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10 Pros and Cons of Freelance Talent for Agencies

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A core team of employees is important for business stability. But work doesn’t always come in as expected and peaks and troughs can mean your headcount requirements change. This is borne out by the findings of the Wow Agency Survey, sponsored by Adam, which found 31% of agencies plan to increase their use of contractors in 2017. We caught up with Ingram Sanders, Co-Founder of Goldsand Digital and David Gilroy, Sales & Marketing Director at Conscious Solutions, to discuss the pros and cons of freelance talent, to help you make the right decision for your business.

The Pros

1. Specific Skills Can Secure New Business

When new work comes in, you won’t always have the right skills to deliver it. Hiring a freelancer with the skills you need means you can secure new business. If the contract is lucrative and your freelancer delivers, your relationship could go from one night stand to a marriage made in heaven.

Ingram Sanders says that his business, “uses freelancers at busy times of the year, when larger projects come in that require specific expertise, to help newer staff get up to speed and as a stop-gap when someone leaves.”

2. Benefit from Fresh Perspective

If it’s not new skills you want to bring in, but new ideas, contractors will give you this in spades. They’ll have a depth of knowledge in a specific field and broad experience gained from working with different clients. This means they can view project work from various viewpoints to create new ways of looking at things.

3. Bring in Someone Who’s Good at What They Do

You’ll often hire a freelancer to do a specific job which means they’ll be good at what they do. After all, if they’re a content writer they write content all day, every day and should be able to deliver quality work from the get-go.

4. Only Pay for What You Need

Take on a permanent member of staff and you’re committed to paying their wages whether you’re fully booked or not. Bring a freelancer on board when things get busy and you’ll only pay for the time they work. Hiring freelancers also mean you have fewer costs, such as employee benefits, sick pay and holiday pay, to cover. You’ll also avoid employer national insurance contributions and other costs such as office space and IT which could provide a significant saving.

David Gilroy says that at Conscious Solutions, “We only use freelancers for very specific tasks when we need extra support, such as copywriting or, very occasionally, development in non-core technologies.”

5. Perfectly Productive

Freelancers are usually hired to work on a particular project which means they can be completely focussed on the task at hand rather than getting caught up in office politics or distracted by numerous emails. They can also work whenever they choose as long as work is delivered to deadline. Plus, if you’re in a tight squeeze, a freelancer can turn work around quickly outside of normal office hours.

The Goldsand Digital Co-Founder, agrees that hiring freelancers can bring benefits to the business: “I’m personally not a big fan of bringing on freelancers but we do use them from time to time and I understand the benefits, such as: bringing in a skilled worker at short notice and getting the job done quickly, efficiently and to a high standard as well as adding extra energy and expertise to the team.”

The Cons

6. When a New Perspective is Problematic

New ideas can be a lifeline to a creative business. But what if they’re so far out of whack with your business culture that they cause more problems than they solve? Sometimes this can happen with a freelancer. When it does, it often means starting the recruitment process all over again. One way to ensure you get the right person for your business is to use a recruitment agency. They’ll source candidates who would be a good cultural fit for your business and bring new skills to help.

7. The Price of Flexibility

While flexibility has its plus points, it can come at a price. Freelancers don’t have to take your contract which could leave you high and dry. And, if they decline to work with you again, you can wave goodbye to the time you’ve spent bedding them into your business. One solution is to have several freelancers to draw on; like a rugby team with a good bench, you need options to cover different eventualities and have strength in depth.

Sanders agrees that freelancers, “can let you down at the last minute, take better paid jobs if available or simply be unavailable meaning you need to find someone else last minute. And any learning or knowledge they gain when you take them on for longer periods leaves with them rather than being an asset to the business.”

8. Hiring Freelancers Means Dealing with Tricky Tax Laws

Hiring freelancers means getting your paperwork to stay on the right side of tricky tax legislation IR35. This means getting into the mindset of a business-to-business transaction and not an employer-employee relationship. Working with a recruitment agency will help you pick your way through this legal minefield.

9. You’ll Need to Spend Time Getting Them up to Speed

No matter how good your freelancer is at their work, it will still take them some time to get up to speed with your client relationships, processes and business culture. You’ll need to spend time answering questions that your core team would know the answers to and this can be irritating when you’re busy. Plus, as Sanders points out, “it can also be very difficult to integrate someone new with your culture.”

Gilroy added, “It’s vital to make sure your freelancers are ‘committed’ to a freelance life. There is nothing worse than taking the time to get someone up to speed with your way of doing things to find they go back to full-time work three months later!”

10. You Risk Bringing Someone in You Know Nothing About

Gilroy warns that the cost of getting any hire wrong, whether freelancer or permanent employee, can be disastrous. “When choosing a freelancer”, he advises, be sure to “always take references from their previous clients, by phone, so you can find out what it is like to work with that person and the level of skill and expertise they can bring to the table”

No matter how well you interview, you never really know what someone will be like to work with. This is where a recruitment agency can minimise your risk; they will have interviewed, placed and received feedback about a freelancer, possibly multiple times before you even interview them.

Hiring freelancers has its benefits and its drawbacks and making the right hire, whether that’s a contractor, fixed term or permanent employee, is important. With our years of agency recruitment experience, the team at Adam is happy to discuss the different options available to you.

For support with talent management in the digital sector contact Leon Milns on 0207 871 7665 or