After starting a business, people often find themselves overwhelmed. You need help to get everything done in a reasonable amount of time, but full-time employees are so costly and difficult to recruit that it might compromise your prospects for growth. With no one to share the stress, it expands.
Thanks in part to the gig economy, entrepreneurs are eager for the help of independent contractors. With an independent contractor, you can spend less money on high-quality work and avoid extraneous costs like benefits. Most importantly, you don’t feel pressure to fill 40 full hours of work each week.
While there are many advantages to using independent contractors, there are a few disadvantages as well. For starters, the “right” independent contractor can be difficult to find. Finding someone who’s both skilled and priced right — with the necessary availability — can be a nightmare. On top of that, because you’re not offering the long-term stability of a full-time job, reliability will always be a concern.
Freelancers can help share the burden — and fuel your company’s growth.
That said, it’s possible to find great independent contractors for your startup, assuming you know where (and how) to look.
First, open your horizons and look in places that you might not normally consider. That means experimenting with platforms you’ve never used and expanding your geographical horizons. Assuming much of the work you need done can be accomplished remotely, you could hypothetically hire a contractor from anywhere in the world.
As far as platforms go, there are almost unlimited options. There are platforms specifically meant to help you find gig workers, like Upwork and Freelancer, as well as social media platforms for professionals like LinkedIn. While these platforms can be extraordinarily helpful, they shouldn’t comprise the entirety of your strategy. Break out of your routine: Attend seminars and workshops, as well as professional networking events, in person.
Also, look outside your current city and, possibly, outside your current country. Some countries, like Canada, have relaxed regulations for business-related international travel, so if you need to fly someone in for training or an in-person interview, it shouldn’t be too complicated. Otherwise, you can use emails and chats to determine whether this person can get the job done.
Vet Your Options Carefully
I know when I’ve been in a position to hire new people, I’ve been eager to get assistance as soon as possible. But you have to temper that eagerness and excitement with scrutiny — otherwise, you’ll end up hiring someone who isn’t a good fit for your organization. Obviously, independent contractors come with less risk and lower commitment than full-time employees, but you can’t let that lull you into a false sense of security.
Make sure you look at your candidate’s skills, experience, education, and capabilities. You’ll occasionally find candidates with a strong CV whose work isn’t the quality you expected. You may also find very talented individuals who don’t have a promising work history.
More importantly, spend some time evaluating the type of working relationship you might have with this person. Does she speak clearly, in a way that’s easy to understand? Does she answer all your questions and respond to your emails promptly? Does she seem capable of following instructions? Does she take responsibility for her mistakes?
Invest in Your Relationships
Some entrepreneurs view their hiring of independent contractors as a kind of constant assembly line. They find someone, use her, then forget about her until they need something else. At that point, they might as well find someone new. This method has never worked for me.
Instead, I recommend you spend time and energy investing in these relationships. If you’re going to need a contractor for more than one project, get to know her and how she works. Consider giving her a reward or a bonus for exceptional work, making her excited to come back for another project. It’s much better to have a team of contractors you know and trust than to constantly cycle in new people; it also spares you the effort of always vetting new candidates and training them in your team’s methods.
Get Referrals From Existing Contractors
One additional bonus of establishing and maintaining relationships with your contractors is the possibility of referrals for other teammates you need. If you have a freelance photographer who’s done amazing work for you in the past, you can ask him if he knows any graphic designers or videographers who can help you with another project.
Employee referrals lead to much higher-quality job matches, and contractor referrals work pretty much the same way. If you don’t yet have any contractors, consider getting referrals from your employees, partners, mentors, or vendors.
If you’re willing to put in a bit of time and effort and go beyond your comfort zone, you should be able to find multiple contractors who can help you achieve your goals. You might make a few missteps along the way, but eventually, you’ll assemble the team you need.