How to Hire When You Can’t Afford Employees

Business on a budget

Can’t Afford Employees? Here Are Options You Never Thought Of

Starting your own business is exciting, but it’s also challenging. Hiring talent is a particular hump to overcome because it’s often beyond a startup’s budget. Thankfully, in today’s world, there are many ways to get help you need from experienced professionals without paying cash. How? Think about the concept of WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and keep reading.


Get A Startup Mentor

Mentors are critical to startups, as they can help lead you towards making the best decisions. All for free! The WIIFM — or value — for a mentor includes the joy and personal rewards they get from sharing their knowledge. So take their advice, use their time wisely, and come to meetings prepared to be smart.


So how do you find a mentor for your startup?


  1. Network and find one yourself
  2. Get connected to one via government-sponsored mentor programs like SCORE Mentors or Small Business Development Centers
  3. Trade associations often have mentorship programs that can pair you with a professional in a particular industry


Provide Equity In Place of Cash

A tried and true tactic for getting the talent you need without doling out the cash you don’t have is to provide equity. While you aren’t likely to get full-time work, you will get someone dedicated to your cause, rather than just a paycheck, so the quality will be better than what you’d get, even if you could pay them.  Want to find qualified people who are interested in working for equity?  Check


So how do you know how much equity to offer?


The truth is, there is not hard and fast rule on this. But it’s good to start with value, rather than percentage. If you’re going to give up 5% of your company to a contractor, you’d better be sure they’re going to give you at least a 5% increase in value. Otherwise, it’s a lose-lose situation because the WIIFM is that they expect their equity will be more than their lost wages.


Deferred Payments

Another way to get experienced help for your startup is to offer deferred payments. This is basically a promise to pay them an agreed-upon amount at an agreed-upon time, or after a specific trigger (like seed funding, or first 100 units sold). The WIIFM her is the security of a future payment while still playing the startup game.


Rather than hire a full- or part-time employee, you can get someone who has experience to work for equity or deferred revenues. They may only help part time, but they’ll give you more than you could get on a limited budget.  Not sure how to search for experts interested in alternative payment options?  Try


Comments (1)

  • Steve Wolfe

    September 7, 2016 at 4:12 pm

    I like the idea of someone working for equity – a piece of the action can be more of a motivation than just a paycheck.

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