Career

3 Affordable Ways to Get People to Work For You Without Hiring Full-time Staff

Joanne Poh

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So you’ve decided to take the plunge and become your own boss. The only problem is, you don’t have the skills to pull this off your on your own, but you’re not exactly ready to be anybody’s boss, either—mainly because you can’t afford to pay anyone a full-time wage.

No, the answer is not to try to con some poor employee into working for you at a bargain basement rate, praying he’ll stay long enough to do some actual work before he realises he’s being shortchanged and jumps ship. Here are some options that can help you get your business off the grown.

 

Hire a freelancer on an ad hoc basis

When your business isn’t earning enough to enable you to survive on it, it’s understandable if you’re unwilling to hire full-time staff whom you have to pay each month no matter how much work there is. If the work is intermittent or insufficient to justify a full-time employee, hiring a freelancer to complete tasks for you on an ad-hoc basis is the safest option.

There’s even a new app, Temploy, that tries to match up freelancers and ad hoc workers with companies that need help. It’s worth nothing that you’ll usually end up paying a higher hourly rate for freelancers than for full-time staff—they’re not getting the benefits or job security that come with a full-time job, so don’t expect to get away with paying a professional graphic designer $10 an hour, for example.

But you’ll benefit by not having to pay them every single month, nor will you have to deal with making CPF contributions or providing medical benefits. In exchange, you’ll need to offer fair pay and treat them civilly—ad hoc workers aren’t dependent on you for their rice bowl, so treat them the way this guy treated one of his employees and you’ll have to look for someone else.

If your work can be done remotely, you can hire freelancers on websites like Elance and Upwork, where you can take your pick between cheap labour and seasoned professionals.

 

Take in interns

Internships are all the rage now, and most local university students spend at least a part of their vacations taking on internships. While you shouldn’t expect them to be able to produce the work of an experienced hire, if you just need some extra help and are prepared to offer guidance, hiring interns can be the way to go.

Note that you should not expect interns to be able to fill in the gaps in areas you are completely clueless about. If you need actual expertise, pay a professional, you cheapskate.

If you’re a professional photographer who needs help setting up your lighting and equipment and keeping all your gear in order, taking on an intern might be worth your while and will cost less than hiring an actual employee. In exchange, be prepared to teach your intern some tricks of the trade.

 

Buy services on Taobao

Don’t laugh, but to those who speak Chinese, Taobao is becoming a viable source of cheap and fast (though not necessarily good) labour. You can get a website designed for as little as 100 SGD on Taobao, 5-10 times less than what a freelance web designer in Singapore would charge. Web and app development services are also available.

Obviously, you will not have the degree of control you would with a real live freelancer—you are usually allowed a maximum of one or two revisions, and if you’re really dissatisfied with the results you’ll just have to hire another bargain basement designer.

Another downside is that you’ll need to grab a friend who’s fluent in Chinese to help you communicate with the service provider. Still, if you’re desperately trying to bootsrap, Taobao can be a good option until you’ve got the money to hire someone better.

Have you used any of the above options? Tell us in the comments!

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Joanne Poh

In my previous life, I was a property lawyer who spent most of my time struggling to get out of bed or stuck in peak hour traffic. These days, as a freelance commercial writer, I work in bed, on the beach, in parks and at cafes, all while being really frugal. I like helping other people save money so they can stop living lives they don't like.