Peter Daisyme is special adviser to Calendar.
In my role as a business advisor to many small businesses, I often recommend that the best way to get some of today's top talent while keeping costs low is to hire a team of freelancers. With the growth in the freelance community, there is a wider range of talent to select from, including developers, writers, marketers, social media experts, graphic designers, payroll specialists and more. You could even have a virtual assistant handle all your appointments and time-consuming tasks.
One benefit of having freelancers versus regular employees is that overhead costs are much lower. You don't have to provide benefits, which keeps your expenses down. Plus, you can scale up and down as needed rather than having to continually lay people off and then hire when you grow. Instead, having a list of go-to freelancers helps you take on more unexpected projects so you can seamlessly expand your business.
However, now that so many businesses are turning to freelancers, they may not be as available as they once were. Now, that talent you have on your go-to list may be working with other companies and no longer available. This leads many companies I advise to wonder how they can maximize their relationships with freelancers so they can continue working with them whenever possible.
Don't try and get the cheapest freelancers out there, thinking that you are going to save any more money. In the end, it could cost you more and lead you to keep hunting down whoever is available. Instead, it's better to show freelancers that you value their talent. And, while money isn't everything, it does help maintain a loyal following among the freelancers who have served you well. Plus, when offering them a competitive wage, you will be able to maintain a working relationship rather than having to spend time on training all new talent.
I recommend doing your research to understand the current rate ranges for each type of freelancer you use. Then, speak with your regular freelancers to find out the type of rate that would make them happy. Retaining those talented workers is a far better way to spend money than continually having to look for new ones who work for peanuts. Many of my millennial clients have not heard the phrase, "you get what you pay for," so I use it to explain why it's important to not shortchange true talent.
Give Some Perks
Yet, money isn't necessarily everything for freelancers. You could offer them an extraordinary pay rate and they still may not come back when you need them. That's when you can switch gears from pay rate to some other type of perk.
Think creatively and ask them what they would love to have the most. Some entrepreneurs I know give out restaurant, retail and movie gift cards. Others tack on a monthly gym membership. More ideas include gifting airline or hotel points that freelancers can use toward taking that vacation they deserve and have to self-fund because they don't get paid vacation days. Or, you can even do things like donating to organizations where freelancers are trying to raise money for their children's schools or sports teams. They value that you support them in many ways.
And, when you do the math on these kinds of perks, they often come out to be less than a higher pay rate. Many are tax deductible for your business (make sure to check with your tax professional). And, freelancers love these types of special perks of working with your company.
Provide Challenging Work and Opportunities to Learn New Skills
While you hired them for a specific specialty, they may not have done everything there is to do in that area or mastered many of the new digital skills required for so many aspects of today's work. It's amazing how many times I've seen this happen where it engages and solidifies a relationship with a freelancer.
For example, a writer may not have worked on certain types of content assignment or used a certain type of content management system. Maybe they could help you with other aspects of work like scheduling all the social media content they prepared for you using Hootsuite or Buffer. Since they've never done this before, freelancers may enjoy learning these new skills and want to stay with you in hopes of getting similar opportunities.
Maintain Communication and Consistency
Whether you are an employee or freelancer, no one likes to have a boss who doesn't communicate or is not consistent with actions or instructions. Even if you have worked together a long time, freelancers aren't mind-readers. They work remotely and are not involved in daily operations.
That means checking in daily and setting a regular time to have a quick conference call or Slack discussion. Be accessible to them when they need a quick answer. This will allow them to maintain productivity and feel like part of the team. It's this connection you create through regular communication that makes them feel like they have a home in your company.
Offer Constructive Feedback
Besides the flexibility and control they can have over their careers, many freelancers choose this career path because they can work on more meaningful assignments. They don't just see projects in a vacuum. Instead, freelancers want to create work that benefits others and that helps an organization. They want to grow and develop professionally just as an employee would.
Don't forget to provide constructive feedback to your freelancers so they know what they could do better. You know they are talented, but they are also human, so mistakes happen or work becomes uneven. If you are not happy with something they produce for you, tell them why and give them an opportunity to make improvements.
Special adviser to Calendar, a technology solution that helps business owners and teams improve their time management and productivity.