Independent contractors: professional, affordable quality

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If you’re like me, you may not go out to eat a lot but you find yourself eating out a lot.

Confusing?

Maybe. But think about it. When you “go out to eat,” it’s usually a special occasion. It involves reservations, servers, a multicourse meal and probably dessert.

When you “eat out,” it often means grabbing a quick bite at a local fast-food restaurant or the diner down the street.

You patronize those places because they are quick, easy and cost-effective, and usually they provide great food. Sure, they might not have the atmosphere and all the trappings of your favorite restaurant, but they get the job done and they do it well, don’t they?

Now, how often do you apply that model to your business, particularly when it comes to advertising, marketing or public/media relations? There are a lot of great agencies in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County that offer a full-service option that includes writing, design, Web development, social media and a variety of other needs.

But let’s face it, many times you don’t need or don’t want the entire menu. That’s when an independent contractor can help.

Typically referred to as “freelancers,” independent contractors bring the same skills, experience and quality to a job that you would find in a full-service agency. The difference is that most don’t have the overhead that you will find in an agency, so they can work at a more competitive price.

“What I have found in the six-plus years that I have been an independent graphic design contractor is that businesses these days want more control over their marketing, and that means involving themselves in the process and decision-making – from initial brainstorming to delivery of the finished design piece, yet they do not want to commit to a full-time employee for marketing. And they certainly do not want to pay agency prices for marketing and advertising,” said Todd Greb of Blue Dot Communications in Alburtis.

“So what do companies do? A good option is to hire independent contractors for each specialty, whether it’s a storyteller, a graphic designer or someone to maintain their website,” he continued. “These specialty contractors are hired on a project basis, so there is no long-term commitment necessary. In the long run, having an independent contractor is a lot less expensive than hiring a full-time employee, and the independent contractor is also a lot less expensive than the big advertising agency.”

Designer Dina Hall of Bethlehem found that even some of the Lehigh Valley’s largest businesses recognize the value of independent contractors. As a freelancer for most of her adult life, she has seen her client base shift from small, local printing firms that didn’t have their own graphic designers to major corporations such as PPL, where she works in-house frequently, coordinating with the communications team on tasks and assignments.

Ed Frack of The Factory Advertising, who has worked in full-service agencies and as an independent contractor, argued that with budgets in general shrinking and advertising/marketing budgets being slashed even more, it is important to have the investment work as hard as it can for you.

“With the consultants, it is very important to interview them and speak to their clients to make sure they are able to offer the services required and have the background and experience required,” he advised. “But in my experience, independent consultants will provide a higher level of customer service, more affordability and focus on the client’s needs.”

One of the things I hear a lot from business owners – especially those with small and growing companies, is this question: “Why should I hire a freelance writer? I can do it myself. Or, I can have my employees do it. Or, I can hire an advertising firm.”

Well, yes, you can do any or all of those things. If you have the time. If your employees have the time. If you have the money.

But if you have these things, then you either have more business than you can handle, or not enough.

Either way, your time, your staff and your resources should be devoted to doing the things that help you build your business.

By outsourcing the services to qualified, independent contractors, you get a professional who will focus 100 percent of his or her effort on your project for the duration of that project. You pay only for the time spent, and you don’t have to pay the extra costs of keeping a full-time or part-time employee on staff for short-term projects.

In short, you win.

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