Yes, freelancers can help build your business

Employing staff when you’re an SME has its benefits and disadvantages but it’s not always as easy having a full roster of staff full time. Here are some thoughts on why it may be more beneficial to hire freelance staff to cover your business needs…

1. Think as a team

All great work is delivered through successful teams working together. But how do you achieve this if your team is freelance and spread across the nation with people in London, Leeds, Sheffield or Swansea for instance?

Firstly, set clear objectives for the team and then each individual in that team. When you have briefs and objectives it gives a team structure and purpose, it allows each person is capable of delivering their commitment.

Also, arrange team meetings. Just because they’re freelance doesn’t mean that they don’t have to attend team meetings. So, run regular monthly or quarterly face-to-face meetings or conduct weekly video/conference calling (such as Skype) to negotiate and resolve issues. This is a great way to open up communication and it builds a strong team identity.

2. Sign a contract

Yes, they may be freelance but you still have to do it so signing a contract before any work commences is easier for everyone. Your freelancer engagement contract should cover the following:

• Establish that you are engaging a freelancer; that they are not required to work from a set location or certain times as an employee is required, but you should include a clause to update a WIP (work in progress) on a regular basis

• Agree that all intellectual property (e.g. computer code, arrangements, design, copy, customer records) arising out of the work is all transferred to you once the bill has been paid.

• A confidentiality agreement should be established to alleviate such issues as excluding the right to take trade secrets and set up in competition within a six-month period.

• Agree payment terms.

If you don't have contracts you may, in future, be liable for back-dated employer’s National Insurance and may be unable to sell your business if you can’t prove that you own all the coding, graphics, design, copy and other intellectual property.

3. Pay on time.

Like any bill, it goes without saying, pay your freelancers on time. It builds loyalty and this will be returned to you by a willingness to respond to emergency requests without worrying about the contractual details.

If you receive a bill that you think is too high then talk to your freelancer. See if you can negotiate additional work that they'll do before the bill is paid. This is better than cutting down the amount you’re willing to pay.

4. Trust your freelancers and share information

Encouraging your freelancers to talk to each other without you is a bit scary first time around. But, if you want the best team possible then take the plunge and do it, after all they have already signed a confidentiality clause in your contract. If you exclude freelancers from your key meetings, then they will often go and work somewhere else that appreciates them.

5. Encourage your freelancers to work elsewhere

As controversial as this sounds, it can actually be better for business. Having freelancers work elsewhere allows them to acquire new skills and broader experience knowledge when they spend time working for other clients. Instead of training employees in new media (for instance) you can let your freelancers go and cut their teeth on these projects with other people, ultimately saving you money in the long run.

6. Never lose touch with your freelancers

Contacts are crucial so use social media to announce your new projects to encourage your freelancers to re-approach you. Good freelancers should come back to work for you again and again, often with new experience and enhanced skills.

7. Develop a pool of freelance talent

The big shift in working with freelancers is that it allows you to bring the expertise of far more people to bear on any of your business projects. This is a good thing as you get best skill for each stage of your project development and little or no redundancy or restructuring friction. To benefit from this, you need to develop a pool of known and familiar freelancers that you can call on to help, whenever you need it.