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2013

by Paul Spiegelman


Stay off any lists of the worst companies to work for. Here's how.

 

Most of us are focused on learning and improving as leaders.  Whether we've been at it for a year or 20, it is good to get some validation along the way.  While that typically comes in the form of revenue or profit growth, we often look to other measures, like making certain rankings, or pride-generating awards.

 

But there's one list you don't want to wind up on: America's Worst Companies to Work For. These bad companies to work for have several things in common. According to 24/7′s research, which centered on an examination of employee reviews on the job site Glassdoor.com, these companies generally rank poorly in customer satisfaction surveys, they don't offer training or development, and their employees complain about low pay as well as a lack of a promotional track or raises. In some cases, customers even complain about employee mistreatment.

 

The simple reminder here is that happy employees create happy customers and that is reflected in the perception of your business internally and externally.

 

Here's my five simple "Ps" to generate employee happiness and stay off of any worst-companies-to-work-for lists:

 

1. Purpose

Employees must have a sense of purpose that is bigger than the job they're doing.  If they're just clocking in and out for the paycheck, you're losing a huge opportunity.  Create a set of core values they can trust and believe in.

 

2. Pay

You've got to pay your people competitive rates.  You don't have to be the highest in the market, but paying below market or having substandard benefits shows that you care more about your bottom line than your employees.

 

3. Prepare

Most every one of your employees wants to grow and develop.  You have to find a way to train and give them a path toward advancement.

 

4. Promote

Titles are cheap.  And, in many cases, new titles, roles, and responsibilities can have greater impact than a bump in salary.  They make your employees feel good about themselves and their place in the organization.

 

5. Phun

Have a good time!  Find ways to connect family and the workplace--it works wonders--and you'll have a simple, cheap way to strengthen an internal community.

 

No one wants to make a Worst Places to Work list.  It is much more enjoyable (and profitable) to make a Best Places To Work list--and have people knocking down your doors to come work for you.


Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

PTvsFT_Body.jpgby Jen Hickey.

 

 

 

Whether you take on full- or part-time employees or a combination of both depends largely on the needs of your business and cash flow levels. Full-time employees tend to be more fully invested, but they also cost more in compensation and benefits. But part-timers tend to have higher turnover, which carry their own costs. Regardless of the type of employees you have, if they’re all treated as team players and rewarded for their efforts, then you will have a happier and more committed work force.

 

 

 

Definitions of full-time and part-time vary

 

While the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not stipulate what’s full- vs. part-time employment, the U.S. Department of Labor has generally defined full-time as more than 35 hours or more per week and part time as less than 35 hours per week. But it has generally been left up to the employer to determine the number of hours that constitutes full and part time status at their individual place of business. However, beginning in 2014, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (often referred to as ObamaCare) defines a full-time employee as an individual who works 30 hours or more per week or 130 hours per month. So, depending on the size of your business and whether you already offer health insurance to full-time employees, you may have to adjust the hours and/or status of your current employees and/or adjust the hiring practices of future employees.

 

 

 

Consider hiring the right candidate first, then figure out time commitment

 

Ira S. Wolfe has employed full- and part-time workers both while running a family dental practice from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s and as president of Success Performance Solutions, a provider of employment testing and applicant tracking software for small and medium sized businesses, since 1996.

 

 

 

“Hiring the most qualified person should be the top priority,” explains Wolfe. “Insisting on full-time or a set number of hours may preclude you from finding that person.” At his dental practice, Wolfe’s part-time hygienists typically included working mothers and students. As long as there were a set number of people in the office, he left it up to his employees to work out scheduling and coverage with each other. “I trusted my employees with a flexible work schedule and it worked,” notes Wolfe, who returned to the same arrangement in his subsequent company. Wolfe has one full- and one part-time employee at his consulting business, which went virtual in 2008 and now has employees in three states. “I’ve had very low turnover in my businesses,” Wolfe points out.

