitive sports team. Every person has a role (and sometimes multiple roles). But in the heat of the moment, there’s no guarantee of what responsibilities each individual will end up taking on.
In other words, small businesses require flexibility, which puts even more importance on understanding each team member’s role. It becomes a foundational part of the collaboration and a factor in maintaining maximum efficiency in your role.
(I mean, how do you know which experts to work with if you don’t know who is good at what?)
And that’s especially true for small businesses. Smaller teams usually require people to wear multiple hats, which adds another layer of complexity to the puzzle. You might have a hard time specializing in one specific area, or dedicating enough focus to one section of your responsibilities.
That’s why freelancers have become an invaluable resource for so many small businesses.
A Day In The Life Of A Freelancer
Anyone who’s been a freelancer knows that you often feel like the bottom of the pecking order.
You normally work under condensed timelines, with fewer resources, and with less communication. It’s difficult, fast-paced, and usually high-pressure (since you also get the privilege of negotiating your pay and dealing with stakeholders).
Those are the negative experiences, however, and there are two sides to every coin. Freelancers can also enjoy wonderful relationships with clients, the sort of gigs that lead to regular and maybe even routine work. And in some cases, they culminate in a legitimate job offer.
But knowing a freelancer’s role in your small business can help you set realistic expectations, both for yourself and for contract employees.
A Freelancer’s Role In Small Businesses
The hiring site Indeed.com defines a freelancer as “a non-permanent, self-employed worker who provides products and services to multiple organizations.” That inherently leads to a lot more flexibility, whether it’s hours worked, preferred work location, or any other detail of the arrangement.
But freelancers bring one major benefit: They provide a way for you to bring in a specialist on a project (or temporary help) for a limited period of time.
More Production With Less Risk
Large businesses have the benefit of doing everything in-house, while smaller organizations have no choice but to outsource.
In some cases, it makes sense to bring on a separate company. Agencies give you a level of professionalism and expertise without requiring you to invest into building all of that internally. (After all, building a new department takes time as well as money, and those are two things that are hard to come by for a lot of small businesses.)
Of course, there’s also a steep cost for agency outsourcing. While you can find companies that offer just about every service — human resources, customer care, marketing, IT support, etc. — the price might be more than you’re willing or able to pay right now.
And then you’re stuck in a predicament. You don’t have the time or budget to build a new internal team, but it’s not much cheaper to hire an agency to do the work for you.
According to research from Tower Lane Consulting, 75% of business owners bring in freelancers because their projects require specific skills at irregular times, and contract work is the most cost-effective way to address these needs.
That line of thought brings us to the next perk of using freelancers: They’re a great way to expand your business without the expenses of hiring full-time employees. You might need to pay more per hour than bringing on a new team member, but the preset contract gives you a defined window where the freelancer is on your payroll.
And if used properly, freelancers can help you scale your business while also limiting the risk of balancing a fully staffed team.
Take Advantage Of Special Skills
By hiring specialized experts, your small business can explore new opportunities for growth. You can hire a social media manager who has a video production background; that would give you a pathway to explore video ads (without needing a support agency or a licensed software).
Freelancers also don’t have the same restrictions as current team members. If your marketing department has spent years building a particular content strategy, bringing in a freelancer could introduce new ideas, methods, and experiences — an outside perspective.
There’s no guarantee that it will be a happy marriage, of course. (Not all outside opinions are welcomed, particularly between creatives and data-driven minds.) But a freelancer can give you a means of testing new ideas without having to take the risk of hiring a specialist as a full-time employee.
Set Healthier Expectations
Freelancers don’t live with the same level of job security as full-time employees. And that puts a lot of pressure on them to perform well, living up to (or even exceeding) expectations.
Now that doesn’t mean you’re free to set unrealistic goals or timelines for freelancers. But it does mean that a freelance may put more pride in every aspect of their work. You’re able to choose who to work with based on their skillset, so there is an intrinsic motivation for freelancers to maintain that reputation and prove their expertise.
This extends from background experience or technical ability to workplace behavior as well. In our current remote-work world, freelancers have become even more valuable to small businesses. Many freelancers are accustomed to working on their own, setting their own hours, and still meeting their deadlines.
That is a huge asset in comparison to hiring and onboarding a team member over Zoom, Slack, Teams, etc. And it’s just one more way that freelancers can help you grow your business without as much overhead.
Small business owners know the value of multi-purpose tools. And freelancers fill that role in just about every way you could ask. The task of placing a freelancer inside an existing team can be a little complicated, but there’s no way to ignore the long list of other benefits you can enjoy as a result.
Drew Gula is the copywriter at Soundstripe, a company that provides businesses with resources like uncopyrighted music and royalty free piano music.