Is the rise of the gig economy the best thing that ever happened to small business?
Okay, maybe that’s an overstatement. But the benefits are big.
For businesses on a limited budget who need some experienced help, the increase in freelancers has been a boon. Companies are no longer forced to choose between an industry expert whose salary they can’t afford, and a relative newbie who will be “learning on the job.” Instead, small businesses can hire professional freelancers on a per-job basis, getting the help they need when they need it.
To get a better understanding of why freelancers are valuable and what they can do for you, read on.
The Benefits of the Gig Economy
From a small business perspective, the rise of the gig economy is a boon. What once required a larger roster of part-time or full-time employees now gives business owners unprecedented flexibility in the way they build their teams.
In this “pay for what you need” model, businesses can afford to hire specialists for specific jobs. And while hourly and project rates for freelancers are often higher, it’s still much more affordable to hire for select work than to bring on a new employee.
Plus, with freelancers usually able to work from anywhere, you can work with high-quality service providers from cheaper markets, providing premium work at a lower price. Fewer people working in-house also minimizes the amount of office space you require.
What Gig Workers Can Do For You
If you need it, there’s someone out there who can do it.
If you’re overwhelmed with administrative tasks, a virtual assistant can help take them off your plate. VAs can help manage your email and calendar, make travel arrangements, do data entry, provide reporting, and more.
Many small businesses choose to outsource content creation and social media management, possibly under the supervision of an in-house marketing director. Blog posts, social posts, email marketing, copywriting, branding, and design can all be provided by freelancers on a project or monthly basis.
Gig workers can build out your website, set up ecommerce platforms, do photography, manage your bookkeeping, and provide customer service.
What can’t gig workers do? To maintain their independent contractor status, freelancers can’t provide your primary services. For example, a coffee shop couldn’t hire freelance baristas. They must bring them in as employees.
This is where Uber and Lyft have run into trouble. The State of California says that providing rides is Uber and Lyft’s primary purpose, so they should treat their drivers as employees instead of independent contractors. The ride share companies argue that they’re technology companies, not transportation companies. For now, their workers are still considered independent contractors, but they may face additional legal challenges.
Where to Find Freelancers
If you’re on board with hiring freelancers, the next step is finding them! There are a number of quality platforms that specialize in connecting small businesses with gig workers. Upwork, Freelancer, and Fiverr all let freelancers create portfolios and bid on job listings.
You get what you pay for on these sites, so going with the cheapest option may not get you the best work. Review portfolios and bids carefully, and check recent feedback from other clients.
You can also find freelancers on LinkedIn, through Google searches, and of course, by word of mouth. Ask your colleagues if they have any independent contractors that they’d recommend.
How Do Freelancers Charge?
Gig workers are self-employed, so they’re free to charge however they choose. This will usually be hourly, per project, or on a retainer.
Hourly workers will track their time and send you an invoice when a project is completed, or at the end of the month. Project-based contracts will often include a time estimate. If the project exceeds that time — especially if it’s because the client wasn’t clear or didn’t provide all the information the contractor needed — the freelancers may charge an additional fee.
Finally, there are retainer clients. This is often the payment method for jobs that are recurring, like monthly social media management. The freelancer will charge a flat monthly fee and provide either a pre-set number of hours, or a pre-set number of deliverables. For example, a social media manager might charge $1,000 per month to create and schedule a standard number of posts and stories to Instagram.
Challenges of Working with Gig Workers
While there are big benefits to working with freelancers, there are some challenges as well. Since they work independently and on their own schedules, it may take longer to receive your deliverables than it would if you had someone working in-house.
And since the freelancer is not privy to internal conversations and long-term planning, it can be a struggle to make sure they’re well-informed. Communication is paramount when working with gig workers.
But if business owners and managers are diligent about keeping their contractors in the loop and giving them enough time to work, the benefits can be great for both the freelancer and the company.
As the world grows ever-more connected and teams spread out further across the globe, small businesses will have access to more talent than ever before. Expanding your team beyond the four walls of your office opens you up to new ideas, different perspectives, and some great work.
Take advantage of these gifts and reap the benefits!