Every major entrepreneur has an army of people behind them, right? So how do you grow your business as a solopreneur while keeping your fixed overheads down?
When I left investment banking to launch my own business, I worked day and night to get it off the ground. However, there just weren’t enough hours in a day. Instead of adding large salary bills to my overheads, I chose the more flexible freelancer route, which allows me to pay for talent and solutions on a per-project basis.
Many business owners have gone this route and crashed and burned, never to dip their toe in the water again. However, if you get it right, using freelancers is an affordable way to access a growing source of talent across the Internet.
Running my business and not having the business run me
My businesses run with 95% of my staff as freelancers. The ability to hire top specialists for a specific piece of work when I want, how I want, is what I need to keep up with the market. It also frees me up to do what I do best, which is interacting with clients and growing my business.
The best part about utilising the freelancer marketplace is that it’s all on demand. You’re busy? Okay, you hire and when business is slower you don’t. No insurance, office space, rent or infrastructure, keeping those fixed overhead costs down and thus growing your bottom line.
The biggest fear I had when starting to outsource was the misuse of financial or confidential information. Fortunately, this is very rare in the market place. If it’s a huge concern, my advice would be to use a freelancer firm rather than a solo operator.
It costs a little more, but if your freelancer is sick, someone else in the team takes over. As an employer, you are protected and you get what you paid for. With fixed-price projects, there are no upfront payments either. You pay upon completion of the job or milestone.
Choosing what to outsource
So what should you outsource? Freelancers possess a wide array of skills, from web design to social media marketing, writing, app development, Internet research — almost anything your business could be in need of.
Time-consuming tasks or simple technical tasks like data input are great starting projects. Do not outsource important things that require your human touch.
Using a firm is also best for regular hourly work across weeks and months, such as virtual PA tasks or regular blogging. If you have once-off projects or small tasks, my preference is a solo operator, for example, someone who you can approach with a brief to ‘create me a banner design for my new marketing email’.
How and where do I start?
1. Eliminate before you delegate
Don’t hire virtual assistants to schedule meetings. It’s a waste of time and money. There are several apps that will integrate with your calendar and your client can use a link to schedule time with you.
2. Per hour isn’t the ultimate cost
If you have to manage an inexperienced freelancer, you have to factor your hourly rate in too. Generally, for small to medium tasks, I use a fixed price for the job, not an hourly rate.
To gauge how much to pay, work out how long the task should take, researching what those skills are per hour on your chosen site.
For bigger projects, use specific milestones. It reassures the freelancer that they will get paid and motivates them to keep working, then check up on their progress.
3. Remote vs. local
I prefer freelancers in India for web work and simple technical work, using local (that is native speaking freelancers) for written, speaking work. Use time zones wisely.
If I need something urgent overnight, the US and India are working while we are sleeping. If you need to brief something in the morning for later that day, find someone in your time zone.
4. The biggest challenge is letting go
I found this incredibly difficult until I was honest with myself: Most of my team are hired for what I do badly, or to complete work to a standard that I can’t. It’s also refreshing to know that while I sleep my team are working during their time zones.
5. Pay attention to your job posting
Make sure your job posting has the project/task overview, timeline, freelancer responsibilities, qualification/skill-set requirements and a clear ultimate goal. Be specific in your communication, especially when hiring overseas with language barriers.
I include questions to make sure I am being understood, such as, ‘tell me what experience you have and why you feel you are a great fit for this project?’ A lot of freelancers have a blanket reply for jobs. When I see one of these I discount them. If they can’t reply relevantly, they aren’t going to complete my job accurately.
6. Interview your freelancers, even if it’s a chat message or a Skype call
I like to make contact with every new freelancer before I award the job. Ask questions like, ‘what projects have you worked on that are similar to mine? Can you send me an example of something similar you have worked on?’
7. Pay attention to client feedback
This is invaluable in hiring the right freelancer. Gone are the days of having to call and check references.
Most sites provide feedback/ratings from other employers; amount of hours worked and percentage of completed jobs. You even have the ability to see the freelancer’s test results for sites that test their workforce skills.
Fine-tuning your off-site workforce
Here are a few dos and don’ts when you hire your first freelancer:
- DO provide an accurate and thorough job description with appropriate pay. Many sites restrict how many jobs freelancers can apply to within a set time period; a vague job description may hinder how applicants bid.
- DO set clear expectations. Make sure your freelancer knows the quality of work expected, deadlines and what will happen if the work does not meet standards or is late.
- DO start small and work up to bigger tasks or projects until you build trust with your freelancers.
- DON’T discredit inexperienced freelancers. Sure, experienced freelancers often carry less risk, but they also carry a higher price tag. If you have the time to properly feel out and interview a newbie, you can usually get great results for a great price.
- DON’T hire someone you don’t feel comfortable with. Some freelancers outsource their work to others. Take the time you need to feel comfortable with whomever you are going to hire and mention that they cannot outsource your work without approval.
