When to Hire a Freelancer? The Complete Guide

The recent sweeping changes have left many businesses wondering: When should we hire a freelancer? 

Even before a pandemic swept the globe in the spring of 2020, 57 million Americans were working as freelancers. And while it will take a long time to understand COVID-19’s long-term economic impacts, what we do know is that in the short term, the demand for skilled freelancers has increased significantly. In fact, openings for freelance jobs increased by more than 25% from April to June of 2020. 

When to Hire a Freelancer

When to Hire a Freelancer

In today’s economic climate, agility is the key to survival, and freelancers can help establish much-needed flexibility. Below we explore situations where hiring freelancers will be more effective in helping you achieve business results.

Percentage of respondents that reported extensively using alternative labor for common positions

Percentage of respondents that reported extensively using alternative labor for common positions:

  • 33 percent for IT
  • 25 percent for operations, 
  • 17 percent for customer service
  • 15 percent for marketing 
  • 15 percent for research and development
  • 13 percent finance
  • 12 percent sales
  • 11 percent HR

*“The alternative workforce: It’s now mainstream,” 2019 Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte

During peaks in business cycles

For companies that have a lot of project-based work, like marketing agencies, PR firms, software outsourcing companies, it’s typical to experience periods with workload spikes. When overwhelming — but temporary — pickups in business are the norm, on-demand workers can step in to help you manage your workload while keeping costs low. 

If you need something done quickly

Don’t wait until you’re behind the eight-ball to hire a freelancer to tackle unforeseen projects. Instead, build a stable network of freelancers you know you can depend on to take care of quick-turn projects your staff may not have the time or capabilities to handle. You can do this by finding a reliable platform to source freelancers that specializes in high quality subject matter experts with high-demand skill sets. 

When you don’t have budget for full-time employees

Freelancers have helped lower the barriers to starting and running a company immensely, allowing you to be light on your feet, innovating and adjusting on-the-fly. Individual entrepreneurs can now create and launch small businesses simply by hiring independent contractors on a per-project basis. 

When your project requires expertise that your in-house team doesn’t have

Sometimes, your business has a need that requires special skills that your current team doesn’t have, like designing a logo, or implementing a new software system. While both tasks call for specific expertise, neither requires the presence of a full-time employee. Instead, it’s easier and more cost-effective to hire a freelance or contractor with the right skillset to tackle these types of projects. 

When you have entry-level tasks that need attention

Time-consuming functions — like writing, data sorting, or accounting — need to get done, outsourcing that work can save money and free up your team to concentrate on more strategic initiatives. There are a few key roles you can and should outsource, and freelancers can be used to tackle these ongoing projects for less than the price of hiring a full-time employee (or doing them yourself).

When you’re considering hiring a full-timer but aren’t ready to take the plunge yet

If you’re still getting your bearings on your exact needs, the freelance talent pool can provide you with much-needed flexibility. For example, as your business ramps up, you might be considering putting more time and effort into your marketing, but aren’t sure if there’s enough work to justify a full-time employee. Hiring on demand can give you a chance to conduct a “trial run” (that stays within your budget) for a given position and determine whether or not a full-time employee is needed for that specific role.

Some occupations are compatible with independent work

The Benefits of Hiring a Freelancer

In a landscape where the number of freelancers is increasing rapidly, it’s not difficult to find on-demand talent quickly. There are a few key benefits that come with opting to hire a freelancer or a contractor.

You can leverage subject matter experts for specific skills

On-demand talent gives you instant access to subject matter experts like IT professionals, graphic designers, copywriters, consultants and more. Imagine, for example, that you need help from someone with experience implementing an ERP system. The project will take six months, and you won’t need their services once the project concludes. These situations are becoming more common, and the beauty of contract workers is that they can compensate for in-house skills gaps at minimal cost.

You don’t have headcount but can use program budgets

When planning season rolls around, there’s no guarantee your desired headcount will get approved. If this is the case, freelancers are a huge benefit. While your headcount budget may not be enough to bring another full-time or part-time employee on-board, you can still get the help you need by directing your program dollars towards hiring freelancers to complete the tasks you need help with. 

Short-term needs can be met for specific tasks

Urgent demands come in many forms: a Friday afternoon request to translate a slide deck into Chinese for Tuesday’s overseas call — or a spreadsheet that needs to be sorted before tomorrow’s meeting. When a short-term need comes out of left field and your staff doesn’t have the time or capability to handle it themselves, a freelancer is a cost-efficient way to knock the work out and keep customer satisfaction high. 

They cost less

Freelancers empower your business to meet a variety of needs for many functions at all levels of your organization. Depending on the role and project length, your company could save hundreds, thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars by choosing to work with freelancers. Not to mention you’ll be saving on the costs of paying benefits, payroll taxes, time off and other expenses associated with full-time workers. 

You get access to the best and brightest talent

As an increasing number of people pivot to freelance work, the pool of highly skilled workers is growing exponentially. Freelancers and on-demand talent provide one of the quickest and most efficient ways to close skills gaps in your organization and quickly transform your ideas into realities — and profits — with the right talent.

Challenges of Hiring Freelancers

While there are significant cost and flexibility-related benefits to hiring freelancers, as with any other type of worker, there are certain things to keep in mind when it comes to working with freelancers. 

Onboarding takes time

There are certain documents and processes every hired freelancer must complete to stay above-board. In most organizations, onboarding freelancers isn’t handled by HR, but whoever hired the freelancer. This means you’ll need to educate yourself on how to set up payroll approvals, track timesheets and more. You’ll also need to get your freelancers up-to-speed on strategy, and provide access to your company’s project management software and internal shared documents. 

Integrating them into company culture can be challenging

It is possible to have a great relationship with your freelancers and incorporate them into the company culture. However, a freelancer’s primary job is to complete their projects on-time and on-par with your standards. In addition to the fact that many freelancers work remote, there will be instances where you simply don’t have time to introduce freelancers to their co-workers or give them the full company tour. 

You’ll need to learn how to manage a different type of employee

While a growing number of freelancers work remote with little supervision, to do their best work, they’ll still need some direction. To ensure seamless workflows and achieve the desired results, you’ll need a manager capable of overseeing both in-house talent and freelancers. 


Businesses with established processes to manage freelancers


Businesses with inconsistent or non-existent freelancer management processes

What’s more, staying compliant by properly managing all aspects of the freelancer relationship — including hiring, onboarding and offboarding, project management, invoice tracking, and payment — requires both a manager experienced in these tasks and a centralized platform for maximum efficiency.

When it comes to hiring freelancers, making the best possible workforce decisions starts with knowing your business’s freelancer hiring and onboarding policy and processes. Not sure how to get started? Contact Stoke now to discover what on-demand talent can do for your organization.

Written by
Shahar Erez

Co-Founder & CEO @StokeTalent

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