 

 

 

PTvsFT_PQ.jpgThe benefits question

 

While Wolfe’s part-time employees haven’t all received the same benefits as full-time employees, he has offered them benefits. “Part-time employees should not be treated as second-class citizens,” cautions Wolfe. Employees at his dental practice that worked a minimum of 1,000 hours annually were offered a retirement plan, and all part-timers are pro rated for holiday pay and vacation/sick days and offered performance and non-performance-based year-end bonuses. He further cautions against hiring part-time employees to save on health insurance and retirement benefits. “While it’s a cost, it could be a competitive advantage over businesses that don’t offer such benefits, as it’s a reason to stay,” he notes. According to a study by the Center for American Progress, it typically costs roughly 20 percent of a worker’s annual salary to find their replacement, which is often less than the added costs of health insurance. And depending on the industry and skill set required, it could end up costing a business even more in training time and lost production.

 

 

 

Of course, not every small business owner can afford to offer health or retirement plans to their employees. Leanne Carlson, senior consultant with LivingHR, which offers human resource services to small and medium-sized businesses, instead suggests adopting the concept of “total rewards,” which includes flexible scheduling, working remotely, incentive and wellness programs, and employee participation in decision making. “Such little-to-no cost benefits make employees feel valued.”

 

 

 

Tactics for bringing new hires on board effectively

 

Mitchell Weiss, adjunct professor of finance and board member of the University of Hartford’s Barney School of Business notes: “You should not bring on staff until you consistently have enough business to keep your employees busy.” Weiss, who is also a principal of M.D. Weiss LLC, a consulting firm to the financial services industry and small to mid-sized businesses, recommends streamlining processes before bringing on new staff. While small businesses tend to have flatter organizational structures, sometimes it’s just a matter of redistributing the work flow among current employees.

 

 

 

“Having ‘working’ managers and executives has a profound motivational effect on workplace culture,” Weiss points out. “If the demand is there, look to bring on someone part time with the possibility of taking on more hours or transitioning to full time if business picks up even more.

 

 

 

Run the numbers to understand the financial implications of hiring

 

Similarly, Carlson cautions against hiring full or part time without financial planning. “There are liability costs like worker’s compensation and unemployment and disability insurance to consider as well as compliance with regulations concerning record keeping and hiring practices,” notes Carlson. “You need to make sure you have enough cash flow to grow or at least break even.”

 

 

 

For his part, Wolfe follows a formula to help him determine whether he can bring on full- or part-time employee. “If I hire someone for $20,000, I need to generate $40,000 to break even at a 50-percent margin,” he explains. “While hiring should not be based entirely on numbers, there’s got to be a balance between staffing costs and revenue.” Your business will suffer if it tilts to heavily one way or the other.

 

 

 

Think about creative alternatives: contractors, freelancers, and trial periods

 

Dana Marlowe, principal partner at Silver Springs, Maryland-based Accessibilities Partners, a consulting service that helps government agencies and contractors to ensure compliance with disability laws, has taken a results-driven approach to staffing. “Rather than keeping within the confines of full-time and part-time, my business has had success with people defining their own status,” she explains. As the work is largely project based, Marlowe and her team can project how many full- and part-time employees and 1099s (independent contractors) will be needed. “All the contracts have been signed, so there’s no concern of any slowdown,” notes Marlowe. With long-term, multi-year contracts, they tend to bring on full-time help, depending on the skill set and nature of the work required, and independent freelancers for those shorter term projects if no one is available in house.

 

 

 

Because Accessibilities Partners follows a remote business model, they’ve been able to tap into an often overlooked pool of qualified workers. “Many of our employees who are technological testers and consultants are people with disabilities, which makes travel and communication difficult in a traditional office setting.” This has allowed the company to hire people from all over the country. “We believe in life/work balance,” says Marlowe. “As long as the work gets done on time and on budget, it doesn’t matter what time emails are sent.” This flexible scheduling allows her employees to attend to medical and family needs during “normal” business hours.

