Help Wanted: Intern, Employee, or Consultant? How to Know Who You Need for the Job

 

You’re at your wits’ end. Your to-do list is a mile long and growing by the second. You’re waking up earlier every day and going to bed later every night and still there’s always something that’s left undone. All of those big, fun projects you’ve been wanting to implement keep getting pushed to the back burner because you can never get to them. It’s official. You need an extra set of hands in your business and you need them now.
But before you place that ‘help wanted’ ad on Craigslist or in the local paper, ask yourself: who do I really need to get this job done?

Many small business owners instantly think, “I need an intern”. But depending on the type of work you need done, an intern may not only be the wrong answer, it may also cause you more frustration than you’re already experiencing.

Here are some guidelines to help you pick the right person for the job.

You Might Need an Intern if…
· You have little or no money to pay for help
· You don’t mind spending a lot of time training, double-checking work, and possibly, micromanaging
· You’re as interested in being a mentor as you are in having an extra pair of hands
· The work consists mostly of low-value-added tasks like: envelope stuffing, cold calling, appointment setting, errands, and the like
· Your instructions to this worker will most often sound like ,“Go and Do This”

Caveat: While interns may be easy to come by and cost little or nothing, the old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true in this case. Ramp-up time for an intern is usually longer than it would be for a more seasoned worker, and remote-working interns often have the tendency to disappear without a trace. In the best of cases, a good quality intern may evolve over time into an employee; but you shouldn’t expect this right off the bat.

 

You Might Need a Consultant if…
· You have a task or project with a definite start / end date
· You can afford to pay a premium for the work
· The work requires a specialized skill, set of skills, or previous experience
· You don’t mind if they do work for other people while working for you
· You need help figuring out what the work actually is – in other words, you know the problem you have or the goal you want to achieve, but you have little to no idea of how to go about attacking it
· Your instructions to this worker will most often sound like ,“Help Me Figure This Out”

Caveat: Because of their specialized skills and deep experience, consultants will cost you – but the overall spend will probably be less than what you’d pay a full or part-time employee to do the same work. Be upfront about what your budget is. And make sure the consultant provides you an accurate quote that includes estimated time and activities included in their rate. Be very clear about what the criteria for completed or acceptable work is, or you may end up surprised when the project takes longer than either of you anticipated. Compare 2-3 different consultants that do similar work before you decide on the one that you’ll work best with.

 

You Might Need an Employee if…
· You have a recurring task or set of tasks that could be carved out into a separate function – like sales, marketing, or accounting
· You need someone who performs one main function but also can fill in in other areas if you’re not there, or in case of emergencies
· You need someone who focuses only on your work / business; not on yours and other people’s
· You want someone who’s in it for the long haul
· You want to replicate yourself, i.e., you need another one of you in your business
· Your instructions to this worker will most often sound like , “Be Like Me” or, “Do What I Do”

Caveat: Unlike the other two worker types, hiring an employee is more like entering into a long-term relationship. You need to make sure that this person’s personality and career goals fit with you and your company, which means more time spent interviewing and getting to know the individual up front. You’ll also need to provide them more compensation in the form of health benefits, revenue sharing or stock options, or training and development opportunities. While there is some paperwork that comes with hiring an intern or a consultant, the additional paperwork, tax and legal regulations that small business employers must comply with can create new challenges for a business owner who hasn’t had to deal with them before.


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