Leveraging the Gig Economy to Grow Your Business
As a small business owner, I’d be willing to bet that at least one of your top three goals right now deals with growth. Sounds simple, right? Although, the idea of growth may sound easy enough, as a savvy business owner, you know better. You’ve seen your fellow entrepreneurs fly like Icarus with ambitious growth campaigns, only to have their wings melted by the realities of logistics. Gig Economy.
It has been the death of innumerable brilliant goals. If you are like most small business owners out there, you are working with a skeleton crew. This usually means you don’t have the luxury of being able to green light every great marketing campaign or product rollout – even if you just KNOW it will be great for business.
In theory you may have the perfect idea, but then you are faced with the barrage of questions that must be answered to ensure the project is a success and not a money pit. Who will create and execute the marketing campaign? Who will answer the influx of calls and questions? How will I keep up with the production demands of a sales spike? Who will ensure the project stays on budget? How will I have to adjust back end customer support to guarantee great reviews? Who will fix technology breakdowns? If the answer to more than 30% of those questions is “me”, then you could be setting yourself up to crash and burn.
Even your business coach has told you to hire help.
But the simple truth is, your skeleton crew is not a lifestyle choice. It’s a survival requirement. And many small businesses are not ready to hire staff. I’ve seen so many businesses hire employees because they know they need the help, yet find themselves with an employee (through no fault of their own) sitting around doing nothing. Why? Because they don’t have the time to train them. They simply don’t have the time to teach them how to use marketing software, close a sale, use the book keeping software, or resolve website issues. And let’s not even get started on the cost of recruiting, hiring, onboarding, and training.
So, where does that leave you? Probably stuck…until now.
In recent years we have seen the rise of a promising work force in business, known as the gig economy. Simply put, these are freelancers and contract workers, with specialized skill sets, willing to work on a part time or project basis.
As with anything, there are both pros and cons to employing gig economy freelancers, but when done correctly, you can leverage the gig economy to massively and quickly grow your business. Here’s how it’s done…
MAKE A LIST
The toughest part of jumping into the gig economy is knowing what kind of freelancer to hire first. There are a million projects and ideas to chose from and prioritizing them can be daunting. The easiest way to understand priorities is to list it out – specifically in the form of a brain dump. Make a list all the things you are responsible for and group them into categories. For example, under the category of accounting, you may have items such as “issue payments, create budgets, reconcile transactions, create PO’s and Invoices, etc…
MAKE SENSE OF THE LIST
Now, look at your list and decide which of the tasks you should pass off. You can choose to pass off an entire category, or simply a portion of it. For instance, a business owner with no financial background may look at this list and think, I do not have the skillset to tackle some of these more complicated accounting responsibilities, but I can create invoices and input transactions, if the software was already set up for me. In this case, you now know you are looking for a CPA as apposed to a book keeper. You can also choose to pass of an entire category. When you do this, it’s important to realistically look at your list and document the amount of time required per week for each responsibility. This will help you determine how many employees you will need to meet your goals and whether they should be temporary, part time, full time -hourly or full time salary. If you can only afford one hire, you can determine, which of the responsibilities are a priority and create a position based on that.
In part one of this series, we talked about some of the potential cons or pitfalls of hiring in the gig economy. By being properly prepared for a gig worker, you can avoid at least three of these pitfalls.
By organizing the responsibilities, having a set of goals, and compiling all the information necessary for the gig worker to succeed before you sign contracts, you’ve greatly improved your chances of success as well.
By organizing yourself and providing clear direction, you are addressing many of the potential pitfalls of gig economy relationships.
First, you are establishing clear communication, which will help you get more accurate price quotes from your freelancer. You are also, lessening the time needed for edits and redirection. This improved communication as makes it easier to work with you, which increases the likelihood that your freelancer will continue to work with you long term.
Like you, your gig professional is running a business. They look at the bottom line, which is time traded for compensation. The less organized and more difficult you are to work with, the longer it takes them to complete a project. This means, they will either charge you a premium rate to reflect the time it will take them to create systems for you, or they will simply move on to other clients that are already organized.
It is a bit of a time investment to get started, but well worth the effort.
FIND A FREELANCER
Now that you know what type of freelancer you’re looking for, it’s time to find a good one. Here’s where the gig economy can get a bit tricky. The gig economy is a bit like the wild west. There’s not a whole lot of rules or structure. It can be hard to vet candidates and know who’s truly skilled in their field. There is nothing to prevent any individual from creating a website announcing themselves as a senior level professional with decades of experience. There is also very little recourse if you’ve paid for a service and the freelancer disappears or doesn’t produce according the agreed upon terms.
There are two ways around the “blind hire” strategy.
The first of which is to ask around.
Ask a few of your friends in small business if they have any recommendations. Since freelancers work on a project basis, most colleagues don’t fear a poaching situation and will have no problem sharing a recommendation.
The second option is to use a regulated platform.
This can range from a staffing agency to a freelance site, such as Fiverr or Upwork. Not only is your payment secured with both of these options, there is also mediation made available, should you find yourself at odds with your freelancer. Most importantly, both agencies and freelance sites have some version of contracting put in place. When working with freelancers, contracting is a must. Having the support of seasoned professionals who have created template contracts, specifically for the type of work you are contracting is worth its weight in gold.
One advantage to using a staffing agency is they take a lot of the leg work out of finding a quality candidate. When you deal with freelance platform sites, you are still having to go through the process of vetting all manner of applicants. With a staffing agency, they have already vetting the candidates and will have a few quality suggestions, to help speed the process up. You see, agencies have a vested interest in ensuring you are satisfied with the candidate you choose, so there is much more support and guidance through the process.
can also accommodate a wide range of needs, from one time project hires, to long term/full time staff. Few people know this, but the staffing firm also assumes the responsibility of all federal and state employee filing and usually also provides the freelancer with group benefits. This is a huge plus for both employers and gig workers.
Once you’ve found a freelancer you feel is qualified, the clock starts ticking. Generally, good freelancers who are reasonably priced, don’t stay available for long. It’s not uncommon to be half way through negotiations with a freelancer when they suddenly back out, due to a competing offer. When clients start dragging out the hiring process, it’s not uncommon for freelancers to move on.
Again, be prepared when you approach a freelancer. Know your budget and have a strong sense of the scope of project, so they can get started right away. Utilizing this method for freelance hires will really help you be successful with your plans for growth.
For more information see our other Blog posts!