 

 

 

Chris King, managing partner of Jupiter, Florida-based Hometown Bridges, LLC, which offers in-class mobile sports education and nutrition programs, has followed a “try it before you buy it” approach to hiring since launching a side business two years ago. After a year of development and four months of testing his product, he brought on a 1099 subcontractor in September 2011. By year’s end, he had secured accounts with six schools. “If I wanted to take on more schools, I knew I needed more help to allow for that growth.” After 60 days, the subcontractor transitioned to full time. Meanwhile, King remained at his full-time job until his new venture was bringing in enough revenue to be viable. His full-time market manager now oversees anywhere from three to six part-time teachers working in 25 schools in Palm Beach County. King has also hired another full-time market manager to handle new accounts in another county and plans to expand into a third market by March 2013. “I will continue to bring on employees based on need and evaluate if I have the volume/finances to keep them on after their contracts are up.”

 

 

 

Not only did this save King money in terms of tax liabilities, it’s like a trial run to see if the person will be a good fit for the company. “It’s a built-in, no-stress exit strategy,” he explains. “While people like the idea of working with kids, not everyone has the knack for it.” King has let go a few 1099 employees because they weren’t interacting with the children naturally or picking up the curriculum. Additionally, one freelancer opted out after her contract period was up. “That’s exactly what I want to happen,” says King. “It’s the ultimate quality control.”

 

 

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and interviewees.  You should consult a qualified HR professional to assist you in developing and implementing sound personnel policies and practices.

by Geil Browning


Genuine appreciation goes a long way. Here's a guide to get the most out of a brief note, no matter who you're thanking.

 

The other day I was given the challenge to recognize 30 people by writing each one of them a note, which got me thinking about the amazing implications of recognizing employee's contributions. It shows you are paying attention. It shows you care. It makes people feel valued. And as business guru Tom Peters notes, "People don't forget kindness."

 

The analytical readers among you are already thinking this article is entirely too touchy-feely, so let me add that there is also a self-serving aspect of thanking people. When you recognize the contributions of others, you reinforce the kind of behavior you want to see again. People who feel their efforts are noticed, and their work makes a difference, are more likely to go the extra mile in the future. Leadership is about empowering others to realize their own abilities. Communicate your belief in your people, and watch them rise to meet your expectations.

 

Some of you are now thinking, 'How am I supposed to find the time to write personal notes when I have [insert important obligations]?' Well, I can show you how to thank someone appropriately in eight words or fewer. You can do that. Also, you don't want to be that boss who has her assistant order flowers once a year on each employee's birthday. Save your money. Everybody knows someone else did it for you.

 

When you thank your employees, be prompt. Recognize the kind of effort you want to see again soon. And be spontaneous. Don't wait for a holiday or company-wide event to thank your employees. Of course, be specific, too.

 

Our research at Emergenetics indicates that most employees would enjoy a personal thank-you note, but they want it customized to them. For example, to say, 'You're doing a good job,' is fine for a "social" thinker, but a "structural" thinker doesn't trust you unless you add a specific task he has accomplished.

 

So how can you most effectively thank and recognize your employees, based on their individual personalities and traits?

 

Here are 10 tips, according to brain research:

 

1. People who are at the gregarious end of the "expressiveness" spectrum use their gift of gab as a work asset. You might write to them: 'I celebrate how you share your enthusiasm,' or 'Thanks for keeping the lines of communication open.'

 

2. People who are on the quieter end of the "expressiveness" spectrum appreciate one-on-one contact with you. You could say: 'Mary, I prize your well-considered solutions,' or 'I appreciate your respectful attitude toward everyone.'

 

3. Those employees who are forceful in terms of "assertiveness" especially appreciate the prompt response from you. You could let them know: 'Thank you for keeping the momentum going!' or 'I appreciate your decisive action.'

 

4. But those who are more easygoing when it comes to "assertiveness" want everyone to get along. You might say: 'Thank you for helping to keep the peace,' or, 'I appreciate your amiability more than you know.'

 

5. When it comes to "flexibility," staffers who are change-seekers don't get flustered easily. You might write: 'I recognize your easy resilience' or 'Thanks for how you handled [difficult client].'

