Elance predicts 2013 will be the year of the "freelancer"That's great, right? I mean you'll be able to have bits and pieces of work done for your business at affordable prices. Not only must you not wrestle with the time to add FTEs, and the full loaded cost, but prices among freelancers will drop as competition and ubiquity/talent marketplaces lead to market efficiency.
Imagine not hesitating to create a new brochure; or having tweaks made to your wordpress site code. All done quickly for short money. Awesome!
But there's an ugly underbelly to this trend - the implications to your business development strategies.
Immediate ease vs. long-term focusSo as more freelancers hang out virtual shingles you'll have an easier time checking tasks off your list. But what happens when it becomes so easy to jump from task to task? In many cases suddenly tasks become the focus. And as a result the "big picture" strategy is compromised.
Take B2B marketing for instance. As the economy slows companies typically reduce their marketing spend. Many B2B companies have limited budgets anyway - mostly trade show and magazine marketing as an adjunct to a direct sales focus. But with cheap freelance talent available, there's an option to avoid abandoning efforts.
The SEO freelancer that can drop a couple meta tags into your website page code will speak with a mystical authority that lends credibility...but does she even have a clue about how SEO has evolved into a pervasive element throughout B2B marketing strategies now?
The designer that can create a couple cool logo concepts conveys artistic energy...but is likely ignorant of design's evolving (and somewhat diminishing) role in marketing. As customer experience and ease of use become drivers, and content marketing preeminent, sexy design can be a distraction.
Or how about the blog writer that produces 500 words for $17 based on purported familiarity with your field...but never even inquires about the target personas you intend to reach. Does he help you or hurt you?
And the bigger the goal, the bigger the riskPoorly conceived marketing carries an enormous opportunity cost - the potential leads and sales that are never generated. But the direct exposure is limited to the direct investment.
Global business development is another focus of many companies struggling to grow in a low-growth environment. Here the risks are higher. There is an enormous opportunity cost risk - emerging markets offer lucrative opportunities for substantial, profitable growth, and clumsy attempts to enter those markets reduces any likelihood of realizing those profits.
But there are other direct risks that can be quite expensive. Does that former corporate logistics expert who now consults understand the FCPA implications of customs snafus in target markets?
Does the expert in distribution channel understand the financial implications of how export profits are recognized domestically? (If not it might cost you 65%!)
And does the translator begin to recognize the marketing localization considerations in creating global campaigns?
"Consultants" - Are they freelancers with haughty titles?Maybe - but here's the point. Consultant, freelancer, or employee - The title isn't important. At the end of the day intelligence, creativity, aptitude, experience AND expertise, commitment to being professionally current and leading, and clear understanding of where they "outdrive their headlights" determine business value.
Finding that talent is always a challenge, regardless of the labor model you use.
Here's a thought - the freelancing trend probably means that you can afford higher quality, more experienced talent to support your business than you could otherwise. Picking carefully is the key, but picking and moving ahead is fundamental. The most expensive approach is almost always the DiY stumble along tactic. Don't be silly in 2013!
At Consilium we are proud to be consultants. We didn't just stumble into it, we built it. We've built companies internationally and have the B2B marketing and global business development chops as a result.
Consilium offers evolutionary B2B marketing and global business development advisory services. Our experience and perspective is unique and rare. Contact us to learn how our approach could help drive serious business growth, with a delivery model that is efficient and affordable.