Full Time Employees or Outside Consultants? The Benefits and Drawbacks of Each

Full Time Employees or Outside Consultants? The Benefits and Drawbacks of Each

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 30, 2013

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Non-standard working arrangements between employees and the companies that hire them are on the rise. At this point, data suggests that about 30 percent of employer-employee working arrangements in the U.S. fall outside the traditional 1099 model defined by details like eight hour days, onsite task completion, taxes directly withdrawn from paychecks, and employer-provided health insurance. And this number appears to be growing rapidly.

As you staff your open positions and search for the most efficient ways to pair workers with vital tasks, how can you decide between traditional employment contracts or consulting agreements with independent providers? Here’s a quick list of pros and cons that can help you move forward.

Salary Costs

You’ll usually need to pay your outside consultants more per job/hour/project than you would pay a full time employee. But there are several benefits you’ll receive in return for this increase. For example, consultants don’t need to be paid between jobs or kept on board during lulls in your business cycle. They typically show up, provide the skills sets needed, and then move along to the next job when company demand scales back. And they don’t require standard benefits like health insurance and retirement savings plans. In the long run, the amount you save on HR costs, benefits, hiring expenses and the stability that shelters an employee from market highs and lows will equal the extra amount you pay the consultant for his or her services.

Skill Sets

Consultants can usually offer a higher level of a specific required skill than you may find among your full-time employee pool. So they’re usually called upon to tackle work that’s time critical, skill specific, or too complex for companies to complete themselves. Because they make a living this way, consultants are wise to continually and aggressively build new skill sets, unlike employees who may be less motivated to personally investigate new corners of the industry. But at the same time, employees offer years of experience within their own areas, and they possess intangible institutional knowledge that consultants don’t have.

Tax Complications

Employers are responsible for deducting all applicable taxes from the paychecks of their traditional employees, which may include federal taxes, unemployment insurance, social security, and state and local taxes. This can add bureaucratic hassle to the full-time staffing process, while outside consultants don’t require this service, since they typically handle tax issues on their own. But again, the more labor and energy the consultant puts into a specific job, the higher the rate he or she can charge an independent employer. And employers will still need to collect W9 forms from consultants and report their earnings to the IRS.

This list of pros and cons is by no means comprehensive, but the choice between traditional vs. non-traditional hiring contracts can mean the difference between success and failure for companies with narrow margins. So don’t face these challenges alone.

Hiring a full-time or temporary employee can be beneficial to your business. Before you make your decision, reach out to the Seattle staffing and employment experts at PACE. We have the resources and network to help you manage your staff and draw in new talent.


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