 

6. On the other end of the "flexibility" spectrum is people who are focused and have strong opinions. You might jot down: 'I depend on your support,' or 'I honor you for your convictions.'

 

7. Analytical thinkers value intelligence and individual, rather than team, recognition. To them, you might note: 'I appreciate your penetrating questions,' or 'I respect the depth of your knowledge.'

 

8. Structural-minded folks want to hear details. You could let them know: 'Thank you for transferring all that data perfectly,' or 'You always meet your deadlines--impressive!'

 

9. Since social thinkers want to please you, you ought to write them: 'I am so grateful for your teambuilding skills,' or, 'I couldn't have done it without you.'

 

10. Those on your team who are conceptual by nature want to feel unique. You could let them know: 'Your solution to the XYZ problem was stunning,' or 'I treasure your creative long-term views.'

 

The power of sincere thanks cannot be overestimated. And when you become a master of employee recognition, you can start thanking your clients, too!


Article provided by Inc.com. ©Inc.

Raises_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Giving raises to employees has gotten more challenging over the past few years due to the dramatic upheavals in the overall economy. While there are some signs that conditions are improving and a recovery is underway, bumping up the salary of workers is still a complicated issue for some businesses. The easiest option is to simply postpone them, but is that the wisest action to take for the long-term health of your business? Here are three perspectives on how to think about the importance of employee raises.

 

Improves employee morale

Contrary to what you might think, raises are much more than simple financial transactions. Awarding pay increases can reverberate through an organization, pumping up spirits, and boosting productivity. "The first thing I tell business owners is that you need to keep morale up," says Rebecca "Kiki" Weingarten, a career and executive coach and co-founder of Atypical Coaching. "A raise will show that the employee is appreciated and that what they bring to the company is valuable."

 

This feeling is usually more acute in small businesses rather than large corporations, Weingarten notes, because owners are likely to interact with their employees more closely. "When you need a little extra effort, employees are going to be there for you because they feel that you've been there for them," Weingarten says. "These are the people who won't take off when they have a sniffle. It's amazing what a little good feeling will do."

 

Information and transparency about company policies are key to alleviating problems preemptively, Weingarten adds. A clear statement about how raises are determined can remove a lot of the questions employees secretly have and reduce their anxiety. Small business owners can give themselves wiggle room and relieve some of their own pressure, too. For example, the policy can state that yearly raises may be suspended due to a severe economic downturn or some other unforeseen calamity. The important thing is that employees know in advance what to expect.

 

"Think of it like a partnership," Weingarten says. "You have answered the question for them preemptively." Instead of stressing over their salary, employees will more likely channel that nervous energy into focusing on their work.

 

Encourages flexibility among workers

Clearly stated company policies on raises might work for some businesses, but not for all. Some small businesses have found success with a less formal, but surprisingly effective and personal way of handling pay increases. Case in point: Dinovite, a Kentucky-based manufacturer of all-natural pet products, founded in 2001 by Cindy Lukacevic and her husband, Ed.

 

Dinovite has 17 full-time employees, and the business is currently testing using temporary workers during peak periods. Full-timers are cross-trained to be able to handle different parts of the business—for example, a member of the marketing team may be pulled to work on the production line—and are expected to be flexible team players.

 

Raises_PQ.jpg"We hire rock stars who desire the best for Dinovite and come up with great ideas," Cindy says. "These are great people who take processes and make them better. We're asking for your brain and for you to give input. We look for people who are innovative and creative and enthusiastic. Those are the types of things we give raises for."

 

For example, when a key team member had to be replaced, Lukacevic knew who she wanted to move into that position—but she didn't want the employee giving up her existing responsibilities because she was doing such a good job. "So she kind of took on two hats and created this unique, eclectic type position. In return, she did get a raise," Cindy says. "She filled this huge hole, and it worked out really well for us."

