6 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Hire a Freelancer
A Professional Consultant Explains Why Your Business Needs a Full-Time Employee
I’m (obviously) a huge proponent of freelancing. Beyond having skin in the game, it’s allowed me to offer competitive solutions to real business problems – all while maintaining my own independence.
Despite my enthusiasm, not everyone should hire a freelancer or consultant.
There are certain tasks for which an outsourced, part-time consultant is not the best choice. You might be better served by making a full-time hire if, for example, your growth goals are particularly aggressive, you need internal processes developed, or your strategy requires a lot of tactical execution.
I recently had an experience with a client that lead me to recommend they do just that – hire an in-house team.
Making hiring decisions – whether full-time, part-time, or contract – is tough. You don’t want to waste valuable time combing through resumes and portfolios, interviewing, and negotiating. Making a mistake can cost you – for months or even years to come. To help you decide the right course of action, I’ve compiled my top 6 reasons why you should NOT hire a freelancer.
Cash is tight.
You need a generalist.
Time is at a premium.
You’re mean. 🤷🏽♂️
You don’t know what you need.
Your business can’t bear the expense.
Up front, freelancers can seem expensive. You may end up paying more per hour than you would for a typical salaried worker (though this can be deceptive as I’ll explain below). For tasks that are repetitive or that require little experience, a business could pay $20 - $40 an hour for a freelancer (the average US freelancer makes $31 an hour, compared to $26.30 for full-timers).
However, for creative direction, business strategy, and marketing funnel-building, a freelancer may set you back $150 - $250 an hour.
Your revenue isn’t consistent.
Like any other product or service you purchase, a freelancer needs to paid at the agreed upon time. If you worry you can’t pay within the contract’s terms, you shouldn’t have hired a freelancer in the first place. Just like an employee, freelance professionals need to be added to your regular payroll schedule. Some freelancers are more forgiving, but I take a lack of timely payment as a red flag. After all, I can’t pay for the software I use to power my clients’ campaigns with an IOU.
One solution to the problems above is hiring a freelancer on a project basis. You can invest minimal budget in a one-off program to generate revenue for your business. If it works, you can increase your revenue and safely increase your involvement with your contractor.
You need a generalist.
As the gig economy grows, consultants are more and more incentivized to highly specialize. For example, I have experience in broadcast, radio, out-of-home, and direct mail, but I don’t offer those services. While I might inform my strategies with my more traditional marketing experience, I am strictly digital.
A generalist might be what you need if you need one person to handle all of your internal and external comms, email marketing, magazine ad buys, and website updates. They may not be excellent in every area, but they have enough general experience to get the job done – much more efficiently than hiring separate freelancers for each area. After all, in the latter situation, you as the client will unavoidably become the information bottleneck, perhaps adding even more work to your own plate.
You don’t have the time to onboard.
A freelancer will generally be very communicative about what they need (it’s a business skill we need to have). If you’re so choked with work that you can’t properly onboard a consultant, it makes sense to hold off on hiring a freelancer. Instead, you may get more bang for your buck by hiring a full- or part-time assistant to help you manage that mountain of work in your inbox.
An office worker may be able to pick up the necessary skills and culture-fit on the job, but a freelancer relies on your communication. At the very least, an in-house employee will pick up on nuances that are missed when someone isn’t onsite every day.
It makes sense to hire full-time if you don’t have the time upfront to chat with a freelancer – plus, in-person communication is often more efficient than remote. That’s why I occasionally meet with my clients in person – but the keyword is occasionally. I’m not always there.
Alright, I admit that’s a bit facile. Most people aren’t intentionally mean or dishonest.
However, if you’re time crunched, you’re more likely to be curt. A full-time employee will have more face-to-face time with you to see you at your best. A freelancer that only speaks with you a couple of times a week or month might only experience the “you” that has six crises, a sick child, and an inbox that resembles a dumpster fire. That never makes for a great relationship.
Freelancer contracts are at-will. Yes, a typical employee can leave whenever they want – with or without giving notice. It is simply harder for a full-timer to jump ship. For example, I have a handful of clients at any one time and can absorb leaving a client if I have to. Thus, business owners need to be aware of how they communicate with contractors – unlike an employee, a freelancer can quickly part ways if they don’t feel respected. (Of course, I’m not advocating treating anyone you work with poorly.)
You don’t know what you need.
This is a tricky one and can go either way. If you need to increase the quantity of leads your sales team gets, you can work with a freelancer to discover the best ways to do so. We’re always more than happy to brainstorm tactics and strategies to solve specific business problems.
If, however, you know you need to “make more money” in general, you should do some soul-searching before you hire a consultant. Perhaps you need a full-time marketer, for example, to help you determine your exact pain and the strategies to alleviate it.
Like any employee, a freelancer is only as good as the input and support they receive. Experienced professionals can generally help you nail down exactly what your need is, but it might be worth doing an hour or two of number-crunching and online research yourself. That way you can reach out to the right consultant with the right expertise.
So, when should you hire a freelancer?
If you’re able to treat a consultant as a partner, with the respect and pay commensurate with their experience and expertise, it makes a lot of sense to hire a freelancer. Bringing a consultant on to the team is significantly quicker than recruiting a new employee. It brings outside perspectives and experience to solve your business problems.
Generally, it’s also cheaper than hiring a senior staffer.
You need flexibility.
