As a small business every pound has to be accounted for and it can be a difficult balancing act juggling the need for a particular skill or service without incurring the cost of hiring an extra staff member. A great way around the problem is to hire a freelancer or contractor to tackle specialist areas such as bookkeeping, marketing, IT, HR and office admin.
If your small business is growing and in need of some extra hands on deck, taking on a freelancer can prove a cost effective way to ensure high quality staff without the overheads involved in direct employment. Freelancers are often highly qualified individuals who prefer the flexibility that such employment offers them - working either for several clients at the same time, on a part time basis or combining different skills to earn their living from different income sources.
To ensure you hire the cream of the freelancing crop it is worth considering the following pointers:
Start with who you know, seek referrals, then harness the power of the web
When looking for a freelancer or contractor first think about everyone you know - might a former work colleague fit the bill? Ask people you know and trust - other professionals in your network, friends and family members. Ask if they can recommend someone or can reach out to their network - there is a popular idea that everyone is only 6 steps away from each other. So, someone you know knows someone, etc. This is where websites like LinkedIn really come into their own and in their own words: 'Strengthen and extend your existing network of trusted contacts'. And if no-one within your contact base can help their Open Groups feature will connect you to professionals within that group.
And remember to thank those who make referrals to you, perhaps with a small gift like Belgian Chocolates or a Business Card Case.
When you've approached everyone in your immediate networks you could try the Web for recruitment. You could turn to websites that specialise in matching employers to freelancers such as peopleperhour.com or freelancer.co.uk where freelancers bid for your project. It is also worth trying the professional or trade association that represents the skill you are looking for.
If you are looking for more high level strategic help take a look at The Alternative Board which brings together business owners and executives of non-competing businesses to share their business expertise and problem solve each others' challenges at monthly board meetings.
Once you find candidates that fit the bill in terms of qualifications and experience, remember to conduct interviews and conduct background checks just as you would for a full-time employee.
Cover your legal bases
Make sure you check out employment law as different rules apply but generally speaking if someone is classified as an independent contractor or freelancer that person is considered to be in business for him or herself. They are responsible for their own National Insurance contributions and tax payments.
Another legal area that should be covered before moving forward involves drafting a contract - one that clearly defines the scope of work, the agreed rate of pay, who owns the work upon project completion, confidentiality and terms for ending the contract. Make it easy and include page marker flags where they need to sign. Make sure you take the appropriate legal advice and consult your accountant if appropriate.
Clearly define the project scope and expectations
Not only should you define the scope of the project in the initial contract, you should also discuss your expectations in terms of communication with the freelancer, whether they need to interact with your clients or customers, if you have a dress policy and if you'd like them to wear a logo'd polo shirt
or business shirt. Remember that a freelancer is free to choose their own working hours and generally works with other companies so it is important to ensure there is no conflict of interest and the freelancer is generally available when it suits you.
Make them feel like part of the team
Last but not least, even a temporary relationship is still a relationship. Foster the employer-freelancer connection by treating them like a true member of the team. Welcome them with fun logo'd items, like a printed mug or mousemat as a nice 'welcome' gesture.
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