Blended Teams (the New Norm)
This week, oDesk released its "Online Work Survey" for Fall 2012. As you might imagine,…
It’s not surprising that startups like working with freelancers. You get can a series of specialized, random tasks completed without having to hire anyone long term. Just scroll through an online staffing website, choose a contractor, and after a few messages, you’re in business.
This kind of setup allows you to get stuff done, especially when work and tasks are inconsistent. “You can scale up or scale down as you need, without the pain of making long term commitments or hiring and firing,” says Sarah Lacy, founder and editor-in-chief of Pando.
Still, it’s not a permanent, long-term solution to your hiring challenges. The truth is, a freelancer is very different from an employee. From Lacy’s experience, successful startups don’t rely completely on freelancers. “They fight tooth and nail to hire the best full time talent and lock them up as long as they possibly can.”
You need people who recognize that your growth is their growth and your success is their success. Maybe you’re already at the point where you need a level of dedication and commitment you don’t get from freelancers.
When you recognize the signs below to be true, it might be time to shift focus towards a different hiring solution.
The cost savings benefit of working with people from staffing websites (example: Upwork) is no doubt attractive. The prices are competitive because most of these freelancers live in developing countries. But just because you are able to work with someone on the other side of the world, doesn’t mean you should. There are often significant work challenges that can keep your freelancers from communicating clearly or delivering their work on time – and many of these are rooted in strong cultural differences between you and them.
This is where online freelancer marketplaces fall short. They treat everyone in the world the same way. They don’t account for all the additional and often unknown challenges of hiring and working with people offshore.
For example, freelancing in many developing countries has unique challenges that Americans may find surprising. Homes often aren’t set up to be office spaces. Freelancers may be trying to work in an environment with multiple generations living under one roof in addition to constant internet and power issues. When crucial work for your company is coming from developing countries, you need a staffing solution that will make sure all these cultural and geographical issues won’t affect the work delivered to you.
If you want to hire full time people who live and breathe your business, contribute to your growth, and stick around for the long haul, Upwork is probably not the best place to look.
It’s a marketplace for freelancers, and “the goal of a freelancer or a creative agency or firm is to serve many different clients, and to ultimately make money. Your goal when you have a startup idea is to reach product/market fit and make something that can get traction,” says Buffer CEO, Joel Gascoigne.
You want people who are invested in this shared mission.
The best full-time employees go above and beyond to make sure their work is perfect and contributes to company growth. Many contractors from Upwork see you as a client and the work needed to be done as a gig. They only provide what they’re paid to deliver.
Hiring freelancers is counter-intuitive to building a team. Companies like RevBoss sees freelance marketplaces like Upwork as a “great interim solution” but recognize how crucial it is to hire full-time workers as your company matures.
There are also key components of a startup that require collaboration for the long term. Designer Kerem Suer suggests that startups shouldn’t be hiring freelancers for their design at all. “Hiring a freelance designer can help you boost your visual presence quickly, but it could be challenging to create a foundation of your design language that you’re building to scale throughout the years.”
Additionally, when you build a team from a freelancer marketplace like Upwork, you might have a team that is too dispersed. You shouldn’t discount the advantages of co-located team members working in co-working spaces that contribute to collaboration, employee retention, and overall job satisfaction.
Remote hiring is powerful – especially if you combine it with cost savings and access to talent pools all around the world. When you enjoy the benefits of working with talent offshore, but recognize you need full-time employees who will be part of the team for the long term, you might have outgrown freelancers and freelance marketplaces.
There are risks to a remote team setup. You have to consider a lot of factors you might not ordinarily consider when hiring locally. However, these factors don’t have to be deal-breakers. With careful thought, planning, and the right partners, you can build teams to power your company’s growth.
Note: the previous post contains opinions from this contributor, which may not entirely reflect those of the publisher of this blog.