5 business benefits
of hiring a freelancer

I just had an email conversation with the owner of an independent bookstore in my neighborhood. I had visited her website and found that it was “under construction.” I offered to help complete it, and the owner emailed back:

“Thanks Melanie, but we are running in the red right now and we don’t have anything left for advertising. I’m able to pay our utility bills, taxes, and wages, and that is about it. I’ve had to cut my employees’ hours almost in half. I don’t know how much longer we can stay in business.”

This kind of email is really heartbreaking. And that’s what prompted me to take this blog out of my idea file today and get it posted. I don’t know if it will save my corner bookstore, but it’s worth a try!

5 business benefits of hiring a freelancer

1. Affordability
Sure, it’s nice to have a full roster of full-time staff, and there’s a lot to be said for the feeling of “family” that can develop among a group of on-site co-workers. But for a lot of jobs, it’s far more efficient (and just as effective) to hire freelance talent. A freelancer who works out of her home won’t have a lot of overhead costs, so she can offer you cheaper rates. A freelancer who is local to your business won’t have to figure travel time, mailing expenditures, and other costs into his rate, so you might get the benefits of face-to-face interaction without the expense. You probably don’t want price to be the only factor in deciding which freelancer to hire, but if you ask the right questions, you may be able to get Madison-Avenue work at Peotone prices.

2. Flexibility
The reason a lot of freelancers decide to freelance is, frankly, because they want to set their own hours. That kind of flexibility can benefit the client as well as the freelancer. Your freelancer might be updating your website, posting a blog, answering your Facebook fans, and brainstorming a list of direct mail ideas after you’ve closed up shop for the night. In fact, you might be able to email your freelancer a list of assignments at the end of the business week, and find that they are completed and earning you money by Monday morning!

3. Immediacy
Related to flexibility is immediacy, the sense your freelancer has of wanting to get the job done fast. Freelancers are small business people too, and the good ones know they are more likely to make a profit when they meet your deadlines, exceed your expectations, and move on to their next assignment. They don’t have time for water-cooler conversations, agenda-less meetings, or office politics. They just want to get the job done.

4. Experience
Good freelancers have a lot of experience with a lot of different businesses. Each job they work on and each client they work for adds more knowledge to their craft, more skills to their arsenal. You get the benefit of all that experience on all your jobs too.

5. Independence
One of the hassles of hiring new staff is all the time you have to invest in training before they are really up to speed and able to make valuable contributions to your bottom line. Freelancers, on the other hand, are used to working on their own. Yes, you’ll need to define your expectations clearly, and give them access to the company information resources they’ll need, but you won’t have to sit with them and explain everything. You’ll be able to focus on your own projects while your freelancer completes the assignments you’ve given her.

Investing wisely in a carefully vetted freelancer could mean the difference between black and red for a business that’s doing so many other things right.

Readers, what do you think? Is it too bold to claim that a humble freelancer such as myself could breathe life into a dying bookstore? Do you have any other advice for this small Christian business, which has been serving the community since 1947? Is there a next step I should take to help them?

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{ 4 comments… add one }

  • David Brown September 3, 2010, 5:49 pm

    Mel,how strong is your desire to help this store ? Are you willing to offer your services and be paid based on how the work you did added to the store profits ? Are you willing to invest time ,and talent ,and receive a monthly payment over several months ? If you are willing to accept the risk,I would come up with a plan,a cost estimate,and payment options.I would present these to the owner, in person ,as the personal connections with people are often most important to a small business owner.

    Reply
    • Melanie Jongsma, Wordsmith September 5, 2010, 8:12 am

      Thanks for the ideas, Dave. I think if I weren’t so busy already, I might be willing to try helping them “on spec.” But at this point in my writing life, I have too many other projects I’m working on, many of them as favors to people who can’t afford to pay upfront! (My “writing self” often gets involved before my “business self” has much say in the matter.)

      If any of you reading this blog are interested in helping this bookstore, using Dave’s suggestions, let me know and I can give you more details. This might be a nice project for a freelancer just starting out, or a marketing student who needs a class project.

      Reply
  • Amanda Cleary September 5, 2010, 9:38 pm

    Great points, Mel. Thanks for the reminder of what freelancers can offer. I miss those days of working during the kids’ naps and faxing articles at midnight. The 8:30 to 5 can make it difficult to be creative and sometimes even productive. You’re right…with that come the meetings and emails and interruptions. For now…will just keep being a slave to the steady paycheck and enjoy the occasional freelance project.

    Reply

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