Hiring Help, Nonprofits

Why you should find freelancing help before you need it

In my last post, I talked about scenarios in which it makes sense for nonprofit organizations to hire a freelancer or consultant to help with their communications. Some of those situations–like when you’re facing a vacancy on your team, or it’s your yearly crunch time and you’re scrambling to keep your head above water–require the person you hire to be able to hit the ground running. If you have to invest significant time and effort onboarding a brand-new freelancer (or feel like you have to look over their shoulder through the whole project), you’re canceling out the value they can bring to your organization.

Don’t wait until you’re in the deep end to figure out where you keep the life preserver. Photo by Stefano Zocca on Unsplash

This is why I recommend all small communications teams keep in touch with a freelancer long before they hit a crisis, and why I myself work so hard to build relationships and establish a track record of dependability with my own clients.

The thought of hiring a complete stranger to help you in a serious crunch time can be so daunting that many organizations don’t tap into this resource and end up scrambling internally to make do when they could be strategically investing in a trusted expert to help them not just survive but triumph.

The thought of hiring a complete stranger to help you in a serious crunch time can be so daunting that many organizations don’t tap into this resource and end up scrambling internally to make do when they could be strategically investing in a trusted expert to help them not just survive but triumph.

That doesn’t mean you have to establish a retainer or find a huge chunk of money to continually push projects at a freelancer to keep them on your “team.” I am not perpetually engaged with all my clients on active projects, but when they do need extra help, I already have a solid foundation of institutional knowledge to frame the problem they’re seeking to solve. In the long run, this saves them time and money, and takes a lot of worry out of whether we’re going to succeed.

After all, it’s rare that an organization with limited resources is going to commit to investing in outside help unless there are real stakes. In those situations, doesn’t it make sense to be able to call up someone who has come through for you in the past?

How to find a freelancer before you really need one

There are lots of online platforms for hiring freelancers, but unless it’s something you do often, I find it can be an overwhelming and unfulfilling exercise for both hiring organizations and freelancers. Your mileage may vary, but it’s worth considering whether your existing network contains untapped potential for communications consulting.

Here are a few tips for finding that perfect partner who can serve as your crunch time insurance:

  1. Keep in touch with past high-performing employees. Many of my consulting clients started off as employers. In the nonprofit world especially, it’s pretty common for people to take on temporary contract work to help wrap up projects or assist with a transition when they leave an organization. If someone who does great work leaves on good terms, keep in touch. It’s likely they’d be willing to help out from time to time (or, ahem, end up turning it into their full-time career. Hi.)
  2. Ask for referrals among your professional network. Nonprofit organizations exist in an ecosystem, and your colleagues within your community can be an excellent resource for finding reliable contractors. Nonprofit professionals generally love to be of service (and this is an especially low-effort way to help out). Sourcing from your network rather than the big wide world of the Internet means you’re getting introduced to people that have been vetted to some degree by people you know and trust. If you’re active on LinkedIn, post your query there–people usually happy to help you find good people to work with.
  3. Use your existing communications channels to ask your supporters. Include a blurb in your e-newsletter or send a few Tweets. You may find people within your volunteer base or within your social media audience who have the skills you’re seeking and already understand and love your mission.

There you have it. Three quick tips for seeking out communications help before you hit a crisis. Next week, I’ll talk about interviewing potential freelancers and building a relationship (even if you don’t have the budget or immediate need to hire them.)

In the meantime, help your fellow solo communicators and small-team nonprofits find me! Tweet this post or email it to a friend or colleague.  I’m making it my mission to help people like you extend your reach in pursuit of your mission. I’ve got big things planned for 2019 and I’d love to stay in touch.

Featured Image: Photo by Jametlene Reskp on Unsplash

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