With the Covid pandemic speeding up the process of digital transformation, more charities are considering outsourcing for particular roles. There are many benefits with this way of working. For a start, it gives you access to a wider talent pool, as you’re not bound by location. You’re also able to hire contractors for the time that it takes to complete a project or campaign, rather than keeping them on the payroll during times when demand is low. Outsourcing is particularly popular for web design and development work.
But how do you evaluate whether it’s makes more sense for you to outsource a role at your charity? And what should you consider when selecting a contractor or agency?
Assessing your skills gap
Before making your decision about outsourcing, you should investigate the skills that you’re lacking and establish whether the need for these is short or long-term. If it’s long term, in most cases it would make more sense from a financial perspective to recruit for this as a full time, permanent position rather than a contract role. If it’s short term, check first whether there is anybody internally who might have the skills that you’re looking for.
Do you need a freelancer or an agency?
If you’ve decided that outsourcing is the way to go, you’ll then be faced with the question of who to hire. There are benefits and disadvantages of working with both agencies and freelancers, and a lot will depend on the type of project. Here’s what you should know.
Outsourcing to freelancers
Hiring a freelancer is a cost-effective way to fill a short-term skills gap or to hire for ad hoc projects. A good example is hiring a contractor designer to work on a piece of marketing collateral. You’re likely to find a range of highly-rated freelance developers who are able to begin your project right away. Good places to search for them include: upwork.com and peopleperhour.com. A major benefit of hiring freelancers is that the contract with them can be as long as you want it to be, and usually it’s task-based.
Outsourcing to agencies
Outsourcing to an agency can mean a longer-term relationship, as many agencies operate on a retainer basis. The major benefit here is that you’re tapping into a greater pool of expertise. If you’re looking for ongoing support with your PR for example, an agency will likely be your best bet, as it has a team of people that will have the right skills and press contacts to bring your charity the coverage that you’re looking for. Likewise, if you’re looking to build an app, you’ll have all the developers, designers, UX experts and testers in one place. But you should bear in mind that the costs are usually considerably higher than hiring a contractor or recruiting for a full-time staff member.
How to select the right contractor or agency
With short-term contractors, one of the big risks is the fact that you have limited knowledge of their skills and expertise. Unlike a recruitment process, where you have the ability to thoroughly assess a candidate, here you’re agreeing to a contract with little certainty about the output. Therefore it’s highly important to do your research and pay plenty of attention to feedback from past clients. It’s also a good idea to ask the freelancer for their portfolio, or links to past projects.
The same is true of an agency, but in this case, if it’s likely that the relationship will be a longer one, there are also other factors that you should consider.
Once you’ve made a shortlist of potential partners, it is worth looking at your skills gap analysis and researching whether the agency can definitely fill all these gaps. It’s important to pay close attention to both the types of projects they’ve previously undertaken and the types of clients they’ve previously worked with to identify any similarities to your charity’s requirements. It might seem obvious, but if you’re looking at hiring a PR agency, make sure you select one with strong experience in the charity sector and connections with all the right journalists. Read LinkedIn articles, Glassdoor feedback and any other platforms that will tell you more about the agency.
Finding a good cultural fit
Ensuring that your prospective agency is the right cultural fit is also a very important element of the selection process. Find out whether there is likely to be a language barrier, or whether time zones might affect your work. Ask about the types of communication platforms that they use and how regularly they check in with clients. You also want to get a sense of whether they will offer you the level of attention that you need.
Be rewarded for your efforts with thorough research
Do your homework now and reap the rewards later. Any future working relationship, be it long or short term, needs to work for you and bring you value for money. That’s why it’s worth minimising the risk and doing some in-depth research. Good luck!