Categories: Marketing

Startup Life: Utilizing Freelancers to Help Scale

Launching your own business is an incredible and powerful experience. Not only can you make money, but you have the opportunity to learn a lot of valuable lessons. Among these lessons is the reality that it’s okay to ask for help.

I’ve started many businesses – some good and some bad – and have learned my strengths and weaknesses along the way. For example, I wouldn’t consider myself the most organized entrepreneur in the world. Knowing this, I typically look to bring on assistants and leverage organizational tools to help close this gap. Mistakes are going to happen when building a startup – the key is to mitigate their effect on your productivity.

One common mistake that I have seen entrepreneurs make is thinking that they have to do everything by themselves. There’s this belief that your startup must be fueled by only your blood, sweat, and tears. But that belief is very limiting and ends up keeping you from scaling your business when you start to get more clients and want to expand.

So how can you scale your business with minimal risk and investment? One option is to hire freelancers.

You might be nervous at first about working with freelancers or may think your only option is to hire full-time employees, but there are many reasons to consider hiring contractors to help grow your startup.

You Gain Their Expertise for a Lower Cost

I think one of the best ways to start a business is to treat it as a hobby at first. This can often mean freelancing to start. 

However, just because a freelancer isn’t doing that job full-time doesn’t mean they aren’t experienced and qualified in it. Best of all, this “side hustle” means that employee is open to more flexible hours since they aren’t reliant on that income completely.

While some freelancers contract their work as part of a side hustle, others rely on freelance work as their full-time jobs. Either type of freelancer can have a wealth of experience and knowledge that can help when you’re ready to scale your startup.

Freelancers often perfect their work within their given niche, meaning that they are very specialized in what they do. Also, they most likely have had to deal with similar requests in the past and know how to handle your type of circumstances, and can anticipate many of your needs.

But because you are needing them only for certain tasks as they come up, freelancers are the best of both worlds: You get to use their talents when you need them, but you don’t have to waste your money or their time by hiring them full-time when you might not have full-time work for them. You pay them for the work they’ve done, and if you’re happy with their work, you can choose to work with them again when the need arises.

You Can Focus on the Big Ideas

Let’s face it: You didn’t launch your marketing or eCommerce business to deal with accounting or HR, you did it because you love marketing or your product.

You began your startup because you want to solve other people’s problems, and you want to be able to think about those concerns in a big, holistic way. You want to be able to focus all of your efforts on high-level ideas, and you probably don’t want to get stuck on the exhaustive work that comes with actually solving those problems in detail.

But if you use a freelancing team — whether it’s for designing logos, writing for your company’s blog, or even coding an app — you can free up your time for those big ideas. Your freelancers can do the meticulous work of actually implementing your broad concepts while you can move on to coming up with how to solve the next set of problems.

You Get Fast Turnaround on Projects

Using a freelancing team for your startup also often means getting your projects done fast. And if you’re looking to take on more work without getting overloaded, you’ll want an efficient team on your side.

Freelancers make the most money by creating excellent work in a short amount of time. First, it earns them a great reputation and means that they’ll get hired again when you need their talents once more. But it also helps them earn more in a day if they are efficient with their time — once one project ends, they can move on to the next one sooner to earn more income.

You Acquire Access to Global Talent

Working with freelancers means using remote workers – especially during the pandemic, and they can be from anywhere in the world. If your client does their work in another country, this could be an extra benefit if any of your freelancers live in the same region as your client.

Let’s say that you have some advertising copy that your team wrote in the US, but you want to make sure that the content reads naturally for a client in the UK. You could easily hire a freelance editor from the UK to review what you wrote and help you localize it to the area. You write it, the freelancer polishes it for a specific audience, and the client gets stellar work that will connect with their customers and they want to hire you again. Everyone wins.

So, Where Can You Find Freelancers?

Now that you understand how important freelancers can be for scaling a business, you’re probably wondering where you can start finding them. There are plenty of websites where you can find freelancers in all sorts of industries, including these:

Freelancer.com

On Freelancer.com, you can find people to help you with designing your website, logo, graphics, or even packaging. They can also do 3D modeling if you need help with something like a mockup or interior design.

You can post your project either as a job or as a contest, and freelancers on the site will send you bids with their rates. You can review their profiles to see if their portfolios match what you’re looking for, and you choose who you want to work with.

UpWork

UpWork has a vast array of freelancers on its site, covering everything from programming languages and accounting to copywriting and social media management. Like on Freelancer.com, you post a job on the UpWork site, and freelancers in your needed field will send you proposals.

The site offers a rating system based on how past clients have rated the freelancers’ work, and they even offer a Work Diary that lets you track their hours spent on your project.

99designs

This site is only for design work. The prices on 99designs are shown by the category of work, from logo creation and website design to branding and packaging. The website rates every designer in its roster and assigns each one a designer level, from entry-level and mid-level to the top level.

You can get to work hiring a freelance designer right away, or you can start a contest (like you can on Freelancer.com) for a fixed price, gathering tons of designs from plenty of applicants. You can choose the winner yourself.

Fiverr

Fiverr is considered more of a general marketplace — you don’t post a job for freelancers to pitch their proposals. Instead, you as the employer can look up what services you need, whether it’s social media management, logo design, voiceover work, writing, animation, or any other creative output.

Each freelancer shares on their profile what their rates are, sometimes starting as low as $5 for simple work. The more work that you need from them, the higher they scale their rates.

FreeUp

The freelancers you can find on FreeUp have their focus on content creation, web development, tech support, accounting, sales and marketing, and translation. The freelancers here set their rates based on their skill levels, from entry-level ($5-$10 per hour) to mid-level ($10-$30 per hour) and expert level ($30-$75 or more per hour).

How To Manage Your Freelance Team

Once you’ve hired a freelancer or two to help you out, you’re going to need to manage their workflows to make sure that everyone understands what is needed and how efficiently it can be done.

Communicate Clearly and Often

Communication is key every step of the way. This means being clear in defining your expectations at the beginning, all the way to having conversations over email or a messaging app about small questions that might pop up in the middle of a project.

Give as many details as you can at the start of the project so that your freelancers understand the scope of the work. Then, set an expected timeline with them for when you can expect the first draft, how long you plan to take to make any notes, and how long they’ll have to create a final draft.

You should also set up how you expect to share any questions or notes. Will you be leaving comments on a shared Google Doc, or will you be using email only?

Use Project Management Software

You need to have a central place where everyone can see the status of a particular project. Software like Trello or Basecamp can let you create workflows and checklists for a job and assign specific tasks to each worker who’s involved. This way, there are no questions about who is doing what or what the next step in the process is.

At Great.com, we use Google spreadsheets with our freelancers to keep track of the writers’ and editors’ deadlines for different blog articles. We also use our sheets to share notes about potential content ideas for the future.

Make Your Startup Dreams a Reality

I know from experience that it can be hard to follow your dreams to build something new, but it can be so worthwhile if you go for it. I want you to feel empowered to do it in a smart way that can lead you down the path of success. And I believe that your success can come from working with all sorts of talented people, both inside your company and outside of it.

Erik Bergman

Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100% of its profits to environmental charities. You can follow him on social media @SmilingErik.

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