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The freelance workforce is growing, with 57 million Americans currently working as freelancers. Freelancing has its benefits for workers and businesses alike; while freelancers get the flexibility and autonomy they crave, business owners get access to highly-skilled talent without the commitment of permanent staff.

That talent is especially useful when it comes to big-picture projects like marketing. Most small employers can’t afford to bring on marketing, design, and web development professionals full-time, instead focusing their labor pool on the people who keep the business running from day-to-day. However, businesses still need access to these highly skilled pros in order to drive sales and scale their operation.

Are you thinking about hiring freelancers to grow your business’s marketing and sales? Before you do, this is what you need to know.

Freelancers vs. Independent Contractors vs. Employees

You’ll hear the terms “independent contractor” and “freelancer” used interchangeably to refer to self-employed workers. As far as the IRS is concerned, all self-employed workers are considered independent contractors when they fit a specific set of criteria. As long as a freelancer meets the classification requirements, businesses don’t have to withhold payroll taxes or offer benefits; they simply collect W9 forms from each freelancer and issue 1099-MISC forms for freelancers they pay more than $600 in a year.

It’s important to read those criteria carefully, however. If you exert too much control over where, when, or how freelancers do their work, they could be considered employees by the IRS. Businesses that treat employees like independent contractors are subject to steep penalties.

Freelancers for Small Business Marketing and Sales

Businesses can find freelancers for nearly any job imaginable. However, when it comes to growing your business’s revenue, there are a few types of freelancers to focus on.

Website development

Your business needs a website that appeals to modern users and meets a business’s needs. If you want someone who can customize and improve the performance of your website, look for a WordPress developer, but make sure they have the necessary skills. These developers should fully understand WordPress themes and plugins and web development fundamentals, and they should be able to maintain, debug, and troubleshoot WordPress sites. While many rates for freelance WordPress developers may seem high at first glance (some freelancers charge up to $150 per hour), the potential ROI of a well-designed business website makes it well worth the cost.

Graphic design

Graphic designers create everything from small business logos and packaging design to the colors and buttons you use on your website. While hiring graphic designers for one-off projects may save money, contracting with the same freelancer for all of your graphic design needs leads to greater brand consistency.

Social media marketing

Everyone is on social media, but that doesn’t mean anyone has the skills to run your business’s social media account. If your social media pages are filled with lackluster content and struggling to engage followers, a freelance social media manager can take over and develop a social media presence that reflects your brand’s voice.

Content marketing

Written content is great for sharing on social media and driving traffic to your website, but compelling blog content is harder to produce than it seems. Rather than tasking your admin assistant with the task, seek out a freelance content writer who has experience writing about your industry. With the right expertise and click-worthy headlines, you can create content that draws shoppers in and gets them to stick around.

What to Pay Freelance Help

The going rate for freelancers depends on the industry and skill set. In general, you can expect freelance rates to be significantly higher than — possible even double — your employees’ hourly rates. Some business owners are put off by freelancers’ high rates, but for most small businesses, it’s a bargain. That’s because when you hire freelancers, you’re not paying payroll taxes, workman’s compensation, health insurance, or any of the other hidden costs associated with hiring employees.

However, you should avoid falling into the trap of assuming a high rate indicates high skill. Rather than going by rate alone, review freelancers’ portfolios and customer testimonials to find professionals who fit your needs. Once you have a short list, contact references to be confident that you and your freelancer will work well together.

Where to Find Qualified Freelancers

Businesses have two options for marketing help: Hire a full-service marketing agency or contract with individual freelancers. While the former is more convenient, it can also be a lot more expensive.

If you’re on a budget and up for the challenges of managing freelancers, use these websites to find and hire freelance help for your business:

  • Upwork
  • Guru
  • 99Designs
  • Fiverr
  • Behance

Collaborating with Freelancers

Speaking of managing freelancers: This is where most business owners get tripped up. On one hand, you need freelancers to coordinate with your team and stay accountable to the project’s deliverables. On the other, you need to give freelancers enough freedom so they can do their job and you don’t risk an IRS audit.

Since you can’t micromanage freelancers, you need to set up expectations and systems from the start. These tips will help you work effectively with freelancers:

  • Set basic expectations with a freelance agreement that details deadlines, deliverables, and payment terms.
  • Schedule check-ins where freelancers give project updates and your team has an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback.
  • Establish a clear chain of command. When freelancers know who to report to, it reduces the risk of confusion.
  • Keep freelancers tuned into team meetings through video conferencing. When freelancers can’t join in on a call, use automated speech-to-text transcription to efficiently take notes and distribute them to team members shortly after the call. Some services provide over 80 percent accuracy and will charge $6 for an hour’s worth of audio.
  • Create in-house office space for freelancers. While it’s up to freelancers to decide where they work, sharing space builds a sense of company culture.
  • Pay your freelancers well and on time. Mistreating your freelancers only makes it harder to find quality help in the future.

Ultimately, how your business uses and collaborates with freelancers is something you’ll figure out with time and experience. Rather than diving in head-first, start with a small handful of freelance professionals and work out the kinks before expanding your freelance workforce.

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