I see the frustration on the faces of many founders in my community. It’s the struggle of wanting to move forward and grow their businesses, but feeling helpless by the lack of funds available to hire really great people. Oftentimes, they are stuck wearing all the hats and performing tasks that take them away from their main objective (which is usually business development).
Today I am going to offer you 3 ways in which you can get free help in your business. Help can come in many forms. Maybe you need extra hands on deck for an event or to help fill orders. Perhaps you need someone to help with remedial tasks. Tasks that are redundant or administrative and don’t help grow revenue. Or perhaps you need high-level strategic thinking in areas outside your expertise like marketing or human relations.
Don’t worry. Regardless of the issues you are facing, there is a solution. All it takes is some creative thinking and careful planning. Let’s begin.
3 Ways Types of Free Labor for your Startup:
Bartering: Bartering goods and services is an easy way to get help with little to no cost to you. It is especially great when you are just getting started. There are plenty of wonderful communities and programs for brand new entrepreneurs who are looking to get their big idea off the ground. In these communities, it is easy to make friends and find individuals who have skill sets that can fill in your knowledge gaps. The easiest place to start is with Facebook and LinkedIn Groups. There are special interest groups that usually gather around a certain theme which could be geographic location or interest (like entrepreneurship). Finding your tribe is also important for moral support. It isn’t easy to start a business and finding others who can empathize with your situation is vital to helping you through the difficult moments (and there will be many, I’m sure). That part of the fun, right? One last thing. Remember to be reciprocal and find others who are willing to do the same amount of work as you are. It’s easy to get into the trap of helping everyone else but feeling ashamed for asking for help yourself. Doing that is unproductive and will waste your time. Be selective in who you do business with.
Interns: Interns could be a blessing or a curse. I have managed my fair share of interns and what I can tell you for certain is that it’s a mixed bag. But this is often less the fault of the student and more the culprit of mismanagement. You see, interns usually have little to no work experience. Even if they have interned before, I would be wary of assuming that they can work autonomously. Interns take positions so they can learn and have mentorship. If you decide to take on an intern, expect that they will need lots of clarity and management. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to hold their hand every moment. Quite the opposite. They can work independently. The issue becomes when they are not given clear instructions nor are they held accountable in a consistent and productive manner. Before you start working with an intern, have a very clear idea of what their responsibilities will be. What will success look like for this individual? How will you track their progress? At what cadence will you meet with them? In my experience, I have had great success with the Monday/Friday rule. Once your intern has been properly onboarded and clearly communicated their responsibilities, then I find it helpful to have regular Monday meetings to review their big objectives and weekly tasks list. You should ask them where they are stuck and how you can support them during the upcoming week. You should also offer time to connect on a personal level and be a mentor. Then on Fridays, you ask them to give you a progress report of what they worked on during the week. You can discuss it in a quick meeting or it can even be via email. Sourcing interns can also be quite tricky. There are legal considerations that may vary by state and country. To make sure that you are being 100% compliant, I suggest using a service like Riipen to source interns. I have worked with them before and found some excellent interns for Ugli Ventures and my clients. They have done everything from launching marketing programs to doing critical research. The last thing I’ll say is that, like any other hire, personality matters. For anyone working in your startup, you want them to be a go-getter and have a deposition that compliments you and your brand values. Take your time and have them do a test project that is related to the work they will be doing with you. Through the process, you’ll get to see how serious they are about the position, their communion skills, and much more. The added benefit to taking your time to find the perfect intern is that they can often turn into your best future employees or advocates.
Advisors: When you are ready to take your business to the next level, it’s important to surround yourself with an experienced team. If you’re stuck on a high-level strategy or a big dilemma, having a trusted advisor on your side can help you in leaps and bounds. As a marketing expert, I have been asked to be on many boards as an advisor. It is something I really enjoy doing with founders that I connect with and products that I really believe in. Advisors are individuals who have an area of expertise. They can be paid as a consultant or offered equity in the business in exchange for being a part of the team. The amount of equity can vary depending on the individual advisor and the amount of value/time/energy/effort they give to the business. Silicon Valley Bank suggests, “An advisor may receive between 0.25% and 1% of shares, depending on the stage of the startup and the nature of the advice provided. There are ways to structure such compensation to ensure that founders get value for those shares while retaining the flexibility to replace advisors without losing equity.” In my experience, the most important part of this arrangement is clarity. If you are going to engage in an equity partnership with an advisor; be clear about the terms of the arrangement. Understand exactly what the advisor is offering you. Are they opening up contacts and creating opportunities from their network? If so, quantify that so there are expectations on both ends and both parties will know whether or not the advisor is successful. With this example, it should also be clear how often you’ll be meeting together and get those meetings on the books for the year. The more seriously you take it, the more value you’ll get from your advisor. The other arrangement is one in which the advisor is actively working in your business for equity. In my case, I work as a Fractional CMO in which I build strategies and manage teams. The percentage of equity would be equivalent to the dollar amount I usually charge for my services. Normally, there is a combination of paid compensation (heavily discounted) and equity. In order to properly calculate equity, it is important to have a formal valuation that both parties (enthusiastically) agree on. Here I should mention about vesting periods. According to the Long-Term Stock Exchange (LTSE), they suggest, “a typical vesting schedule is one or two years with no cliff. This means that the stock vests in equal monthly increments over 12 or 24 months. With a 24-month vesting schedule, if the adviser ceases to provide services to the company after 11 months, the adviser would keep 11/24ths of the stock.”
Regardless of how you choose to get free help for your startup, the most important thing is clarity. If you’re bartering with friends, hiring an intern, or bringing a key advisor to your board, it is vital that both parties have clear tasks and expectations. This way you will avoid much frustration and heartache.
Take a listen. 👇🏻
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Victoria is a Marketing Mentor to early-stage founders. She has built compelling brands around the globe and has worked as a marketing director across several verticals. She is passionate about helping women think BIGGER about their businesses and giving them the tools to grow. She'd love to connect on LinkedIn or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.