 

Lukacevic and her husband set the pace at Dinovite, and they will quickly pitch in wherever and whenever the work needs to be done. Such flexibility makes them familiar with what's going on in the lives of their employees, and gives them the chance to intervene early in difficult situations. In one instance, an employee at the company was forced to take a second job because her family was splitting up. Lukacevic didn't want to see her work two jobs, so she gave her more money. "She's absolutely worth it. It filled a need in her life, and we were able to do it," Lukacevic admits.

 

For 2013, Dinovite is looking at implementing some kind of incentive program for employees. "When we're highly profitable, so is everybody," Lukacevic says.

 

Shows your appreciation in different ways

Like Dinovite, Paloma Clothing—a womens' clothing, jewelry, and accessories store in Portland, Oregon—doesn't have a formally stated policy on raises. But that doesn't drive employees away. In fact, it's just the opposite: employee retention has been at an all-time high for the past five years.

 

"We try to give employees what we call a three-percent cost-of-living raise every year when their annual review is up," says Mike Roach, co-owner of Paloma Clothing along with his wife. "We'll do bigger raises selectively where some employee has stepped up to greater responsibilities or given particularly outstanding performance. In the last six years, we've been largely preemptive by simply doing an annual review. Everybody knows when their review month is."

 

Roach emphasizes that it's important to give employees something to show your appreciation, even when times are rough. He was forced to put raises on hold during the worst of the recession in 2008–2009. In lieu of a cash bonus, he has given employees the equivalent of a gift certificate for store clothing and added extra vacation days to their allotment.

 

"Instead of thinking of yourself as the owner of the business, think of yourself as the coach of your employees," Roach suggests. "Recognize anything good that your employees do. That'll help them do more of it because they know you notice it."

by Jeff Haden


You ask a ton of questions. Your process is exhaustive -- and exhausting. And that might be your problem.

 

When you're hiring a new employee, focusing on evaluating the “total candidate” is the last thing you should do.

 

Literally.

 

Think about your hiring process. You work hard to find and select the right candidate. Not only do you evaluate skills and experience, you ask a lot of questions to determine if the candidate possesses qualities like attention to detail, interpersonal skills, leadership ability, problem-solving skills, etc.

 

Your process is exhaustive and, well, exhausting.

 

Still, while many of the people you hire turn out to be good employees, sadly few of them turn out to be what you really need: great employees.

Why? You took the job description approach to hiring.

 

Think about most job descriptions. They list a wide variety of qualifications the employee should possess. Typically, attributes like “self motivated,” “able to work with minimal supervision,” “able to prioritize and handle multiple tasks,” and “able to work well alone or as a member of a team,” are included.

 

So what do you do? You evaluate candidates with those requirements in mind. The candidate that ticks the most boxes is usually selected—and you hire good when you need great.

 

Now think about the great employees you know. Some are well rounded, some are not, but all have at least at least one incredible skill. They do at least one thing, one critical thing, so well that people are willing—even happy—to overlook some of their deficiencies. They may not “take a collaborative approach to problem solving,” but boy do they make your fulfillment facility sing.

 

In short, a great employee has what you really need. All other attributes on the job description, while important, still pale in comparison.

Next time you hire an employee, set the job description aside and take this approach instead.

 

1. Determine what you really need. Forget about finding a “well-rounded employee” (whatever that is). If you could only pick one or two attributes, what are the most important skills or qualities you need?

 

Keep in mind those attributes will often change depending on your current needs and the skills your other employees possess. Ignore the job description. Get a blank piece of paper and write down what you really need the employee you hire to do.

 

2. Decide what you really don’t need. When you’re ticking off boxes on a list of qualifications it’s easy to forget that you simply can’t live with some attributes, regardless of how solid the candidate otherwise appears. Complete this sentence about a theoretical employee: "I don't care how great she is, I would still let her go because she ________." Those are your no-go attributes. Never lose sight of them.

 

3. Do a first pass. Set aside any candidate that doesn’t have what you really need. Don’t be tempted by the, “Wow, she really has a wide range of skills,” candidate. If she doesn’t bring the one or two attributes you really need, she’ll be a good employee, but she’s not likely to be great.

