What if Small Business Success Means Having 0 Employees?
How can a small business crush it without any employees? Just ask Laszlo Nadler.
Nadler is the brains behind one of the best-selling daily planners on Amazon. And just last year, his New Jersey-based business, Tools4Wisdom, broke $2 million in annual revenue.
Nadler’s hiring philosophy has been the key to scaling his business in such a tight labor market. To make the most of his budget, Nadler ran a nonemployer business since he started—meaning there were no W-2 employees except him. Then in March of this year, he decided to invite one of his contractors to join his staff as a full-time employee.
But he wasn’t alone for all those years. A small but mighty team of independent contractors helped him get the job done.
Here’s how to apply Nadler’s three-step hiring approach to your own small business.
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Step #1: Email every business owner you know
The store down the street from you could end up being a hidden (and valuable) source of talent. So if you love your friend’s website, simply ask if they’ll share the name of their web designer.
Here are a few more ways to tap your current network for candidate referrals:
- Make your requests open-ended. Instead of only asking, “Do you know of any freelance designers?” say, “Can you recommend any business owners with eye-popping websites? And is there anyone else you think I should talk to?”
- Always be networking. Even if a person you meet at a business event isn’t in your exact industry or geographic location, take the time to get to know them. The more business owners you know, the more likely you can both help each other out.
- Always be helping. Squeeze in time to respond to requests from your connections even if you have a million other things going on. Comb through your inbox or LinkedIn messages, introduce people, and offer advice where you can. It will make the small business world go ‘round and establish you as the ultimate connector.
If you can’t find someone through word of mouth, the major freelance and job platforms can also be a useful place to start. Check out the following sites:
- PeoplePerHour: A community of freelancers across a bunch of different fields.
- HireMyMom: A job board for work-at-home moms.
- Upwork: A place to post jobs and have freelancers bid on them.
- Freelancer: One of the most expansive freelancer networks.
- 99designs: A design-specific freelancer community.
- Time etc.: A virtual assistant platform.
- Fiverr: A place to hire low-cost experts for small gigs.
- Clarity: A site to help you hire business coaches.
Don’t overlook the people around you, either. When Nadler was looking for his graphic designer, she literally turned up in his living room.
He and his wife had hired a cleaning person who turned out to be a recent MBA student with a passion for design. He gave her a shot and found she was magically able to translate his ideas into Adobe InDesign.
Step #2: Go overboard with the onboarding
Hiring people is complicated—whether they’re freelancers or full-time employees. But just because they have the right skill set doesn’t mean they’ll be easy to work with.
These are Nadler’s must-dos when kicking off a new project with a contractor:
- Start small. Ideally, pick a smaller project that you don’t need finished by the next day—and then move onto a bigger one.
- Chunk it out. If a project has a long deadline, break it up into smaller components so it’s more manageable.
- Schedule check-ins. Conduct regular check-ins to make sure nothing unexpected has occurred. Your contractor is likely to be remote, so a video call can make these check-ins more personable.
- Have a plan B. In case something go wrong, have a backup plan in place. That may mean doing the project yourself or calling in another freelancer you’ve already vetted.
- Get legit. If you don’t use one of the freelancer platforms, it’s crucial to set up an independent contractor agreement before any work is completed. Then, consider using an HR platform to help you handle the onboarding and payroll side of things.
Step #3: Literally do the project for them
When you work with contractors, set aside time to give extremely clear instructions. Funny enough, the easiest way to do that is by completing the first project for them. As an added bonus, it helps you get a more accurate time estimate for how long the project will take.
To create meaningful instructions for your contractor, use a screencasting program. One easy option is the Quicktime player that’s already preloaded on any Mac. Nadler uses Jing (free by TechSmith) to create short video clips where he explains each project step.
“You basically hit record, go through the steps, and save it in the cloud,” Nadler says. “Before you know it, you have delegated a task you would have done yourself.”
Once he wraps up the explainer videos, he’s able to reuse them with future contractors who are doing the same task.
Regardless of the tool you use, here are a few screencasting best practices:
- Write a script. Jot down your thoughts ahead of time so you don’t miss anything in the screencast. It will limit the number of takes and can help you remember all the tiny details that will be key for the contractor to soak up.
- Cut out the background noise. Find a quiet spot and close all doors and windows. You can use a separate mic or the one that comes with your headphones. Just keep eye on where the mic is at all times so it doesn’t knock against anything while you’re recording.
- Use all the features. If you’re using Quicktime, click on “Show Mouse Clicks” in the drop-down arrow on the recording window so it’s easier to see when you click on things in the recording.
Don’t work on a computer all day? You can also ask someone to take a photo of you doing each task. To create your guide, drop the photos into a Google Doc with a little explanation under each image.
Thanks to his team, Nadler estimates he now spends 80 percent of his time on growth-related activities. And by following his hiring script, you can also create more time for the to-dos that matter—while leapfrogging your business in new and creative ways.