These are great times to work as a freelancer. The freelancing industry is catching on like wildfire, with more and more money being poured into the mix. There are already tons of businesses using the industry. If you are a young, up and coming entrepreneur, you want your startup running on the lowest of overheads. Cutting costs and externalizing as much as possible is your No.1 priority.
That’s exactly what the freelancing industry can do for you. It’s a catalyst for rapid growth. But this needs to be done carefully. Sometimes you’ll want a firm, other times you need just one freelancer. There are also parts of your business you want to keep to yourself, and parts which are best managed by freelancers.
Here’s a guide on when, where and how to use freelancers for your startup.
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Yes, I am starting with accounting, the dreary, taboo topic nobody in the business world really likes to write about. That’s because it doesn’t really make for great headlines or high click rates. ‘Experts’ love to hype things and talk about ‘business’ like it’s a Superbowl commercial: loud, simple and colorful.
The reality is, if you run your own business, accounting should be the most important thing for you. And no, it’s not always fun. That’s exactly why you need a freelance accountant working for you.
You don’t want a big accounting firm managing your startup. You’ll get as much attention as Shuffleboard competitions on Eurosport: really close to none (Shuffleboarding at its best. Your rivals probably wish you have long hours of “fun” with it).
So what you want is a freelance accountant, who will be on your call 24/7. As an entrepreneur, you are a jack of all trades especially accounting. Keep your hand on the pulse of the business. Ask questions. A lot. Don’t be afraid to look stupid in front of your accountant. That’s the one place you are allowed to be.
A freelance accountant will give you one-on-one time. You’ll have him or her under control. You’ll learn more. Go for local freelancers as opposed to hiring somebody you can’t meet. This is one place where freelancing sites aren’t that great. However, you can find accountants by:
- Asking other entrepreneurs
- Posting questions on accounting forums (that’s how I found mine)
- Posting a listing on job sites
- Looking for Facebook groups related to entrepreneurship and accounting
- Reading finance blogs and interacting with other visitors
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are great tools, in the hands of the right expert. If you are a startup, go with a ‘lone wolf’, don’t hire the pack. Go for just one freelancer. If there’s any place you want to spend a little more, this is it. That’s because there are just so many phony individuals in this niche. Everybody is an SEO expert nowadays.
The truth is, experts do cost more, but don’t be fooled by the price tag. There are many dumb ‘SEO experts’ who cost a fortune. Real SEO experts get results – and results are the only thing that matters. Make sure you set goals for your expert and make sure his pay is conditioned by achieving those goals.
Don’t be fooled into hiring ‘social media experts’ or ‘market research experts’. That’s basically all hype. Do all the social media management on your own (here are some social media marketing cheatsheets to get you started) or if the volume of work is too big, through a virtual assistant. You just set the tasks, and then hire a decent, English-speaking VA.
The truth is social media isn’t hard. You just need to act like a real person. There are tons of tutorials out there on how to manage your Facebook, your Twitter, your Pinterest, and every other profile. Try to read as many of them as possible and then get to work.
If you are developing a website to help your business or your entire company relies on an e-commerce website, you should, by all means, use a professional freelance designer. From logo creation to website design, to banners and flyers, your company’s image really makes a difference. This is the second-best place to invest your money in, after SEO and SEM (traffic is the most important thing by far).
Make sure your freelance designer knows a bit of coding. Great designers usually do. You want a design that is easy to implement, not just something which looks great. Also, it helps to know what your e-commerce site needs to have, so you know what you are getting into.
Now, for coding your site, that’s a totally different story. Great coders are usually very reluctant to interact with people. That’s why you want a freelance firm. More and more companies are enlisting their services on freelance websites. But if you can, work with a local company for the coding part. It will be easier to push them in the direction you’re wanting.
Another crucial reason you want a company, and not a freelance coder is the fact that you need an interface between you and the programmer. You need someone to put some pressure on the coder every now and then (and Lord knows that you won’t be able to scare him into delivering by writing in CAPS LOCK on Skype). A firm is just safer. They’re also less likely to steal your startup idea and more likely to get the job done fast.
Here’s one ‘meal course’ you’ll want to handle on your own. Don’t hire anyone for this. You need to know what CPM, CPC, funnels, bounce-rates and all that other weird gibberish means. Again, there are loads of tutorials out there. Here are a few found here to get you started:
6. Newsletters (Writing)
This is such a delicate topic. If you’re a startup relying on sales via the Internet, collecting and maintaining an e-mail list is the absolute way to grow. Creating the newsletter then becomes a high priority task. Either daily, weekly or monthly, you need to take the time and practically create a sales letter from scratch each time you send out an e-mail to your subscribers.
There are some great freelancers/entrepreneurs out there who can work for you on this one. But they charge a lot. That’s not the way to go if you’re just starting out. This is one just for you.
First thing, you need to create is the prototype of your subscriber. If you haven’t already, ask your subscriber details about his age, sex, location and keep a history of how often he visits your site or buys from you.
Important note: keep changing the appearance of the newsletter, at least monthly. Experiment and keep an eye on your clickrates and open rates. I’ve personally doubled our clickrate for 2 weeks on one e-commerce site I owned by applying text-only newsletters, written in a personal, friendly fashion.
There’s absolutely no reason why your company shouldn’t own a blog. I get it, you’re busy actually doing the business, you’ve got no time to write about it. Get a freelancer!
Hire a blogger. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling flake food enriched with beta carotene for ornamental fish. You can blog about it and people will visit. Sometimes, being the big fish in a small pound equals success. You never know, the blog might become a business in and of itself.
8. Customer Care
Here’s one area you won’t want to work with any outside people. You’ll find cheaper local labor. And even if you don’t, it’s worth paying more to get a local person. Customer care (CC) is basically the interface between you and the customer. As such, CC creates the user’s experience. And medium to long term user experience is the most important factor in determining the success or failure of your company.
You want a local employee, whom you can supervise. A lot. Clients will create problems in places you thought didn’t even exist. Quite a bit of your input will be needed. The key to massively successful companies such as McDonald’s is the experience the user has when interacting with the company. Learn from that.
User experience is always worth investing in, even if it doesn’t yield immediate return.
Working with freelancers isn’t for everybody. We’re still a long way from reaching the full potential of the freelance industry. It’s still in its infancy. Some entrepreneurs prefer working with people directly, in a more hands-on fashion in an office environment. But if you’re a startup, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t leverage the opportunities this industry lays out for you.
By employing freelancers in certain key positions, your startup can have multiple departments, just like a corporation. And in the ‘virtual world’, your online presence will often times be more immaculate than that of big companies.