- DON’T ask your freelancer to work for free on the first job with the promise of more work in the future. Instead, tell them it’s a trial run between them and a couple of others. If they complete the paid job to your satisfaction they will be rewarded with more work. Pay a fair wage overseas; India and the East range between $6 and $12 (USD) per hour, US/UK costs range from $10 to $25 per hour. You can hire someone for $3 per hour, but evaluate if the low cost affects the output.
Temporary Employment Service Providers Underpin IPP Economic Development Goals
Preference will be given to Independent Power Producer projects valued at R56 billion that possess a plant technology and location that contributes to local economic development.
“Independent Power Producer (IPP) projects will provide 61 600 full-time jobs,” stated Energy Minister, Jeff Radebe, while announcing the plan for 27 new renewable energy plant projects to be rolled out under the IPP programme.
This is an excellent and beneficial initiative. However, the fact that many of the skills will be required only on a temporary or project basis during the construction and setting up of each facility, may pose a challenge for IPPs looking to get started.
Sean Momberg, Managing Director of Workforce Staffing, says that IPP projects stand to benefit from consulting experienced Temporary Employment Service (TES) providers. “IPP projects require a significant investment in human capital, which becomes more complex and time-consuming by having to source local staff,” he explains.
“Once the main contractor is appointed, they are responsible for sourcing skilled staff and suppliers for the duration of the construction and commissioning phases. A TES provider can significantly reduce the workload, by managing all human resources and industrial relations for them.”
Building an alternative power plant is a lengthy process. The 27 projects mentioned have spent approximately two years in this sign-off period and, now that they have been approved, IPPs need to work quickly to get the ball rolling. From civil work and environmental impact assessments, to mechanical, engineering, electrical and physical site building — each project requires a varied and vast number of skills.
“TES providers go beyond providing temporary and project-based staff,” says Tebogo Moalusi, National IR Director at Workforce Staffing. With unions such as NUMSA protesting against IPP projects, even though job losses due to coal mine closures were unrelated to the introduction of IPPs, TES providers’ expertise in managing union relationships can prove a valuable aid to IPPs.
“IPP projects commonly face hinderances like demarcation disputes,” adds Tebogo. “A reputable TES provider understands local economic development as well as relationship management and works with both local employment providers, the community and unions to mitigate concerns.”
IPP projects often involve investment from international players and communication between international and local parties. Sean says that TES providers assist in breaking down these communication barriers, focusing on the importance of local job creation, while ensuring that international standards are maintained.
“TES providers assess local catchment areas keeping fair processes in mind. This takes procurement into account, and sourcing of local equipment, accommodation, transport and catering is all considered,” he says.
Frequently with international parties, payment terms are set at 90 days from invoice. Sean stresses that this is not sustainable in local environments, where suppliers and staff don’t have the financial capacity to work within those terms. A reputable TES provider has the financial capacity to ensure that payment demands are met weekly or monthly, based on local requirements.
A focused approach
“A TES provider’s focus remains employment. Although the IPP’s goal is to complete their project on time and within budget, TES providers have the experience and knowledge to provide employment and procurement solutions that underpin the IPP’s objectives, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free project roll out,” Sean concludes. n
Temporary Employment Services’ part in minimising IPP job losses
- Onsite training and skills courses upskill temporary project workers.
- Skills transfer helps ensure future employability.
- Entrepreneurial skills development fostered for post-project maintenance contract work.
Workers obtain marketable skills they can add to their CV.
Is Your Critical Illness Cover Keeping Up With The Times?
Critical illness cover was originally the brainchild of a forward-thinking surgeon who noticed more and more patients were struggling to make ends meet after recovering from life-threatening conditions.
Critical illness cover was originally the brainchild of a forward-thinking surgeon who noticed more and more patients were struggling to make ends meet after recovering from life-threatening conditions. This increase was driven by medical advances, which drove a spike in survival rates – and its consequential recovery costs – something that old school insurance policies did not factor into their products. And while we all know the medical field continues to move forward through innovation, it’s important to ask yourself: has your cover kept up?
Medical advances during the 1960s and 70s didn’t just lead to an increase in patients’ life expectancies, but it also led to financial difficulties for many survivors of critical illnesses and –injuries. Many of these patients were faced with rehabilitation costs and additional expenses caused by lifestyle and/or professional adjustments they had to make to stay on the road to recovery, and they struggled to make ends meet.
Dr Marius Barnard, brother of the famous Dr Christiaan Barnard and respected surgeon in his own right, identified an opportunity to provide these patients with risk cover for these needs. He partnered with a life insurer in 1983, and critical illness cover was born.
Initially covering only four major conditions, medical advances soon enabled the expansion of critical illness cover to many more conditions, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, paraplegia, major burns and brain damage. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise have increased the likelihood of critical illness claims, but the claims are becoming less severe, thanks to improved medical techniques for the treatment and detection of life-threatening conditions.
