When is it the right time to use feelancers?
Utilizing on-demand resources is the key to startup success. In our last article we analyzed the various freelancer platforms out there, taking a look at how they stacked up against each other both from the point of view of freelancers and service users. While we have established that relying on external, on-demand services is of huge benefit to startups and identified where the best places to source them are, we have not dealt with what is a fundamental consideration when using on-demand services – when should startups actually utilize freelancer resources?
Below are three sets of circumstances when you should look to onboard freelancers or agencies to deliver services to you or on your behalf. All three are borne from a common goal – to ensure your startup is as flexible as possible so that you can service your customers ably and maximize your margins. These two elements, enabled by the timely use of on-demand services, will allow you to grow your organization and set your startup on a path to sustainable success.
It may be the most obvious time to use on-demand services, but when money is tight and revenue is low startups should look to utilize flexible service providers nine times out of ten. Expending funds on a staff member who may be underutilized is a terrible idea and may be fatal to the business in the long run. That being said, hiring staff early in the life of a startup is more often than not a luxury. If the company is self-funded, it is likely impossible to hire full-time employees. Using freelancers and on-demand services gives you access to the skills those full-time employees have, without a commitment to long-term expenditure.
Typically, a growing company will encounter peaks and troughs of demand and activity, both in terms of internal, operational activities and external, client-delivery projects. Startups who approach these early phases with a project-execution mindset will thrive, while others who attempt to scale too quickly and equip the business for surge capacity from early on will fail. The key to that project-based approach is on-demand resources. When you need to provide a specialized service to a client on a once-off basis an on-demand solution is better than onboarding an employee whose skills you may not need in 3 months’ time. Similarly, if you need to establish your brand identity and create sales collateral, an external resource may be a better option than an internal employee, especially if branding and marketing is not something you foresee returning to any time soon. Using these on-demand providers means you will be able to scale the peaks and not be mired in the troughs.
Access Unique Skillsets
This last point is in some ways related to the previous one, but it is a distinct advantage to accessing freelancers and on-demand services on a regular basis. While your organization will offer a set of skills and services your customers require, the ability to offer additional, unique services may give you the value-added package to outpace your competitors. Consider a startup who provides business development and lead generation services who are engaging with a client in the biotech space on a potential engagement. If they have the ability to include the work of a freelancer with in-depth knowledge of the space, say a former executive now out on their own, they will likely win the contract over more standard formulated pitches from competitors. Then, once the engagement is complete the contract with the freelancer finishes, hopefully in the knowledge that a future working relationship could be as fruitful. The startup sees all of the upsides of providing niche skills without the costly and lengthy process of finding and onboarding them as a permanent employee.
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