When looking to grow a business, taking on new staff members can be an exciting next step but also an expensive and time-consuming one.
However, hiring full-time employees opens in new window is not the only way to grow your team.
As of 2022, there were 1.9 million registered freelancers opens in new window in the UK.
Freelancers can offer start-up businesses a flexible, cost-efficient solution and several benefits during growth periods, from expert insight opens in new window to additional, capable hands.
Before you start recruiting though it’s worth seeking independent specialist advice to determine if using freelancers is the right course of action for the business.
Read our guide on lower-cost alternatives to hiring permanent employees opens in new window.
The benefits of using freelancers
Hiring full-time employees costs more than simply paying a monthly salary, with training costs opens in new window, equipment, insurance, pension payments opens in new window, additional benefits, and Statutory Sick Pay opens in new window all adding to the total cost of employment.
Although more hands would inevitably be needed as a business grows, these overhead costs opens in new window could impact start-up business budgets, especially if you have not allowed for these additional overheads.
As freelancers only work on the tasks and projects they have been commissioned for, these overhead costs could be reduced, as freelancers are only paid on a per-project basis or for the accumulative number of hours worked.
This could make freelancers a cost-effective solution to handling increasing amounts of work without breaking the bank.
Flexibility and scalability
Freelancers are available for hire whenever you need them.
They are typically flexible regarding how and when they work to stay competitive with other freelancers.
This means you could hire a freelancer for several purposes, including handling other work if an emergency occurs or working through tasks when you or full-time employees are unavailable.
Depending on your business’s needs, you could hire more than one freelancer at a time and scale this external support up or down.
Access to specialised skills and expertise
Freelancers work in various industries and sectors, such as hospitality or e-commerce opens in new window, and can specialise in all areas of business such as HR, admin, social media opens in new window, PR, and finance.
If your business has a gap in its knowledge or services, freelancers could work with you to plug that gap and increase the quality of your products and services, including how to move into new markets opens in new window and improve your digital presence opens in new window.
Professional freelancers can be adaptable and hit the ground running when working with a new client – hiring an expert freelancer for the work you require means less need for training and more productivity from the start of the working relationship.
This means more time can be spent working on the project and tasks, increasing productivity and output with minimal input and onboarding from your start-up.
Read our guide on four ways to increase your business productivity opens in new window.
Diverse perspectives and fresh ideas
With the experience and knowledge freelancers bring, you could benefit from more than just an extra pair of hands when hiring one.
Freelancers could offer you and your start-up new perspectives when approaching issues and looking to the future, drawing on past experiences of what has and has not worked at similar organisations.
They could also provide you with new ideas or angles of thinking you had not previously considered when approaching strategies for growth opens in new window and insights into different market demographics opens in new window that might prove valuable for your business.
Taking on full-time employees can be a risk for any business owner, particularly a start-up owner.
Hiring employees requires time and money, and if you have selected the wrong candidate for the job, you may see very little return on investment in their hiring.
If a freelancer isn’t working out, it’s more straightforward to stop using their services and find an alternative freelancer.
Finding and hiring the right freelancers for you
Identifying specific skills and expertise needed
Freelancers often specialise in different industries and activities, and you’ll likely need to invest time in finding the right freelancer who offers the right combination of skills, experience, and knowledge of your business sector and activity.
Consider writing a detailed list of the qualifications and qualities required in a freelancer to fulfil your start-up’s needs before beginning your search.
Using reputable platforms and websites
Knowing where to search for competent freelance support can be challenging.
Online platforms such as Upwork opens in new window, Freelancer opens in new window, and PeoplePerHour opens in new window can connect you with a network of professional freelancers but also provide quality reassurance that other networking platforms may lack.
You could also consider reaching out to contacts who have used freelancers in the past to learn more about their experiences and receive recommendations.
Learn more on how to hire temporary staff opens in new window with our handy guide.
To increase their reach and boost their professional image, many freelancers will have profiles and portfolios available for potential customers to review to help them decide whether they are the right freelancer for the job.
These profiles and portfolios typically include qualifications, past work, and reviews from previous customers.
Reviews can also be an excellent way of gaining an in-depth understanding of a freelancer’s offerings and how they work, potentially helping you to decide if they would be a good fit for your start-up.
Conducting interviews and test assignments
Many businesses conduct interviews with potential new hires and provide them with small tasks to better understand their abilities and judge if they would be a good fit before hiring.
You could do the same with a potential freelancer.
By talking with them at length about their experience and understanding how they work and their skill level, you could draw a more accurate judgement of them and their abilities and if they could provide your start-up with the support it needs.
Read our guide on the best interview questions to ask new staff opens in new window.
Establishing clear expectations and agreements
Having clear expectations of your freelancers could be considered one of the key factors when building a mutually beneficial working relationship with them.
By establishing clear expectations and having clear and comprehensive agreements to help meet those expectations, you could avoid potentially unnecessary stress and legal complications and enjoy a positive, productive working relationship.
How to work with freelancers
An ideal scenario when working with freelancers is creating a mutually beneficial working relationship that will last for a long time throughout your journey.
To increase your chances of business and personal success when working with freelancers, you could consider:
- having regular check-ins with your freelancers to provide feedback and hear any concerns or ideas
- providing benefits to incentivise high-quality work, such as bonuses or reoccurring contracts
- establishing clear expectations and easily accessible communication channels
- creating an easy-to-use system for tracking progress and deadlines so you remain in-step
- actively listening to your freelancers’ input and taking their suggestions on board.
Discover more about managing people with our free online courses in partnership with The Open University on sustainability in the workplace.
Our free Learn with Start Up Loans courses opens in new window include:
- Entrepreneurship – from ideas to reality
- First steps in innovation and entrepreneurship opens in new window
- Entrepreneurial behaviour opens in new window
Plus free courses on finance and accounting, project management, and leadership.
Reference to any organisation, business and event on this page does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation from the British Business Bank or the UK Government. Whilst we make reasonable efforts to keep the information on this page up to date, we do not guarantee or warrant (implied or otherwise) that it is current, accurate or complete. The information is intended for general information purposes only and does not take into account your personal situation, nor does it constitute legal, financial, tax or other professional advice. You should always consider whether the information is applicable to your particular circumstances and, where appropriate, seek professional or specialist advice or support.