Gone are the days of offices packed wall-to-wall with full-time employees pretending to be busy when the boss walks by. It’s too expensive to keep a staff waiting around for your busy times, and savvy entrepreneurs are increasingly turning to micro employment to handle their fluctuating needs for staff.
Micro employment is employing contractors on an as-needed basis, and it works best for companies who have varying needs, based either on fluctuations in work load or based on shifting expertise requirements. IT services is the perfect example: from time to time, every single company is going to have technical difficulties and need the services of an IT professional. But think about it … do you need one every day? Every week? If your needs are occasional, then you may be better off outsourcing your tech support.
Your first step is assessing your needs. Do you need occasional articles written for your blog (and spend three days dreading the writing and another half day slogging through it?) Find yourself a freelance writer. If you’re an accountant and need additional help during tax time, you can find freelance help to help you get through the busy time. Is your customer service department overwhelmed at the end of every month? Find a temp to help ease that crunch.
One important tip: always, always try out your new contractor with a small sample job. Hire your writer for a single article before you commit to a larger project, or bring your temp in during your slow time so that you can assess their abilities. The point is to line up your freelancers before you need them so that you know you can count on them in a pinch.
It’s a big old world, and you may find that the contractor who best suits your needs lives on the other side of the planet. While you can find good folks without having to meet them in person, I strongly advocate a virtual face-to-face via Skype. There’s no substitute for spending a few minutes getting a feel for your micro employee. You create a connection that’s impossible to forge via email.
The key to finding – and keeping – good contractors at the ready is to pay them well. The rule of thumb is that you’ll always pay more per hour for a good contractor than you would for a full-time staff person, but in the long run, it’ll almost always save you money. How? You only pay for the hours that your contractor is actually working, and you save on the benefits package as well. I’m not advocating that you strip benefits from deserving staff, but I am suggesting that you have a responsibility to your company to staff it according to your needs. In the long run, if you’re paying a highly hourly wage to a skilled contractor, they end up with the flexibility to work when they choose, and you end up with high quality work at a relative value. Another tip: always, always pay your contractors promptly. You want them eagerly anticipating your next call, rather than looking for excuses not to work with you again.
At the end of the day, micro employment provides both you and your contractor with flexibility; you have the option to scale your staff up rapidly, as needed, and your contractors earn a higher hourly wage than they would if they were full-time, and they can schedule their work to suit themselves. Micro employment works for everyone.