When to hire a full-time designer

When to hire a full-time designer

We've all been there: You have a project you need done ASAP. You don't have the bandwidth to complete it with your current staff, but you're not sure an outside partner will be able to meet your in-house standards. You're left with that timeless dilemma: In-houser vs. freelancer? Do you hire a new full-timer to complete the work, or do you look for help from outside your organization?

Here are a few questions to consider when deciding whether to hire a new full-time employee or to outsource to a contractor:

Do you have a sustainable need for a full-time employee?

When you're staring down a full to-do list with no end in sight, it can be easy to feel like you need someone full-time to alleviate the load. It can be helpful to take a step back and assess how much of the work you'd be assigning to the new employee is sustainable, and how much is subject to change.

And, of course, you have to be able to justify the cost of a full-time hire. If you aren't sure about the long-term sustainability of your company's workload and budget, it can be better to err on the conservative side and hire an hourly contractor.

Is hiring a full-time employee really the answer to your needs?

When a business, especially a small business, is growing, working with independent contractors provides the organization with flexibility and minimal commitment. Contractors are easy and generally cost effective to hire, as they don't have the cost of benefits through the employer. Given all these votes in their favor, hiring an hourly freelancer can be a great fit for a one-time or as-needed project.

If you're feeling unsure about the contractor model, don't be. Contracting is the new normal, as we see from companies like Uber: The ridesharing company has a contractor to employee ratio of 80 to 1. The number of contractors has nearly doubled since 2003. It's the 1099 Economy, and it offers greater flexibility on both the employer and employee sides of the equation.

Do you have the time to find a good contractor?

The flip side of contractors being easy to find and hire is that it's sometimes hard to tell who is actually good. Because the vetting process for an hourly freelancer isn't nearly as rigorous as hiring a full-time employee, it's more likely a dishonest or incompetent person could fall through the cracks with a trumped up resume or fabricated portfolio. Once you find yourself going through the process of looking for contractors over and over again, hiring a full-time person starts to look a bit more persuasive.

If you ever do find yourself disappointed in the work of a contractor, the good news is you're not stuck with him or her forever. However, if the time you spend weeding through bad freelancers isn't worth it to you, using that budget to hire a full-time person who will be around for a while could be a better option. It just depends on the needs of your business and where you'd prefer to spend your resources.

What's going to sway you one way or the other?

As business leaders, we like to think we're in charge of our own destinies and can fulfill each company need exactly as we wish. But it's not always the case, which brings us to one last deciding factor for your in-house vs. contractor discussion: The skills you need in your business.

Rather than deciding the employment situation of the theoretical employee before you even see what's out there, try looking at the situation from the execution side rather than the cost side. It might be the case that the person with the skills you need is only willing to work hourly. Perhaps the consultant who's the best fit is currently working on a contract basis, but is looking for an in-house position.

Yes, it makes it harder to write the job posting if you're open to both arrangements. But in the long term, choosing a person because of his or her skill is a much better deciding factor than who does or doesn't want to be in the office every day.

Whether you decide to hire in-house or freelance, the most important piece of a successful decision will be to consider your needs closely. That way, whether you choose hourly, salaried, or based on the needs of a skilled candidate, you will know you made the decision with thoughtful intention.

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