Organizations – either for-profits or non-profits – have become more and more complex. In a flat world of government regulation, digital media, globalization, and more, it’s difficult for a single organization to do everything well. For some, it’s a matter of expertise – seeking the best and brightest minds to help your organization succeed. For others – it’s about off-loading – keeping your workforce small and nimble, without sacrificing growth and productivity. As you think about what you can – and can’t – outsource, here’s a few issues to consider on both sides of the topic:
The advantages of outsourcing—using consultants and freelancers:
1. With consultants and freelancers, you get access to the best people in the industry. These folks have vast experience and expertise. They live independently, so they must be pretty good. After all, if they weren’t any good, people wouldn’t be hiring them.
2. From an administrative perspective, it’s nice and neat. No overhead, no benefits, no moving expenses, no tax deductions, HR problems, or bookkeeping. Pay their invoice and it’s done.
3. Access a network of relationships. Consultants frequently have wider industry experience than in-house people, and can call on the knowledge and experience of a wide circle of business contacts.
4. In an age of PR nightmares, the smaller your full time staff, the less the chance for sexual, financial, or other problems. If a freelancer gets arrested for soliciting sex from a prostitute, since he’s not a full time employee, you have more legal protection and less PR damage.
Disadvantages of using consultants and freelancers
1. The fee for consulting may be higher than you would pay in salary to a comparable full-time employee. (But then again, consultants are usually more experienced and knowledgeable than someone you can get on a full time basis.)
2. They don’t work exclusively for you. Other clients will also get attention. On the other hand, that brings added experience to your table. But understand you won’t see them all the time.
3. It could spawn in-house problems. Employees sometimes feel threatened and fight against the outside consultant. They sometimes criticize the work, and make the consultant generally miserable. This is a very real challenge, but a good consultant knows the drill and can sell himself to the staff as well as the leadership. It’s usually brought on by insecurity with full time employees and should be addressed directly.