You know that feeling when you’ve worked hard all day, it’s time for bed and all you can think about are those 10 items on your to-do list that you can never seem to get to. You wonder how you’re going to get them done and know that if you don’t the growth of your business will suffer. Depending on the size and structure of your business, outsourcing some tasks to a freelancer could be the answer to your overwhelmed feelings as well as business stagnation.

What is a freelancer?

When you’re considering outsourcing, there are several different types of arrangements you can look for. You might use an agency, software service, contractor, or freelancer. Freelancers and contractors are unique in that they provide temporary services and are usually individuals working solo. (To better understand the differences between an employee and a contractor see this article.)

When to work with a freelancer 

Running a business is a lot of work. There’s just no getting around that fact. We have all encountered individuals who take on too much. Being around them is like watching a full-on tornado. Many things get done, but most things don’t get done well and there is constant confusion, panic, and drama. 

If you’re feeling this cyclone of overwork coming on in your business, it’s time to take a mindful moment and assess what your priorities are and how you can delegate. If you already have employees, look at their skill sets and whether they can accomplish the tasks you need help with. For micro businesses that have no employees or very few, outsourcing specific tasks to skilled freelancers can take the burden off the business owner without adding the ongoing expense of hiring new employees. If you’re not sure whether you should outsource or hire, assess your budget and needs before deciding. 

Sometimes the hourly rate for a freelancer may be higher than that of an in-house employee, but it’s important to factor in added costs of employees that don’t apply to freelancers. These costs include the time involved in recruiting, onboarding, training as well as their ongoing salary and any benefits. On average, an employee costs 1.3-1.6 times their salary. If you’re clear on the work you need done and it’s temporary, occasional, or part time, a freelancer will almost always be the most cost-effective route. However, it is important to run the numbers for your situation. If you find yourself paying a freelancer for 40 hours a week, their higher hourly rate is likely to cost you more than hiring an employee.

computer next to do-to list

What tasks to send to a freelancer 

Before you decide what to outsource, know your own personal strengths and what your business needs to move forward. Spend some reflective time writing down your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re not sure, ask a trusted, honest friend to help you identify these. Then assess your business: what needs to happen for you to reach your next milestones? 

If finances are one of your weak areas and you identify better record keeping as one of your to-do’s for reaching your next milestone, hiring a bookkeeper to set up your record keeping system for you could be a good option. Other tasks that commonly get sent to freelancers are research, scheduling, communication management, social media, graphic design, content writing, legal consulting, tax preparation and data entry. Revisit your strengths, weaknesses, and business goals to see what outsourcing to prioritize. 

The Financial and Legal Aspects

Before you contact a freelancer, do your research on pricing, and know your budget. If you know how much funding to allocate, what you want to accomplish and the average rate for those services you can avoid being overcharged or insulting your freelancer by requesting an unfair price. Staying on budget also means your outsourcing will help and not hurt your business overall. 

Once you know a freelancer’s rates and you’ve both agreed on the terms and outcomes, you’ll want to draft a contract. The contract needs to include the work you both agreed would be completed, the timeframe, the rate, and the payment method. You can use a template but it’s still a smart idea to have legal counsel read through it. Once you have your official template, you can plug in the details of each freelance project as needed. 

How to get the most out of your work with a freelancer 

If you come to your first meeting unprepared and scattered, you’re setting yourself up for underwhelming results. Remember that the freelancer is there to provide a service and they cannot provide it successfully without your input. Be prepared to fully articulate the project or tasks as well as providing clearly defined goals and outcomes. For any content, design or marketing tasks provide visual examples that emulate the end product you are looking for. Your freelancer might have valuable ideas that you haven’t considered, since this is their area of expertise. Give the ideas they pitch a chance but speak up if the work is going in a direction that doesn’t resonate with your goals. (For more on becoming a manager, see our article How to Hire (and Fire) Your First Employee.)

As the business owner, you’re the most knowledgeable person when it comes to the vision, values, and goals of the business. Unless you’re hiring a business coach, the freelancer is there to provide a specific service that amplifies your vision and goals. They are not there to define the goals and vision of your business. If you need help with this area, consider working with a business coach or strategist to refine your business plan. 

How to Handle Conflict

A contract is really your best asset in avoiding misunderstandings. But regardless, a conflict can still arise. The most common reasons for conflict with freelancers are dissatisfaction with the work, unrealistic expectations, and frustration with deadlines not being met. Clear communication can help you avoid many of these issues. 

If a conflict comes up, start by collecting your thoughts and then using the most direct means to contact your freelancer. I would suggest calling if possible. Many times, a clear reiteration of the expectations can clear up any issues. If you took the time to create an official contract, you will have the option of taking legal action if that contract is breached.  

One of the 4 most common reasons that small businesses fail, is an inability to delegate effectively. It can be very unnerving to pass along any elements of the precious, coveted business you have created. But here’s the catch: if business owners continually try to do everything they are more likely to fail because they end up giving less time to the larger picture of the business and keeping it moving forward. If you’re ready to start outsourcing to freelancers, check out this list of resources: 12 Ways to Find Freelancers. 

Want to learn more? Watch our webinar, How to Hire and Work with a Virtual Assistant.

Carrie Miller

Carrie Miller


Carrie Miller is the textile artist and designer of the Natural Luxury collection. She specializes in botanical dyes, handweaving, and silk painting. Carrie is also a marketing consultant and writer who lives to be in the mountains near her home in Colorado.

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