Behind the scenes

4 min read

Why do we work with freelancers so much?

Freelancers make up a core part of how we work at Skyward. Here’s why we value our external partners so much and how we choose to hire employees vs freelancers.

Freelancer working from their remote office

Written by

Dan Spratling sitting in a bar window with a drink, smiling

Dan Spratling

Published on

9 January, 2023

Updated on

23 January, 2023

If you’ve been following our journey so far you’re probably aware that we work with freelancers a lot. Since starting Skyward, we’ve worked with freelancers to deliver the best solutions we can. Currently our team consists of 1/3 full time employees and 2/3 freelancers.

But why are we so open about this?

Because it’s a core aspect of how we work and, unlike many agencies, we’re not ashamed of that fact. Employees and freelancers have different functions in business and while there’s always going to be some crossover, they both play an important role.


One thing to note
Just because we work with freelancers doesn’t mean we outsource our work. We supplement our team with trusted professionals, giving them room to do their best work but never taking a completely hands-off approach. Collaboration is required at all stages of our process.


Why we work with freelancers

As I mentioned above, we work with freelancers a lot. Most jobs could be done by both freelancers and in-house employees, but there’s a few reasons we work primarily with freelancers right now.

Flexibility

Skyward is still a small business and one of our core values that I aspire to achieve is to ensure we grow in a sustainable way. That means I need to make sure that I’ve always got a good understanding of our means, and how much risk we can afford to take on. Full time employees are riskier than freelancers precisely because they’re full time. I can’t scale them up and down with demand, like I can with freelancers, and I certainly don’t want to endanger the security of our team by growing too fast.

Faster onboarding

Freelancers, especially ones who have been doing this for a while, know how this process works. If we have a project that we need additional help for, we can get a freelancer up and running on that project in a week (or less). Full time employees on the other hand have to be fully integrated with our team, and additional processes can slow things down. By using freelancers, we can quickly adapt to demand.

Varied experience

One quality freelancers have over other types of employees is that they get the opportunity to work on many different projects, and not just with us. As an agency, we get to work on solving a wide variety of problems for our clients so bringing on board freelancers who have more, or specialised, experience in an area we might be lacking means we can deliver a better solution overall.

Potential problems with freelancers

Different working styles

Because freelancers are constantly working with different businesses, they’ll often have totally different working styles. This isn’t uncommon between employees either, but the difference is that it’s much harder to encourage a freelancer to work in your business’ way of doing things.

This might not be a problem, especially if we’re working on a single isolated piece of work. Some freelancers are more adaptable than others but, regardless of who you’re working with, full time employees are always going to be more driven towards improving our internal systems because it directly affects them.

Capacity issues

Freelancers, especially good ones, are in pretty high demand. If we have plenty of work scheduled, we can often notify the freelancers that we work with months in advance what we’ll need them to work on and for how much time.

The problem comes when our work becomes less certain. Maybe a new project is being secured, but hasn’t been signed yet. We can’t guarantee we’ll need the support until the project goes through, but wait too long and the freelancers we want to work with might be fully booked. That’s simply not something that happens with an internal team.

Cost

The most obvious problem working with freelancers for the long term is that they’re typically more expensive when comparing like-for-like skills with a full time employee. Many costs are equal for a business when hiring employees or freelancers (sickness, holiday, etc, although the way you pay for that might differ) but one additional thing freelancers will price for is uncertainty.

Because freelancers can’t be sure if you’ll be working with them in 3 months, they need to account for the possibility of being without work for a period of time. That’s why many will give discounted rates for long-term engagements.

Who benefits from us working with freelancers

The way we see it, everyone benefits

  • Freelancers that we work with get regular work guaranteed and we pay good rates while giving them the freedom and flexibility to work in their own way

  • Our clients get highly skilled talent which we’ve often worked with before and vetted to make sure that we can work together effectively, reducing their risk and saving time vs having to hire multiple freelancers themselves

  • And we also get highly skilled freelancers working with us, which makes us look great when we deliver outstanding work for our clients without taking on the risks and reducing flexibility that come with hiring everyone full-time

That’s a win-win-win, and that’s why we’re so open about the process. Hiring freelancers isn’t something to be ashamed about. They help us deliver outstanding solutions, and our clients have been exceedingly happy with the results.

Our long-term goals

As you can see, there’s a lot of benefits to working with freelancers even as the business continues to grow, and we plan to continue to do so.

Over the next few years we want to bring some talent in-house so that we can get the best of both worlds; a small dedicated team who are passionate about improving Skyward and establishing great working practices, and a larger freelance network with specialised skills that work well with but aren’t restrained by our internal team.

By working with our full-time team and freelancers flexibly, and expanding both over time, our goal is to continue providing great solutions to our clients and solving their individual needs while building up systems internally that allow us to provide an even better service.

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