Freelance consultants usually work solo, building a client base gradually over time, developing and refining our personal brand and deriving great satisfaction from operating our boutique enterprise. We take pride in keeping the show on the road all by our lonesome, whether we’re making a killing or bumping along. Especially in a troubled economy, fear of an inconsistent paycheck causes the majority of us to avoid hiring help. However, an unbiased examination of reality may show that this practice could depress one’s earning potential. To test the premise, I invite you to ask yourself four questions. Do any of these conditions exist in your business?
- You neglect following up on leads because you’re too busy working, servicing clients or doing administrative duties such as billing and bookkeeping.
- You’ve turned down business, because you don’t have time to take on another client.
- Revenue is no longer growing because you are not meeting prospects that you can persuade to become new clients.
- You have only one client (although perhaps a good one).
Hiring help may resolve those problems, but the process can be scary. Who can you trust to enter your business, advance its goals and not make you look bad? Can you be certain that there will be sufficient cash flow to make payroll? Which duties should you hand over to an outsider?
The decision to hire begins when you let yourself recognize when it’s time to hire. To ease your fear, re-frame the scenario and think of an employee not as an interloper and a drain on your expenses, but as a potential revenue enhancer who will give you time to apply to activities that will grow your business.
You’ll need a job description, so decide what it is you dislike doing and what functions can be taken from your plate. For example, if you dislike billing, bookkeeping, answering the telephone and/or making Power Point presentation slides, you’d hire an administrative assistant. A call to Katharine Gibbs or other secretarial schools will give you a source of applicants who are vetted through the school and likely to be qualified and trustworthy.
If prospecting and account executive duties are not your favorite, then you need someone who will help fill your sales pipeline, follow-up on potential speaking and teaching engagements, write press releases and assist with certain client needs. Vetted candidates with marketing and sales skills can be accessed through university MBA programs.
Next, make a quantitative assessment by doing a 12 month revenue projection, to demonstrate that you can comfortably expect to meet all fixed and variable expenses, including your owner’s draw, and also fund an employee. Search Craig’s List to determine the going hourly rate in your geography for the skill set you need. Following that, check with your accountant or tax attorney and get the latest info on tax breaks for hiring within special categories, such as the long-term unemployed, and how that can help subsidize your employee. Your tax attorney or accountant will also advise you on payroll withholding and may do payroll for you (or recommend a bookkeeper or payroll service). All those expenses will be included in your hiring process financial projections.
Interview three or four candidates. Check references. Start small and hire someone for a three month trial for maybe 8 – 10 hours/week, to see how things work. Once you get your new hire trained and operating at full capacity, you may be pleasantly surprised by how much more revenue-generating work is taking place! If for some reason your new hire isn’t working out, make sure that you are communicating expectations appropriately. If you can assure yourself that you are doing so, then hire another candidate.
Establishing a profitable business requires the effective management of all resources and that includes staffing. Freelance consultants must be especially aware of resource management, because we go it alone and the list of what it takes to run a viable business continues to grow. We love what we do, but keeping the bases covered is time-consuming and can be exhausting. Before you dismiss the idea of hiring help, realize that doing so may limit business growth and revenue.
Thanks for reading,