How do you grow your startup with online freelancers?
Hiring is a tough issue, especially for startups. With rising hiring costs, could online freelancers be the solution?By Joash Wee 02 Jul, 2013
Hiring is difficult for larger companies and especially so for startups. While Singapore may be a good place to start a company, with numerous government grants, investors and efficient incorporation procedures, the issue of hiring has hit a large group of technology startups here.
This problem is not unique to Singapore – it’s just more pronounced. We are already seeing technology startups in Singapore either moving their operations outside of Singapore or setting up foreign offices in neighboring countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand in order to hire the talent they need.
Having shared about the 10 people businesses should hire online, we spoke to Kjetil Olsen, vice-president of Elance Europe, who shared more with us about how startups can benefit from hiring freelancers to help cope with their talent demand.
Common misconceptions about hiring online freelancers
Kjetil highlighted two common misconceptions that most businesses or startups may have about hiring online freelancers, quality of work and not being able to integrate well with the existing team. According to Kjetil, in order “to be successful, freelancers depend on positive feedback and ratings from their clients. This means they need to constantly deliver high quality work within the agreed deadline.”
Platforms like Elance provides a transparent marketplace that ensures clients are able to engage the right people and also provide their feedback in order to help guide other potential clients. Kjetil mentioned that the competitive labor market also makes sure that these online freelancers stay up to date on the technology and skills that they offer.
Commenting on integrating freelancers with full-time employees, Kjetil commented, “Saying that online freelancers cannot act as an integrated part of the team, could not be more wrong. In today’s world, there is great competition and a great need to be effective in nearly all sectors. That is why many companies are successfully hybrid organisations by mixing on-site teams and online team members. This model gives businesses a unique opportunity to scale up and down on demand, hire the best talents regardless of where in the world they reside and benefit of significant cost savings.”
Key jobs that are suitable for online freelancers
According to Kjetil, while most talent are averse to risk and would prefer to work for well-funded companies with a strong employer brand, this is not a priority for online freelancers. “The only thing that matters for online freelancers are the job itself and how well it is paid,” adds Kjetil.
This gives startups and small-and-medium businesses in general better odds in attracting the best skilled individuals in the market without actually having to hire them as employees. Examples of roles that are suitable for online freelancers include web developers, mobile app developers, virtual assistants, lawyers and designers.
Kjetil also commented, “With the online freelancing model an entrepreneur can hire resources to fill a temporary need (a project) or for the long run. They can also hire different people with the same skill sets to determine which one is the best fit for the company, and after the trial period go for the one that solves the company’s need best.”
Read also: 10 people you should hire online today
When should startups hire online freelancers?
Hiring freelancers is a good way for startups, especially bootstrapped ones, to stretch their available cash further. According to Kjetil, many successful startups have been hiring online freelancers from the first day to build necessary assets they need to get the business running. “At first, startups can hire online freelancers for project-based work such as building their website, conduct market research, design the company’s marketing collateral and create customer contracts. At later stages, when the company’s product is in the market, they often move to more permanent roles, such as customer service resources, developers, product managers or even virtual assistants,” adds Kjetil.
The use of freelancers may help startups manage and scale the operations proportionately. But what about maintaining a good balance between online freelancers and on-site employees? Kjetil agrees with the importance of keeping balance, saying, “It is indeed important to keep a good balance between freelancers and on-site employees. The management team or the owners of a startup should ask themselves what kind of roles and jobs are crucial to be done in-house and for which ones they can hire online freelancers, at every stage of the a company’s existence. Hiring a cloud-based workforce cuts costs, allows them to react flexibly to times of high demand.”
Challenges of hiring and managing online freelancers
Kjetil shared that the main challenge is attracting the right freelancer or talent to the job. The key lies in the job post or job description. You would have to understand what online freelancers require in order to give a great proposal. Among these are clear and detailed descriptions of what you are looking for and a summary of the skills and experience needed for the job. Elance provides templates to help users with crafting a good job post. Elance also provides several ways for employees to make good hiring decisions by providing a review of the freelancer’s reputation as well as their profile which highlights skills, past work experience and sample work.
“Hiring and managing a team of online freelancers is in many ways not too different from hiring and managing an on-site team, as you need to go through a recruiting or hiring process and you need to manage them well to optimise outcome,” says Kjetil. He advises that employees should find the best ways to communicate and collaborate with online freelancers. He adds, “It’s important to make your online team happy and create loyalty to you as their manager and to your business. Let them take part of the successes of the business.”