Waiting until your workload explodes is far too late to start looking for staff, and it’s no good simply being reactive if you want to grow quickly
Smart startups are realising the importance of strategically hiring flexible team members – before the workload fluctuates.
More than ever before, startups are building a core team of regular, reliable freelancers and integrating them into their business; even giving them job titles and job descriptions.
Strategically hiring team members is a big shift in thinking from reaching out to freelancers on an ad hoc basis, and it’s proving easy to achieve in the modern age.
Often, these key strategic hires are found on sites like oDesk.com, a marketplace for freelance workers. Freelancers can work for a range of businesses, and enjoy the variety of work opportunities available.
Businesses are looking at this far more strategic approach to move past simply responding to variations in workload, and instead plan for them in advance, essentially using freelancers as the engine behind their startup.
Building a virtual team takes the ‘shared economy’ concept one step further. Just as it’s common for startups to work in a co-working space and use cloud tools like Google Apps, it’s now also common for startups to share talent through freelance marketplaces.
While startups are celebrated for being nimble at heart, they’ve mostly dealt with fluctuations in workload on the fly, with little long-term strategic consideration for how their business might cope with an influx of work next year, let alone next month.
Hiring in this way also means that cash-strapped startups don’t need to face the financial headache of hiring new staff. Instead, they can build a ready pool of freelancers that understand their business and prefer to work in a flexible way.
oDesk.com country manager Kyri Theos says the connected era is removing barriers and liberating our workforce.
“A more diverse and flexible workforce is the new norm. It’s now possible for startups to hire a team of freelancers in preparation for growth,” he says.
Startup founder Holly Cardew says being strategic is paramount if you’re going to make it past the first year in business. Cardew utilised oDesk.com to test new ideas in her startup, photo editing website, Pixc.
“I work with oDesk freelancers from around the world every day. I have freelancers in at least five different countries at any one time. I even use freelancers to organise my personal life, including a surprise vacation for my boyfriend,” Cardew says.
Her advice is to create smaller test projects as tasks for a handful of freelancers to attempt. Measure their progress, then select your favourite freelancer for a slightly larger project, and so on.
A small test job shared among three or four freelancers might set you back between $50 and $200 per person, which is a lot cheaper than recruitment costs through traditional avenues.
However price is not the only factor to consider. As Theos says, “Ultimately, when you’re in hiring mode, you’ve got to be looking for a long term cultural fit”.
For more information on using freelance talent visit oDesk.com.
Writer: Nina Hendy