5 Myths to Avoid in Working with Independent Consultants

Companies are increasingly hiring independent consultants and freelancers to handle special projects and provide expertise they don’t have on their current teams. But many still hesitate to hire or expand their hiring due to some common myths and fears.

In this article, we take a look at five common myths about independent consultants and dispel them with some key facts about how these contracting arrangements really work. We also offer some tips on how to make the most of your hires.

So let’s jump in and take a look at these five misleading myths.

1. They’re too expensive. Many companies are naturally concerned about their budget and might assume that hiring an independent consultant and highly experienced expert will be too expensive.

While it’s true that leading subject matter experts will typically command higher pay, the reality is that hiring an on-demand consultant is usually much cheaper than adding a full-time or even a part-time employee.

With an independent consultant, you typically pay only an hourly rate or fixed cost, plus any reimbursable expenses (if applicable). Otherwise, you avoid the costly overhead of providing employee benefits or incurring additional expenses for hiring through a staffing firm, onboarding, and training.

Most independent consultants also work remotely, which means you can save considerable on costs for office and computer equipment, a workspace, supplies, phone lines and more.

In fact, through our Graphite network, you can hire pre-vetted consultants with backgrounds at McKinsey, Bain, BCG and other top consulting and Fortune 500 firms starting at $75 per hour. You can also interview and hire them quickly and easily, without the time and expense of a lengthy search.

2. They don’t know my business. Some businesses worry that independent consultants may not have sufficient knowledge or experience in their industry or with their business model. They might have expertise in a particular area, but it might not be applicable to their specific case.

The reality is that independent consultants often have extensive industry experience from working in specific industries as part of their consulting work, or from past corporate employment.

At Graphite, our independent consultants all have backgrounds at major consulting firms or corporations across a wide array of industries. Many specialize in specific industries and working with particular business models or types of businesses, such as B2B, B2C, startups, corporations or investment firms.

Using our service, you can quickly search for consultants with experience and expertise in key business areas such as corporate strategy, management consulting, accounting, investment banking, marketing, and more.

You can also search for candidates who work with startups or venture capital or private equity firms, and you can filter your searches with keywords and view complete profiles that include the specific firms they have worked for and the types of businesses they’ve helped.

3. I can’t trust them to be productive. Independent consultants often work remotely, so sometimes there’s a concern that they won’t be productive or that you won’t know if they’re really working.

Some businesses have a hard time getting past the idea that workers need to be in a traditional workplace and have supervision in order to be productive. The reality is that there is a growing body of evidence that remote workers are actually more productive than on-site workers.

This is why Jordan Scheltgen, co-founder and managing partner of Cave Social, says that “focusing on someone sitting in a chair at your office for 40 hours a week is the wrong metric.”

Instead, especially with independent consultants, it’s critical to focus on the output and results. Independent workers, by definition, get to determine when and how they perform their work. This is part of what classifies them as independent workers rather than employees by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.

In the end, it’s the output and results that count, and it’s up to them to determine how they get there. But you can still track their time and have clarity about the work they perform.

At Graphite, we provide the tools to help independent workers track and report on their time, so you have a complete picture of the work they’re doing and all related compensation.

It’s also important to keep in mind that vetted and highly qualified independent consultants, are typically self-starters with a track record that leaves no doubt about their work ethic or client commitment.

4. Remote workers are too disconnected. Another common worry about hiring independent consultants, especially for remote work, is that they’ll be too disconnected from your day-to-day operations and the rest of your team.

However, with the advent of so many online and cloud-based tools for project management and real-time communications and collaboration, remote workers are nearly as connected as traditional employees. The only difference is that meetings may happen via video calls and you may need to rely more on email and cloud-based collaboration software than face-to-face visits or working meetings in the office.

While working together in the same place offers some unique advantages, it can also create disadvantages such as lost productivity due to sick days, meetings, and distractions from noise, phone calls and other interruptions.

If you still feel that “face time” and in-person collaboration are crucial, you can potentially hire an independent consultant for an on-site assignment or arrange periodic visits with travel expenses reimbursed as part of your work agreement.

5. They won’t fit with our team and culture. Some businesses are concerned that hiring independent consultants could negatively impact their company culture or be negatively received by their employees.

On-demand and remote work arrangements may differ from your usual course of business, but they don’t have to alter your culture or cause ripples in your workforce.

The key is to clearly communicate why you are hiring an independent consultant, define that person’s role and responsibilities, and engage them as another member of your team.

You can actively include your consultants in all of your normal collaboration and culture-building activities, such as team meetings and regular communications. You can also give your team members a chance to get to know them by encouraging informal “water cooler” talk at the beginning of video conferences.

Better yet, you can team them up to collaborate on a specific project and let them develop a rapport by working together.

You might even be surprised by the positive effects. In fact, Traitify CEO and co-founder Dan Sines found that hiring independent workers actually improved his company’s culture and made its entire team more productive.

It all starts with setting aside the myths and exploring the possibilities of what independent consultants can do for your business.

For some quick examples, check out some of our Success Stories. Then start exploring our networking of on-demand consultants by visiting us at www.graphite.com.

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Greg Andrade

Greg Andrade handles Graphite's marketing and communication programs. A graduate of the University of Michigan, he worked in corporate marketing for 15 years before turning his focus to virtual marketing consulting for startups and global businesses.

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