 

4. Conduct highly focused interviews. Spend 10 percent of your time assessing general qualities and 90 percent of your time ensuring the candidate truly has what you need. Dig in. Ask for examples. Ask lots of follow-up questions. Write everything down.

 

Then check references and use your notes to help you ask specific questions. Sure, some companies won’t provide any information, but many—especially small businesses—will. (Many will say they are not allowed to give out information about previous employees. When that happens, say, “I understand. I’m just really worried I might a mistake. Can you just say, if you were me, whether you would hire him?” You'll be surprised by how many people will want to help you out with a whispered "yes" or "no.")

 

Then, if two or three candidates are still in the hunt...

 

5. Assess the “total employee.” If a few candidates appear relatively equal in terms of what you really need, then decide which one best meets your other, more subjective criteria. Conduct a second interview if necessary. Or let other employees interview the remaining candidates.

 

At this point you can afford to evaluate “nice to have” qualities because you’ve done everything possible to identify candidates that have the attributes you truly need.

 

Article provided by Inc.com. © Inc.


Freelancers_Body.jpgby Robert Lerose.

 

Freelancers in the workplace are nothing new. Businesses have consistently relied on them under a variety of circumstances: to handle the overflow in a company's workload, to step in when key members of an organization take time off for vacation or maternity leave, or to provide a fresh perspective on a project. The game changer in this working relationship is technology. Today, thanks to the digital revolution, freelancers can specialize in many more services than a generation ago, and businesses can literally search the world for the best resources for their needs.

 

Still, even though the Internet has broadened the field for both sides, a measure of due diligence and open communication is recommended to forge a stable working relationship. We called on three experts from different realms of the freelance world to share their perspectives on working with outside service providers.

 

Get more done with a virtual assistant

A virtual assistant (VA) is generally someone who provides creative, technical, or administrative services from a remote, or offsite, location. Besides handling traditional chores such as transcribing and coordinating meeting schedules, today's VAs can give more hands-on support. For example, a VA can go through and prioritize your email before you wake up in the morning. They can write your blog posts, look after your Twitter and Facebook accounts, even update your website regularly.

 

Freelancers_PQ.jpg"They can do everything but bring your coffee," says Tawnya Sutherland, founder of VAnetworking, a social network for virtual assistants that she launched in 2003. "Once you work with them, you can outsource different things to clear up your schedule, so you can do things you love to do—whether it's marketing your product or producing more product, or whatever it is."

 

Evaluating a VA is no different than hiring a permanent, onsite employee, Sutherland says. Small businesses should check out the potential candidates’ websites, ask for references, and, of course, interview them—either over the phone or through webcam technology, such as Skype. Small business owners can also go through a network like Sutherland’s that lets them post requests on a job board.

 

A common mistake among small business owners is not maintaining clear, regular communications with their VAs. "If you're hiring them for five hours a month, you don't need a once a week meeting," Sutherland says. "But if you've got a fulltime VA, you need to be in contact with them, whether it's through texting, Skype, or a project management system."

 

The amount of contact is "a personal preference" that is hammered out between the VA and the client, according to Sutherland, depending on factors such as personality types, the number of work hours reserved, and the scope of the projects themselves. For example, hiring a VA to design a new website will likely require more contact than transcribing a recording.

 

Fees for virtual assistants are across the board, depending on their experience, type of services offered, and length of term. For example, you might be able to negotiate a discount rate for a VA who is on a monthly retainer. Other VAs offer package deals, such as writing a certain number of blog posts, editing and posting them, finding pictures for them, and handling comments—all for a fixed price.

 

"You're getting a full hour's work," Sutherland says. "If they get up to go to the washroom, they're not charging you for that time. What takes a secretary two to three hours to do with all the interruptions, a VA can do in an hour."

 

Distinguish your company with a graphic designer

Freelancers who provide creative services—such as copywriting or design—have always been prominent

in business, advertising, and marketing circles. Small businesses can find hidden benefits in working with them, such as getting an objective perspective on an inhouse project.

