In this era of the “Great Resignation,” companies are choosing to outsource via consultants and freelancers more and more to accomplish tasks that might have otherwise been handled by full-time employees. If you have not yet worked with one, you may soon be calling on a consultant because the workforce is changing.
Nasdaq reports one in three workers in the U.S. now have a side-hustle of some kind and technology is assisting their success.
Among the benefits of this shift is opportunity to work with skilled people no matter where they live. As well, freelancers often bring with them a breath of fresh air and new ideas, which are sometimes inhibited by people working together day-in and day-out in the same environment.
Some tasks are better suited to outsourcing than others. Marketing, communications, public relations, and creative skills, like content creation and graphic design, are ideal to outsource as freelancers, consultants, and contractors are readily available.
If you are in a niche industry, like agriculture, you may have to look a little harder to find someone who understands your business. But with a little research and planning, outside help can be a perfect fit for your company.
The Herdbook Ag Media has put together a few tips to help you decide if outsourcing is right for you and help you get the most from a relationship with someone who specializes in marketing and sales, communications, public relations, and creative.
YOU MIGHT NEED TO OUTSOURCE IF…
Your Company is Small, but Growing
Consultants, freelancers, and contractors are a great option for businesses that don’t have budgets to hire full-time employees. Freelancers are a good value for small companies and budding entrepreneurs because there are no costs for health insurance, paid time off, payroll taxes and overhead costs. Keep this in mind when a freelancer’s quote seems costly. He or she generally shoulders the entire cost of creating a product or providing a service, so this is built into fees.
Hiring a consultant is also less risky than a full-time employee. There are no long-term commitments or expectations, so your company won’t be saddled with a bad hire. Freelancers allow companies to “test the waters” to find the ideal candidate.
Many companies develop healthy, long-term relationships with consultants and freelancers who grow along with the business. A contract that is continually updated and restructured allows a company to determine what tasks are needed as it matures. Too, some freelancers eventually become full-time employees.
You Need a Specific Skill Set
Regardless of size, it is a challenge for all companies to cover all bases from a skills standpoint. In many cases, employees wear multiple hats.
Here’s the reality: Finding those with skills across multiple functions is difficult. Finding employees that are the top of their game across these functions is impossible. For your company to grow and be profitable, you will need to attract talented people and make sure gaps are filled.
Whether you need a general hand or specific talent, and whether you need them short term or long, a consultant or freelancer can help.
You Need an Overall or New Perspective
If you have been using the same marketing plan for years and your materials look just like they did 10 years ago, a consultant could give you a new, different perspective and take your business to the next level.
Consultants and freelancers enable you to break away from the “that’s how it has always been done” mentality. And because they often work with a variety of clients, they are exposed to new technology, keep abreast of industry happenings, and see what is, and is not, working in other companies.
And because they are not bogged down in your challenges every day, they often can see options for restructuring, reorganizing, redoing, and moving forward when you cannot.
TO FIND THE PERFECT FIT…
Determine What You Need
This might seem like a no-brainer. After all, your needs are obvious to you and your team.
But assessing, qualifying, and quantifying your needs and putting them in writing is the first, and often overlooked, step to getting help. Too frequently, companies are too general in their approach to finding consultants and freelancers. Saying “we need help putting together a social media plan” is very different from “we need someone to create two posts for Facebook each week using our library of images, scheduling from our posting platform, and analyzing the results once a month.”
Compile a list of your specific needs and then rank them by priority. Then break down this list even further. After you do this exercise, it will start to become clear what you can handle in-house and on your own, and what can be outsourced.
This effort will also help you determine who you need and how often you need them. It is especially useful for developing a realistic budget.
Determine Who You Need
When you are specific about what you need, you will be better able to determine who you need.
Do you need a writer? If so, what kind of writer do you need? Business to business content looks very different than business to consumer content. And blog writers have a different approach than technical writers.
Do you need someone to help with social media? A freelancer who creates graphics is unlikely to be the one who optimizes content for search engines or analyzes data.
Though most freelancers can handle multiple, related tasks, be sure to look for someone who fits your top priorities first.
If you are a niche business, a consultant who knows your industry and is skilled in their craft trumps all others. For example, if your company sells supplements for dairy rations and you want a writer for a new brochure, hiring a blog writer who specializes in cooking is bound to fail, even if the freelancer promotes their ability to write. The more specialized the business, the more specialized the talent need be.
Hire a Professional
“Time is money” is a lesson you do not want to learn with a consultant. Hire the right person from the onset and pay them their worth. There is no value in their services if you spend hours correcting their work and make back and forth edits that go nowhere.
You are better off spending $2,000 for a well-planned campaign that resonates with your audience and generates leads than a $200 plan that requires five edits back and forth and misses the mark altogether.
Anyone can put words on paper. Writers tell stories and make them meaningful. Anyone can slap together a graphic in Canva or download images to Word. A trained graphic designer can sell your product with a visual.
Hiring a professional requires homework. Ask colleagues and those in your network for referrals. Check out professional networking sites like LinkedIn, Meetup and Xing. Or join a social community related to your needs like those on Facebook.
Respected, seasoned freelancers often post a list of their clients and provide digital samples of their work online.
Interview them to get a feel for their skills. It will become clear in no time whether someone knows your business or not.
Iron Out the Details
Though a discussion about contracts and other official documents can be uncomfortable, these materials are a friend to company and contractor alike. They lay the groundwork for the relationship and often reveal topics that may have not been previously discussed.
It is equally appropriate for either the company or the freelancer to draw up the contract. Either way, include specifics. Who is the primary contact? Who is responsible for final decisions? What are primary deadlines? How many meetings are included and when will they be scheduled? How many revisions are allowed? What are fees and when is payment due? Are payments acceptable and down payments necessary?
It should go without saying: be respectful of each other’s time and treat each other as professionals. Remember, your company’s success is the goal of everyone involved.
Develop Branding Materials
Before you begin working with a consultant or freelancer, create a branding document and a style guide. It is also helpful to have available your mission statement and company goals.
These documents help everyone on the team—inside and outside the company—develop cohesive campaigns and materials that look consistent, provide a uniform message across platforms, and work towards a common goal.
Get on the Technology Bandwagon
Project management software programs like Todoit, Asana, and Trello are ideal tools to manage projects using consultants and freelancers. These apps are often free for a limited number of users or low cost for additional features. They are convenient for communication among team members, checking project status, and planning short and long term.
As well, if you have not done so, become comfortable using video conferencing platforms like Zoom and Google Meet. Learn how to use the tracker and comments features in word processing software like Microsoft Word and become familiar with cloud-based file storage systems like Google Drive.
The new face of the workforce can be a win for everyone – your employees, your bottom line and even the planet with fewer gas-burning cars transporting workers to and from the office. Don’t be afraid to the explore the vast world of opportunities that outsourcing can bring!
If you need to add some communications experts to your team, we’re glad you found us! At The Herdbook we specialize in agriculture, animal, agtech, food and rural lifestyle-based industries. Learn more about our services here or book a free discovery call!