The freelance economy is booming. Statista estimates that over 50% of the workforce will be made up of freelancers eight years from now. With about 62 million freelancers in the U.S. alone, you can find a specialist in just about anything. Could your agency benefit from a Google ads administrator? What about a marketing automation or SEO consultant?

The value of a freelancer goes beyond the power of harnessing their niche expertise. When you have a reliable stable of freelancers on call, you can free up your time for more important tasks and save money on labor and overhead.

Here are nine questions to ask yourself before hiring your first (or tenth) freelancer for your agency.

Does your workload fluctuate often?

When work is steady, your in-house team may have no problem meeting deadlines and brainstorming creative solutions. When it’s crunch time, however, you don’t want your team to feel stressed or deadlines to go unmet. Contractors can reduce your workload when projects are rolling in one after another, and if this happens often (which most agencies hope for), it may be time to start building your virtual rolodex of reliable remote workers.

Are you a very small business, or just getting started?

You may already know it, but full-time and part-time employees are expensive. From salaries and taxes to benefits packages, hiring an employee is a commitment that many budding agencies can’t afford to make (yet). Bridge the budget gap with a team of freelancers. Since they’re independent contractors, you can mark off contract labor as a business expense.

Are you growing fast, or planning to grow?

Growing your agency can feel like a Catch-22. You need more revenue to support more team members, but you need the staff to take on bigger projects in order to land more clients with confidence. Freelancers can fill in the gaps as you grow.

Does your agency have a need for specialized or technical knowledge?

Here are just a few of the freelance roles out there, some of which are so niche you might never need to hire a full-time employee to do them:

  • Zapier consultant
  • Squarespace designer
  • FileMaker certified developer
  • Bing Ads expert
  • Google Sheets and scripts expert

Start with a LinkedIn search (or check out leading freelance job sites like Upwork, Fiverr, or PeoplePerHour) using specific terminology relevant to the job you need done. There’s no need to gamble on generalists anymore, when so many freelancers have carved out their place in a niche.

Are your clients in a very technical or highly-regulated industry?

Some industries, like healthcare, legal, or consulting, tend to have very stringent requirements for projects – requirements that your agency may not be fully equipped to handle on your own. With more contractors than ever available at your fingertips, you’ll have no trouble finding a freelancer with both the required skill set and experience in a particular industry.

Does your client list run the gamut?

On a similar note, if your clients are in a variety of industries (and the work you do spans different channels), you’ll provide better results for your clients if you seek out experts for each separate pillar of your business.

What does your local talent pool look like?

If you’re located in a creative hub or large city, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to find educated candidates with the drive and ambition to go far in your agency. If you’re in rural Wyoming, you may have a little more trouble finding local talent that meets your requirements – and the global freelance market may be the perfect remedy.

Will outsourcing menial tasks to a global freelancer save your organization significant time and money?

While $10 an hour is barely a liveable wage in many parts of the United States, there are other countries with a lower cost of living where workers will welcome 40 hours at this rate. That’s not to say you shouldn’t pay hardworking freelancers fairly for their services, but if you’re strapped for cash, taking your search global might open up the talent pool that fits your budget.

Are you prepared for the risks involved?

We’d be naive to leave out the fact that working with freelancers can be a bit risky. Though there are tracking tools and contracts you can use to mitigate some of this, not all freelancers are reliable. Request work samples and look for reviews from former clients on third-party platforms. Some freelancers request partial or full payment upfront, so use your due diligence when choosing how you’ll work together.

If you’ve decided freelancers may be the ticket to your growth this year, here are a few parting tips to help you get the most out of your work with contractors:

  • When necessary, get on the phone, or in a video call, to talk about the project. It’s much easier to gauge the professionalism of a contractor (and communicate complex project details) over the phone, or in person, than over email. It’s your responsibility to communicate expectations and scope details, and the freelancer’s responsibility to turn in great work. Make it as easy as possible for them to do their part.
  • Respect their independence and expertise. Even those who you collaborate with frequently are still independent contractors, meaning it’s inappropriate (and even illegal, in some cases) to micromanage them.
  • Try out a small, paid test assignment before diving into a big project with a new freelancer. If the contractor turns in excellent work on time and on budget, then you can move on to a more ambitious project. But if the work is subpar, you won’t be facing any dire consequences with missed deadlines or disappointed clients.
  • Be appreciative. Respect flows both ways: the kinder and more appreciative you are to your freelancers, the more they’ll prioritize your projects and serve your organization down the line.

As your agency grows, you may have to get creative with your staffing in order to meet client deadlines and expectations. But before you dive into the world of freelancers, make sure you’ve done your due diligence so you understand the risks and rewards you’re signing up for.