Help From Outside

A freelancer may be the best bet to bring in the right expertise for a project.

Experts say freelancing will become more prominent during the next decade, and there are numerous ways this type of labor can improve efficiency on the farm, Image by Tom Dodge

Farmers are known for being innovative, working with what they have to get the job done. Whether it’s finding the extra expertise on crop nutrition or specialty equipment fabricated to fit their farms, farmers tend to know who to call. But, as your operation works to improve efficiency and maximize resources, specialty talent is often needed for specific projects. Where do you go to create specialty technology equipment or to develop a custom app that tracks critical data for your farm?

Freelancers to the rescue. A freelancer simply offers his or her services on a project and/or hourly basis with no expectation of long-term work. Within 10 years, experts predict, the number of freelancers will encompass more than 50% of the workforce. That doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will be freelancing full-time, but more than half the workforce will be freelancing in some capacity. You will find experts in most areas of business, and there has even been a more recent movement on senior-level and C-suite freelancers. Think part-time CFO.

SPECIAL TALENTS

One way our farm clients have used freelancers in the past is hiring someone to establish and improve Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliance. The individual works to identify areas for improvement and develops safety protocols and procedures.

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Other farms have had contractors develop custom apps that are specific to their farm’s needs. Plenty of farms have utilized freelancers for website development and social media management. You could have someone help with your marketing plan or connect with more landowners to rent ground.

The attraction of a freelancer is on-demand labor with specialty talent that can be hired on an interim basis, typically at a much lower cost than using a larger firm. The success of the project relies on your farm’s ability to clearly identify what outcome you are looking for and your selection of the right freelancer for the project. The first step is to clearly identify and detail the project, including an expected timetable and deliverables needed.

WHERE TO LOOK

There are several places to search for and select individuals by areas of expertise. Freelancer.com and Upwork.com are two sites where you can enter what you are looking for, and the site will showcase different freelancers, their backgrounds, ratings and projects. LinkedIn.com has LinkedIn ProFinder that also serves as a source to find talent on a per-project basis.

You will need to look carefully at the freelancer’s background, including ratings, feedback from other clients and his or her portfolio to see prior successes. You will also want to screen your freelancer, similar to conducting a phone interview, to learn more about them, preferably via video conference. Ideally, you would review their past projects and your current project, and vet how they would go about completing the project.

PROTECT YOURSELF

If you are looking to develop any type of technology app or have an overall business strategy, or other intellectual property you are looking to protect, have freelancers sign a nondisclosure agreement. If you are looking to “test” an individual before you have them work on a larger project, ask them to work on a smaller project with a lot fewer hours to see how they perform and if they are the right fit for the larger project.

Freelancers are a great resource to utilize for small and large projects, and can add talent and expertise on your team. However, just as it is with your full-time labor, you get what you pay for. Do your research to ensure you are hiring at the right level of expertise for the goals and deliverables you are looking to accomplish, and invest the time to ensure you’re working with the right one.

Lori Culler is founder of AgHires (aghires.com), a national employment recruiting service and online ag job board. Email her at lori@aghires.com.

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