Outsourcing work can make life a lot easier for a small business owner, especially if a task only takes a few hours a week. While you can be reasonably assured of a level of professionalism when having a company do the business payroll, file tax returns or even handle customer complaints giving you the time to create and market your products. One area that is often neglected or poorly managed is a brands social identity. For very small businesses this is often dealt with by a family member or contracted out using a service like odesk. However, there are certain legal issues related to outsourcing that are worth considering in this respect.
Be Cautious about what qualifies as an Independent Contractor
As any employment solicitor can tell you an independent contractor is an individual not employed by your business but instead a person paid a set rate for tasks performed. While there are many advantages to using an independent contractor such as leaving tax as their responsibility or paying less than an in-house member of the team their there are strict rules regarding who can defined as an independent contractor including:
-The Contractor Cannot Be Forced To Work Exclusively For Your business or Company
-Your Company Cannot Provide Materials To Complete The Job
-Any Extensive Training Is Prohibited
If you are found to be violating these rules the IRS could easily reclassify an independent contractor as an employee which would result in a large fine and a huge amount of back taxes being owed. Can you really take on a contractor to manage your brand without providing formal training? After all a large part of a brand is the company voice which flows through the social channels, Likewise if you are providing the contractor the tools to manage the company account they are arguably an employee. Beyond even the legal definition do you want someone with no knowledge of your business and very limited interest in the brand future to be the front line contact for your customers?
Hiring Interns to Do the Job for Less
Many companies view the hiring of interns to be a cheap and effective way to get work done without taking on more expensive permanent staff. Unfortunately, there are likewise strict rules regarding the hiring of interns. The intern is required to gain work experience from the internship and must be provided a mentor for the duration of the internship and be provided a college credit at the end of their time with the business. All of this can be time consuming and may prove less effective than simply setting aside time to manage the account the account yourself in the long run. Hiring an intern is in reality far from free labor, as with hiring an independent contractor, if your business is deemed to be violating the the rules for labeling a worker as an intern, the IRS may impose significant fines upon your company. That being said if you can take on the right student you will have a highly motivated employee who wants to have a fantastic successful business on his or her CV and a glowing reference to accompany it which may mean you get more work and attention that you would otherwise.
Other Issues To Consider When Outsourcing your social identity
There are a variety of other issues that you need to consider whenever you decide to outsource a task job. You must ensure that you are sending a Form 1099 to anyone who makes more than $600 a year for your company and provide a copy form to the IRS. If your contractor is in another country this becomes more complex and you may need to speak to an employment solicitor to ensure you are meeting any legal obligations of both countries. When you sign a contract with an independent contractor, you are required to honor that contract to the letter. Failure to do so could open both yourself and your company to legal challenges. When the contract expires, the person who has been working for you is under no obligation to come back taking with them the time and energy you expended getting them to a point where they could act as a brand ambassador. If you need someone long term you may want to consider hiring employees instead.
Outsourcing admin tasks is a great idea it frees you from mundane tasks to focus on growing your business but a brands digital identity is one of its primary channels of audience interaction and engagement, multinationals pay digitial agencies large amounts for this brand management because they know how important it is. Outsourcing your social profile can be done but make sure that if you are handing over the reins you do so to someone with the competency to act as your brand voice and a mutual interest in seeing you succeed or you may come to regret it.
It can give you more time to do the things that you really care about instead of spending time doing payroll or making sales calls. However, make sure that you are following the rules when it comes to hiring independent contractors or interns to work for your company. If you are not sure about what the law says regarding outsourcing, contact an employment lawyer before making any hiring decisions.
John Fegan is a freelance copywriter who writes for a variety of websites, including a number of divorce solicitors in greater Manchester.