November 29, 2016

The Talent and Budget Benefits of Hiring a Remote Contractor

At some point your company will need to hire for a new project or job. In a perfect world, your ideal hire would live nearby. He or she would be available to start immediately. You could make space at your office and add the newcomer to your existing workflow.

But what if you can’t find the right person locally? What if you can’t find anybody who still knows Perl or VB6 or has experience launching new products? What then?

The great diversity of technologies and specializations, as well as the constraints of co-location, time, and money, can make it difficult to locate and land the right local talent, but you can turn that to your advantage.

Today we’ll discuss how a remote contractor can enrich your team and create tremendous value for your business.

A remote worker can provide the benefits of an in-house hire with few of the drawbacks you may anticipate. Furthermore, a remote hire often can save you money in the long run.

Local vs. Gold

Gold-bearing Ores

Let’s say you’re a world-class running coach, and you are putting together a team for the next Olympic games. One Saturday, you head down to the track at a nearby university to watch a meet. One runner dominates the men’s heats. He seems like a great candidate for your team. But once you compare his times to those of medalists from the last several Olympics, you see the truth.

The local talent simply can’t compete at that level. You now know you’ll have to look further afield to find the best sprinters.

You may prefer to hire locally, but if you look outside your city, you might just find gold.

So let’s look at the three major hiring constraints companies face and help you decide if a remote contractor could work for you.

1. Location

When you look out your window, do you see a large pool of talent in your city or state?

Some of us may have the luxury of saying yes, but others aren’t so fortunate. You may identify a pool of mid-level talent in your neighborhood, but those individuals may lack the exact skills and knowledge that your business really needs.

There’s always the option of hiring and relocating a specialist, but that can be cost prohibitive. Plus, you don’t really know how well someone will gel with your business and goals until you’ve worked with that person for six to twelve months.

Hiring for a full-time W-2 position prematurely can create more problems than it solves, and negotiating salary and benefits can waste valuable time when a project needs immediate attention.

In short, limiting yourself to your geographical area dramatically shrinks the talent pool while potentially increasing risks to your existing team dynamics and cash flow.

When you consider a remote 1099 contractor instead, you dramatically increase the size of the talent pool. You can hire the expert you need without compromising on skill level. Depending upon the contractor’s location, you may also reap unforeseen benefits: She may be able to work hours or shifts that are inconvenient or unpopular for your main team.

She may fill a knowledge or gap that is rare in your area but common in hers—meaning that she has access to other talent and support. She may bring fresh perspective to your company, as well as practical workflow and technical experience to which your local team never had exposure.

2. Time


Sometimes the job to be done requires a highly specific skillset, and the only thing that matters is getting the job done fast. Thus, there’s an opportunity cost in searching your area for the right (or almost right) candidate but ultimately coming up empty-handed.

In such situations, a remote contractor can start solving the specific problem right away. You can bypass most of the interviewing, onboarding, training, and relocating process because this remote expert can tackle your issue much faster than a mid-level hire.

A remote senior developer with 10,000 coding hours under his belt may be more “expensive” than a junior developer, but he also may be able to crank out solutions in a week rather than a month.

By contracting with the right person or team right away, you can avoid false starts with bad hires—saving time and spending less than you might have otherwise. Before you know it, your company can move past the original impasse and move forward at record pace.

3. Money

The initial price tag on a remote contractor may seem high, but consider the long-term return on your investment.

Though it may seem more economical to hire a local person (or two) for the job, it may take them months (or years!) longer to accomplish what a senior-level contractor can do in a matter of weeks. There’s no cost associated with relocation; no wasted time that could be translated into lost income.

The front-end cost of a remote worker may well pay off in a big way.

Remote contractors also bring value to the table in less obvious ways. They tend to be familiar with a wider variety of applications, processes, and technologies, many of which could benefit your company.

And the very nature of remote work suggests a large professional network that could be useful if your company needs recommendations for future hires.

By budgeting for a remote contractor, you can get a lot closer to hiring exactly who you need on a tight timeline. You get the biggest bang for your buck in terms of talent, and you get it done quickly and correctly.

Next time you have a big project or mission-critical need, stop and consider the odds: How likely is it that the world-class sprinter you need lives in your zip code?

A remote contractor is the solution for you.

If that idea intrigues you, then buy a copy of Remote: Office Not Required. The author, Jason Fried, founder of Basecamp (formerly, 37Signals), knows a thing or two about hiring the best developers in the world, and he didn’t find all of them in Chicago.

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