 

"It's good to have a fresh outlook," says Carrie Scherpelz, freelance graphic designer and sole proprietor of Design that gets results, based in Madison, Wisconsin. "[Creative freelancers] can help your business stand out and communicate well."

 

With a strong background in direct response, it's no surprise that Scherpelz is big on results when it comes to small businesses evaluating the work of freelance designers. For example, asking the designer how an ad performed or the number of responses that a brochure generated can help determine if they're right for your company.

 

Scherpelz collaborates closely with clients, especially new ones, to get a sense of what they want in a design. She'll give them samples to see what they like and what works for them, and then use those as a starting point before tackling an assignment.

 

"I don't believe in a big, glitzy presentation of three ideas that the client chooses from. Instead, I believe in rough sketches back and forth [to find] what they like. Then, I'll combine them in our second round into something. That way, it goes faster and you get a result that everyone's happy with."

 

For example, she recently submitted a wide range of logo roughs to a client, who told her by email that he didn't like any of them. Instead of replying by email, Scherpelz called the client and talked through the designs over the phone. During the call, the client realized that there was a logo that was close to what he wanted. Scherpelz added one word to the design and the client was satisfied. "It was kind of a mutual problem-solving exercise," she says. "It turned out there was even one in the first round of roughs that was very acceptable. But you have to get on the phone and say, 'What are you looking for? What are the specific things?' It can't just be through email."

 

Build your business with a bookkeeper

Like other outside service providers, freelance bookkeepers bring a fresh set of eyes that can help a business prosper beyond merely recordkeeping.

 

"As a business owner, you have so much going on in your head that it's really hard to see certain things in your financial setup that a freelancer can," says Susan Osborne, founder of SheBuildsABusiness, an online resource for solopreneurs.

 

She found that one of her small business clients was paying $50 a month for website hosting. Osborne created a new website for her and moved her to an $8-a-month hosting service. For another client who manufactures a diaper bag product, Osborne identified ways to increase her revenues and trim unnecessary costs. For example, she was able to cut her client's monthly cell phone bill from $200 to $160 by finding a plan with fewer bells and whistles.

 

"Like most small business owners, [my client was] so busy that she didn't have the time to look closely and think about these things," Osborne says. "But as the freelance bookkeeper, I do have the time. That's my job."

 

Whether your freelancer takes such an active role in your financial operations or not, it's imperative that you stay involved and refrain from turning over too much control. For example, business owners should still sign all checks and have the sole authority of moving money around from one account to another.

 

Osborne says that the accounting software can be handled in different ways. In most cases, the small business will supply the software—QuickBooks, she says, seems to be the preferred bookkeeping/accounting program—to the freelancer. In other cases, such as when the freelancer wants files stored in a cloud-based environment—which usually costs about $35 to $50 a month—some bookkeepers will work that into their fee and then handle paying for it themselves.

Many bookkeepers charge hourly rates ranging from $25 to $70. Freelancers who regularly handle a company's books can charge between $250 and $500 a month, according to Osborne. Business owners who want guidance beyond standard bookkeeping typically seek out a financial adviser or CPA, she says.

 

"Look at this relationship as a partnership or collaboration with another professional," Osborne says. "I approach it as how I can help them run their business better."

 

Where to find freelance help

In addition to the resources cited above, small business owners can also check out these sources of freelance help:

 

Elance: Businesses can post job requests for free, but they're charged a commission of between 6.75 percent and 8.75 percent of the project fee, payable upon approval of the work. Mostly for creative services and IT-related jobs.

 

Guru: Markets itself as providing technical, creative, and business specialists. Freelancers are charged both membership and transaction fees to be matched to the right business project. 

 

Freelancer: Bills itself as the largest outsourcing marketplace in the world with over 6 million service providers where freelancers bid on assignments.

 

oDesk: Lets you post jobs, in either a public or private forum, and interview freelancers for free, but charges a 10 percent commission on the fee for assigned projects.

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