Helpful Tips to Build Your Small Business without Full-time Employees

If you’re a small business owner, you’ve probably wondered how you’ll know when it’s the right time to hire additional help. You’ve likely experienced surges in demand (congrats!) and hustled to meet the needs of your customers, but nearly burned yourself out in the process. So you tell yourself you “need” to find an employee who can take the burden off of you and manage it next time.

Theresia Intag, President and Founder of Intag Consulting, is a small business owner in Austin, TX with over 10 years of experience building teams for other small- and medium-sized businesses. Using modern recruiting methods, Theresia specializes in matching the right candidates with the right company. She has worked with: Samsung, Bazaarvoice, XSOLIS, Impero Software, Yeti Coolers, Solarwinds and many others.

That makes sense and sounds logical in theory, but I’ve seen small businesses put themselves at financial risk by hiring employees they weren’t really ready for. And there are many reasons why that might be the case.

  • Employees cost more than you think. According to the U.S. Small Business Association (SBA), the actual cost of a full-time employee is 1.25 to 1.4 their salary (see article here). That means if their salary is $35,000, costs will actually be in the range of $43,750 to $49,000.
  • You have a tight budget–or even no budget
  • You’re going through growing pains and need to examine whether the problem can be solved creatively
  • Natural demand for your business is cyclical and you simply need a way to scale accordingly

The good news is that you have options. Lots of options. Where, historically, the only solution was to add a full-time employee to the books, you now can customize a model that suits your business and satisfies your budget. Let’s take a look at what I’ve found to be the most popular.

Gig Workers

With technological advances in the past few years, “gigs” and “side hustles” are becoming more and more mainstream. Platforms like Fiverr, Upwork and Freelance.com make it easy for both employers and employees to connect and complete a job pretty quickly. These tend to be best when you’ve got a limited budget and have specific projects with concrete beginning and end dates and/or goals. While it is possible, it can be difficult to find a longer-term employee on a gig site.

Most “gig” platforms will require a nominal fee to post a job and, to ensure you get quality work,  you’ll want to be sure your job description is as thorough as possible. Agreements will usually include a limited number of revisions and anything over that is an additional cost. Also, beware of bot-like accounts that promise quality work for a seemingly  unreal rate–you’ll get what you pay for.

A commonly overlooked resource for gig workers is Facebook Groups. In Austin, we have a local group that allows freelancers and employers to connect…for free. I’ve personally filled many roles using this resource and I recommend any business owner check to see if you have something similar in your area.

Interns

For any entrepreneur or business owner working on a minimal budget, internships can be an excellent way to stretch your dollars and produce quality work. We’re fortunate in Austin, TX to have a thriving college population that bring new ideas and is up-to-date on the latest technologies. Finding an intern will be easier if you’re based in a large city or a bustling college town. If you’re in a more remote area, websites like internships.com or joinhandshake.com can be a good resource. Or you can reach out to your local community college and post to their internal student job board.

With all internships, you will need to do your homework and make sure you meet any and all requirements. Some programs do not allow a completely unpaid internship and some will require you to provide college credit for the work provided.

Traditional Consultants

Finding a good consultant can be like striking gold for a small business or entrepreneur. Typically, you’d want to look for someone with expertise in an area that you are lacking. For most of us, that’s in the marketing, legal and/or accounting arenas. Having reliable support on a consistent basis can make all the difference in the early stages of setting up your business and will alleviate the stress of trying to do it all on your own. so it’s important to make sure you’re checking references.

I find networking in community groups a very effective way of finding consultants. Also, don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for referrals. As we discussed earlier, they just might be looking for their next side hustle. And if you’re not sure how to tell if your contact would make a good consultant, Grasshopper published a small business consultant checklist that I find very helpful.

“Fractional” Services

Probably one of the newer, lesser-known options of the four listed in this article is called “fractional” services. The idea is very similar to consulting, however, a fractional partner takes on a different scope of work and level of involvement in the time they work with you. While consultants tend to work more as advisors or strategists on a limited tenure, fractional partners will work directly with your team using a hands-on approach. They hold the same level of accountability and responsibility as a full-time employee would–for as long as you need them.

The fractional services model has taken off and proven successful in many specialties. It’s now possible to hire fractional CEOs, CFOs, CMOs and, of course, recruiters.

At my company, IntagHire, we act as an extension of a client’s in-house HR team, providing a team of recruiters to source and screen candidates so that managers can focus on their own job duties.

As a small business owner myself, I know how challenging–and rewarding–it is to turn your passion into a success. While incredibly exciting, bringing on new people to help manage that growth can also feel overwhelming. I’ve seen these hiring alternatives work–not just for my clients, but for my own business as well. Using a combination of fractional professionals and traditional consultants, I’m now able to run my business spending an average of $3,000-$5,000 per month– about what I would pay for one full-time expert.

If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur looking to grow, you can customize a hiring model that works for you. Start small, see what works and build from there. Pay attention to your budget and focus your investments on areas that support expansion. You’ll maintain control over your cash flow, get much needed help and achieve the goals you’ve set for continued growth.