Flexibility is crucial in today’s market of constant disruption. You may need to pivot to a new business opportunity within a year, a month, or even 24 hours. A freelancer can be set-up within minutes, with the exact skills you’re looking for.
No need to train someone on that obscure content management platform: hire a freelancer who’s already an expert.
Flexibility is one of the key reasons I consult. For example, I don’t have to call out when I have an urgent doctor’s appointment. I go to the appointment and work before and after. This lets me take on emergency, last-minute projects for my clients – without burning out, a serious risk for full-timers.
Similarly, you might need someone who can do community management while you’re sleeping. A freelancer in another time zone can be a great resource to add customer support or sales coverage across time zones.
I worked with a graphic design resource where I had to send over my assignments by EOD. When I woke up the next morning, the images would be complete, and I could get to work.
You need the latest skills.
Because freelancers are business owners, they tend to heavily invest in their own education and training – a sure boon for our clients. In fact, freelancers are much more likely to update their skills than full-time employees (State of Freelance 2018, Upwork / Freelancer’s Union).
In addition to the latest skills and techniques, access to vast experience is another plus. In my time, I’ve probably worked with over 200 clients (that’s a whole ‘nother blog post) and can pull insights from multiple projects in a ton of industries, from small businesses to Fortune 500s to global enterprises.
Someone That speaks Your language.
If you’re a business owner or senior staffer, you likely use a specific, entrepreneurial language. A consultant is a business person by another name. They run their own business, which brings an understanding of business growth, overhead, compliance, and back-end paperwork processes. When a client asks us to affect their bottom line, we intimately understand what that means including revenue vs. profit and short- vs. long-term cash flows.
Growing my own business is a constant part of my work, so I’m take classes and attend lectures to stay on the leading edge of growth hacking and revenue-boosting strategies.
Since consultants are business people, we’re also highly motivated to produce our best work every time. After all, we want the repeat business. And, we understand the importance of delivering work on-time. There’s no one to shift blame to when you run a business. That’s one reason why I freelance – I can work 12 hours one day and 0 the next. You get the work on time. I get to live my life without burnout.
We’re self-motivated – no one is looking over our shoulders telling us what to do. (Well, Mocha is always watching me, but she’s pretty reticent about giving me praise or criticism.)
Your office is packed.
Yes, freelancers (and other remote workers) save space. They can be an excellent solution while you’re building out your office space or otherwise bursting at the seams.
I rarely work at my clients’ offices. Generally, I’ll go for a 1 – 2 hour meeting every few months and that’s it. My clients don’t need to pay for my space, my equipment, or for my use of the coffee machine. (I may or may not be able to coffee drink anyone under the table.)
You can reduce overhead by hiring a consultant.
You’re afraid of commitment.
Enough said! If you’re not sure you really need a staff person, a freelancer is a great person to help you figure out what you need and the associated work load. You can test out the time and skills needed to complete the job, helping you justify a full- or part-time person down the line.
Maybe you don’t need that new office after all.
Hiring a consultant can be more cost-efficient. Just like you don’t need to have office space, you don’t need to pay benefits or employment taxes.
Beyond these more obvious costs, you might not need the services of a marketer or graphic designer or programmer for a full-year. If you have 3 month campaign that needs to get executed, hire a freelancer for those three months and enjoy the savings that come from not having to create busy work for a superfluous employee for the remaining 9 months.
Depending on your contract, a freelancer is generally looking to complete your work as quickly and efficiently as possible. We don’t get paid to surf Facebook (well, I do when it’s for my clients). A full-time employee may be incentivized to take their time – or they may never have had to learn to increase their efficiency.
Time is $$$ for freelancers.
For a consultant, time truly is money, so they’ll be looking for ways to streamline processes and deliver results quickly. After all, they can fit in more client work or ecen relax if they finish early, while a full-timer needs to stay at their desk the whole day. It may cost more per hour, but over time the savings can be immense.
Similarly, a freelancer only works when you need them. Estimates vary, but the average office worker wastes 1.5 to 3 hours of every work day “cyberloafing.” In fact, 70% of internet traffic to NSFW websites and 60% of online purchases occur during work hours.
Sure, a freelancer can waste your time. But if you’re smart, your contract with a consultant will be based on value or project completion rather than hours worked.
Queer Eye for the Marketing Guy
Finally, freelancers are not involved in your office politics. Having the help of a 3rd-party can help you identity blind spots within your business.
I’ve had marketers ask me to make recommendations to their senior leadership: the exact same ones they themselves made months ago. Sometimes, people need to hear an outside perspective before they’re willing to take action. A consultant can be that 3rd-party for you. And, as an outside viewer, we won’t go ballistic because so-and-so leaves their dirty dishes in the sink.
(Pro-tip: In my apartment, it’s always MY fault when there are dirty dishes – I can’t very well blame it on my dog.)
Freelancer or Full-Timer: The Verdict
Whether you hire a freelancer or not is really up to you – your unique experience, needs, and preferences. Like any business decision, it’s not something you want to rush into.
Full-time workers are great when you need a generalist or boots on the ground. Freelancers are a better option when there are highly specific skills you require, or you just need more flexibility in your work arrangement.
There are a ton of videos, blogs, and other how-to content available through a quick Google search, if you’re still having trouble identifying your pain points or exact needs. Or, tweet me your problem at @TomBasgil, and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction!