Every entrepreneur reaches a point in their business where they need to get help. They need to build a team. There are only so many hours in the day, and as much as we like to think we’re superheroes sometimes, we’re not. Working solid 18 hour days isn’t a long-term strategy.
A lot of businesses will go down the route of hiring in house staff. However, I’ve decided to scale my business by working with freelance contractors all over the world.
I launched my social media agency, Blue Cliff Media, around 18 months ago. Essentially, I was a freelancer, getting in as much work as possible, and delivering all the work myself. I found myself in the classic "working in the business", rather than "on the business" trap that so many entrepreneurs get themselves in to. I managed to grow the business to a point where I was so busy, that I started to make mistakes and whenever I went away to speak or do a workshop, the business ground to a halt. Because the business was me.
Now, let me get this straight, I have nowhere near removed myself from the day to day running of the business. I’m still heavily involved with all client projects. However, I’ve started the process of removing myself from doing the 'technical' work in the business. For anyone that is going through the same situation, I highly recommend the book 'The Emyth'.
When I realised I needed help, I was stuck between two minds: do I hire a student, who will be relatively 'cheap', but will require a lot of time and training? Or do I hire an experienced freelancer who’ll cost me a lot more, but will require a lot less training?
In the line of work I’m in, where a lot of the work is heavily focused on Facebook advertising, I decided to go down the freelancer route. There was a variety of reasons:
It’s a technical skill set
As I just mentioned, Facebook advertising is a very specific skill set. It could literally be a full time job just to keep up with the latest updates from Facebook and therefore, it would take me a huge amount of time to train someone up. For many agencies, recruiting talent can be a hard task. When you go down the in house route, you’re restricted by geography. Whereas, when you hire a freelancer, they can be based anywhere in the world and they could have years of experience in the specific field.
Keep overheads low
It can be a cost effective way to run a business. For example, you don’t have to pay someones wages all the time. So if you go through a period of not having much work, you don’t have to worry about where you’ll get the money to pay the wages. If you get a job in that’s £1,000 per month, you could pay the contractors £500 per month. You always know where you stand.
Contractors will typically charge more than an employee but they’re not entitled to other working benefits such as pensions and bonuses so the long-term savings could end up outweighing those costs.
However, there are a lot of benefits in hiring in house.
One of the biggest benefits is being able to develop a company culture. One of the most attractive things about running or working for a creative agency is the development of a company culture. Agencies will often have really nice, creative office spaces in a bid to hire and keep the best talent.
Without having your staff under one roof, it’s very hard to develop that. You can use tools such as Slack or Yammer to encourage team members to communicate, but it’s not the same. If you’re working with a virtual team, I think it’s hugely important to keep in touch with them on a regular basis, so try and develop that culture as much as possible.
Reliability and loyalty
With culture comes reliability and loyalty. When you’re working with freelancers an contractors, they’ll often have their own businesses to run and probably won’t be as interested in your business as someone in house would be. Also, communications are a lot slower if you’re dealing with a freelancer, as opposed to someone in house. As I mentioned, they have their own businesses and you can’t simply go over to their desk to talk to them.
At the end of the day, every business is different. Only you’ll know what is going to be best for you. There’s no reason you can’t mix it up with a team of virtual staff and in house staff. At this stage in my business, I feel like working with contractors is definitely going to be the best way to move forward and to scale the business.
Let me know if you’ve gone through the same dilemma and what did you do!