In today’s world, companies are doing more…with less. Employees at all levels are expected to wear multiple hats, juggle numerous tasks and produce faster results than ever before. In recent years, company downsizing has become the norm, and often marketing and advertising departments are the first areas to be slashed.
So how do you continue to effectively develop the strategies, produce the collateral and boost the productivity that’s needed to keep your business ahead of the game? For an increasing number of organizations both big and small, outsourcing work to outside contractors, otherwise known as freelancers, is helping to bridge the gap and take the load off the overworked company middleman.
Expanding on “Full-Service”
Maggie Whalen is the vice president and executive creative director of Simantel, a local marketing communications firm that guides big-name clients such as Caterpillar, LG Seeds, Illinois Central College and Ameren Illinois Utilities through the maze of marketing, business communication and brand strategies.
“At Simantel,” explains Whalen, “our business model is built on our ability to be flexible and bring the most appropriate resources to bear on our client work. Although we have full-service capabilities in-house, we look to outside resources to simply build on those capabilities in copywriting, design, research, programming, photography and video production.”
Whalen states that their diverse client base requires diverse talents. “Having the ability to flex and bring freelance talents to the table that uniquely meets the needs of our clients allows us to provide very valuable, tailored solutions.”
Nicole Yugovich is one of those freelance talents. She is a freelance writer/editor whose niche is creating instructional materials and technical documentation to support computer systems, training programs and other initiatives, in addition to providing general editing and proofreading services. “I’ve been freelancing for more than 10 years,” says Yugovich, “and I’ve found that companies are discovering that in some cases it’s more cost-effective to outsource work to a freelancer than to hire an actual employee. Freelancers can be utilized on an as-needed basis. The freelancer benefits by having a more flexible schedule, and the employer is freed from the responsibility of paying employee benefits.”
Methodist Medical Center’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, Rose Stuttle, agrees that flexibility is a benefit for both parties. “We can outsource when our workload is heavier, and it frees up internal staff to focus on things that are not readily outsourced, such as developing marketing plans and analyzing results. “
It Only Takes a Spark
So where do you even begin to find the perfect outsider for your inside job? One Peoria group has it all covered. Spark Freelance is a unique organization made up of communication freelance professionals encompassing nearly every creative outlet a company may need, including audio and video, graphic and web design, marketing and PR, and writing and editing. They meet semi-monthly to brainstorm, discuss topics related to freelance business and learn from each other’s experiences.
Yugovich is a longtime member of Spark, and says the group has been helpful to her freelance business. “I enjoy getting together with other freelance individuals in the area to share ideas, discuss topics and network. In addition, many of us are a referral source for each other. A writer may have a line on a graphic design job, or a graphic designer a lead on a writing job. Since many freelancers find their jobs through word of mouth and/or referrals, we help each other spread the word to companies and organizations alike about our freelance services.”
Whalen notes that having longtime Peoria ties helps in finding qualified freelancers. “Our experience in the area has given us connections with outside contractors who we know and trust.” Stuttle agrees. “We’re very fortunate to have long-standing relationships with our existing freelancers and they tend to tell other freelancers. We build relationships that last based on loyalty and qualified referrals.”
Pros and Cons
Freelancers can be a breath of fresh air for many overtaxed companies. Not only do they take on work that employees may otherwise be “doubled up” on, they often provide a fresh set of eyes and a new perspective on a product or service. Other pros to hiring on the outside include:
- Ability to turnaround projects in a timely manner
- Usually have a diverse background
- Only charge for work completed—no vacation pay, overtime or sick time
- “Hire” is flexible—long-term, short-term, temporary or permanent commitment
- Reduced employer expenses—no health insurance, worker’s comp or employee “perks”
- All hardware and software needed to complete projects usually provided by freelancer
- A freelancer’s commitment to do their best, since referrals are their bread and butter.
On the flip side, there are cons to opening up your internal communications to an external source, including:
- A higher market rate. You’re most likely going to pay more per hour for an outside contractor than you will for an employee. However, freelancers should either account for every hour spent on the job or quote a project rate so there are no surprises.
- Misclassification. If you do not abide by the IRS rules for what constitutes an employee, you may find yourself subject to withholding taxes and significant penalties. If you hire independent contractors, make sure you follow the simple rules to the letter…no exceptions.
- Accessibility. A freelancer may be working for you and four or five other clients. He or she may not be able to make certain client meetings or be available to “come in for a quick meeting” at a moment’s notice.
- Security. Your independent contractor might also work for one of your competitors, unless they have signed a non-compete with your company. And though most freelancers honor the confidentiality of their work, it’s best to have them sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement for any job that may require that sensitivity.
Finding the Right Freelancer
There are an abundance of qualified, talented and hungry freelancers in the Peoria area just waiting for that next big project. Yugovich reiterates, “My freelance jobs are usually the product of word of mouth and referrals from previous clients. Networking and cultivating positive relationships are the keys to finding freelancing opportunities.”
But before you as an employer take the plunge, Whalen says, do your homework. “Ask people you trust who they use. Meet with the freelancer and be upfront about your expectations of them. Start slow—try them out on small, less critical projects until you’re comfortable working for them and them for you.” Stuttle adds, “In addition to referrals, request work samples to make sure they have the capabilities to meet your needs. I always ask myself, ‘Would I hire them as an employee if the circumstances were right?’ If the answer is ‘no’, then I won’t hire them as a freelancer. The fit needs to be there because in the end, they are really a part of your team.” iBi