Where does critical illness fit into your financial plan?
While medical and, possibly, gap cover can make provision for medical expenses, critical illness cover is instrumental in covering any gaps and providing for lifestyle changes that result from conditions like paraplegia, like the expenses involving alterations to a home to be wheelchair-friendly.
Many medical aid schemes may also exclude certain treatments or not cover them in full, or you might have reached your annual limit. In these instances, critical illness cover may just come to the rescue.
Considering all the scenarios where critical illness products have the potential to come into play, it’s important to ask yourself how forward-thinking the insurance you signed up for really is. Does your insurer factor in the latest treatments, and have they adjusted the range of conditions they provide cover for to keep up with the latest medical research and survival rates?
How many conditions are covered?
Start by obtaining the list of conditions covered by your critical illness policy, because the number of conditions covered vary from company to company. There are life insurance providers that provide cover for over 300 conditions, while some assurers cover fewer than 100 conditions. Some life cover providers also take into account the treatment, clinical impact and effect of an illness, which ensures protection for as yet undiagnosed conditions – this is the kind of cover you should be signing up for.
How do the pay-outs work?
You should also consider the pay-out structure and/or –options of your critical illness policy. There are policies with pay-out options that are helpful for conditions that involve large expenses initially, followed by smaller amounts over a number of months. Importantly, you should be allowed to make certain choices about how your cover should pay out at claim stage, when you know what your physical and financial needs are.
What about smaller events, like accidents?
Forward thinking life cover providers have also identified a need for financial protection in instances where you might have less critical, but still traumatic illnesses or injuries and spent little or no time in hospital.
Just think about the myriad of costs involving corrective procedures, medical aid co-pays, hospital costs, rehabilitation, assistive devices, physiotherapy, wound care, nursing and surgery costs – not to mention being unable to earn an income while you recover from a serious illness or injury. Many of these expenses might be typically incurred just because you aren’t fully covered by medical aid schemes and gap cover products.
Innovations like cover that precisely matches your needs are done in the same spirit of innovation and matching the needs of patients as we saw with Dr Marius Barnard. So before signing up for, or selling your next critical illness policy, ask yourself: Does my cover provider do the same?
- Schalk Malan is the CEO of BrightRock, provider of the first ever needs-matched life insurance that changes as your life changes.
Keys To Simplify Payroll Compliance
Human resources departments across the country cite compliance as one of the top challenges they face. As an SME owner, it’s up to you to ensure that your company’s personnel business practices adhere to the current laws.
Keeping accurate records to document your company’s compliance is just the beginning, says Ania Strydom, Compliance Specialist at Sage.
1. Why is payroll compliance so important?
Payroll is the biggest expense for most employers. Employers must comply with all labour and tax laws that govern the payroll to avoid financial and legal risks and to protect the employees and the business. The risks of getting it wrong include:
- Interest or fines by authorities
- Imprisonment in cases of fraud or extreme negligence.
Payroll fraud is one of the most common white-collar crimes in the business world; what’s more, inaccurate payments and non-compliance can cost a business dearly.
2. What are the implications for staff if a company is non-compliant?
The payroll is one of the most crucial links in the employee-employer relationship. Late or inaccurate wage and salary payments, or inaccurate calculations of other earnings (such as overtime), deductions (such as PAYE and UIF), and contributions (such as retirement fund or UIF contributions) can be extremely damaging to the morale of the workforce.
By law, every employee is entitled to a payslip and tax certificate (IRP5/IT3(a)). Employees need payslips for purposes such as applying for personal or home loans. Accurate and easy to understand payslips will boost employee satisfaction and trust in the company, with a positive impact on business performance.
What’s more, employers must make sure UIF contributions are correct so that employees get the full amount they are entitled to if they need to claim.
3. How will the company’s growth prospects be affected if the company is non-compliant?
While an efficient payroll system enhances staff morale and boosts an organisation’s reputation, mistakes in record-keeping and compliance can result in punitive penalties and hurt the company’s brand. Compliance mistakes with payroll can be expensive and potentially catastrophic which subsequently results in business risks.
4. How can a business ensure it is payroll compliant?
South African tax regulations and labour laws are and continue to be more complex. Keeping track of all the payroll legislative requirements can be challenging, but the risks of non-compliance are high and businesses can no longer rely on spreadsheets and other manual methods to do their calculations, report and file returns.
Automated solutions are becoming more essential for keeping reliable records, reporting and performing accurate payroll calculations.
The package you choose should:
- Be tailored for the local tax law, labour law and regulatory environment
- Manage all the complex calculations and regulatory reporting the business must do timeously
- Feature automated updates to ensure the company always processes on the latest software and legislative version.
This will ensure it avoids censure, fines, penalties, interest and/or imprisonment as a result of non-compliance.
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