Freelancers - Negatives

It can be a tough decision whether to use freelancers or not when looking to grow your agency. Digital freelancers can lend much-needed expertise during early stages of your agency but digital freelance staff can also be a risk to your business. In our Digital Marketing Recruitment Guide, we aim to give an insight into these sectors through the minds of leading digital thinkers.

In this section, James Crawford, managing director of integrated B2B and consumer specialist PR Agency One, shares his experiences with freelancers when growing his agency. By sharing his experiences, dilemmas, the benefits, risks and lessons learnt, James provides a good guide of how to approach using freelancers to grow your agency.

Using freelancers to grow your agency

Freelancers are a great resource to help grow your business but from my experiences, you should use them sparingly and at the right time.

Where possible employ someone full time instead of a freelancer.

I've built my business by employing the most experienced people I could find. It's expensive in the short term but this strategy has paid dividends in terms of long-term client retention.

I have never regretted appointing my most senior hires. However, full-time contracts are not always possible or needed, so if you need a freelancer to plug a gap, just make sure you take references.

Freelancers can be great low-risk solutions for small businesses and start-ups

I have worked with some great freelancers. For some, being a freelancer suits their lifestyle and helps them fit work around their lives. Unfortunately, there are also showers of incompetent freelancers out there who can be a complete liability to your business, which is why references are essential. My advice is 'buyer beware'.

Freelancers can sometimes bring in a lot of expertise

I've worked with freelancers (or rather contractors) who have provided me with valuable senior strategic counsel, so don't just think of freelancer support in terms of delivery as they can often bring a lot to the table. However, nine times out of ten I'd still prefer to employ someone full-time instead.

Freelancers can also be unreliable

All of a sudden, a mysterious illness may befall a freelancer ('contractoritus' I think it's called) or in the worst case, they disappear off the face of the earth. My experience of working with freelancers has been mainly positive but there have been a couple of instances where I've lost my temper at their sheer lack of professionalism. The latter experiences happened in the early days of my business and really spurred me on to make the jump to appoint full-time staff. I am glad I did because working with full-time staff was the best decision I have ever made. I very rarely use freelancers now.

Freelancers can be a financial risk - read up on IR35 and other problems

IR35 related issues can be a real problem for employers and freelancers alike, especially if they are earning over £35,000 per annum. If your freelancer or contractor is a limited company then this status negates the issue of course. One of our clients, Parasol, created this great free guide for those who are weighing up whether they should become freelancers and how to manage their invoicing and tax situation. It's also a good read for employers.