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Whether you’re pre or post-funding, hiring top talent on a growing business’ budget is challenging. Larger organizations can offer candidates lucrative salaries, stability, and expensive perks. However, there are several strategies you can use to hire great talent while keeping costs down.

In today’s post we’ll explore five ways you can build a top team on a budget. We’ll cover:

  • Leveraging independent contractors, interns, and part-time hires
  • Seeking out non-traditional employees
  • Offering low-cost high-impact employee benefits
  • Offering equity
  • Aligning compensation with company performance

Leveraging independent contractors, interns, and part-time hires

Independent Contractors

In cases when you can put off bringing in a full-time team member, an independent contractor or freelancer may be the best option. For example, you might contract a developer to mobile-optimize your website or build an app for your product. In these cases, hiring a full-time team member doesn’t make sense. Contract employees allow you to leverage a wide range of talent without committing to hiring a full-time employee.

Consider contracting commission-only salespeople or manufacturer’s reps if you’re not ready for a full-time sales hire. Another great idea is to hire freelance marketers to write and promote content for your blog or to execute your social media strategy.

Sites like Upwork and Guru can help you find freelancers to fit your budget.


If you need extra help but aren’t quite ready to bring a full-time staff member into the role, a part-time hire may be a great option. There are many highly-skilled individuals looking for part-time work. A part-time hire allows you to get the help you need while also remaining payroll-friendly.


While interns may require guidance and coaching, there are several areas they have natural strengths in. As part of Generation Z, most interns are highly skilled in social media and online presence. If you partner with local colleges, you can find interns in nearly any field from marketing, to accounting, to software development. You may choose to make your internships unpaid or paid. Paid interns can receive an hourly wage or stipend. It’s important to understand that although interns can be valuable, low-cost team members, they will need significantly more guidance than traditional employees.

Seek out non-traditional employees

When recruiting talent, may business owners make the mistake of overlooking non-traditional employees. Non-traditional employees might include those who are not currently working, those looking to re-enter the workforce, older employees, or employees who are outside of your industry.

While non-traditional employees are often overlooked, these individuals present a unique opportunity for your business. Often they are extremely eager to work and will go above-and-beyond for your business. It’s also not uncommon for their salary expectations to be more in-line with what a startup can afford.

You can leverage LinkedIn to source and outreach to non-traditional employees.

Offering low-cost high-impact employee benefits

People, especially Millennials, are willing to sacrifice a higher salary to work somewhere they truly enjoy working. Making your company a great place to work can be your secret weapon in the struggle to hire and retain the best talent. Offering attractive employee benefits and team perks is a great way to improve workplace satisfaction and attract top talent to your company.

Some business owners have the misconception that they need significant funds to afford expensive employee perks. However, there are many low-to-no cost methods you can utilize to transform your company into a sought-after workplace. Some great options include:

  • Flexible scheduling: allow your employees to work non-traditional hours. For example, an employee with a flexible schedule might work 10:00am-6:00pm or 8:00am-4:00pm. Another example of flexible scheduling is to allow your employees to come in late or leave early on some days without taking PTO. Many employees see flexible scheduling as a huge value add as it allows them to take care of their families while also balancing their workload.
  • Remote working: allow team members to work remotely, either some of the time or all of the time. Offering a remote working arrangement doesn’t cost your business anything but is seen as an attractive perk by potential employees.
  • Casual dress: nowadays most employees don’t want to put on a suit every morning to go to work. Offering casual dress and a relaxed work environment can make your business a more attractive place to work for younger talent.
  • Standing desks: having standing work areas in your office requires a small financial investment up front but can be a huge value-add to your employees. Many Millennials realize that “sitting is the new smoking,” and appreciate a work environment that encourages healthy behaviors.
  • Bring your dog to work: if your office space accommodates it, allowing employees to bring their dog to work is another no-cost way to appeal to great talent. For employees with a dog, being able to bring their dog with them to work not only gives them piece of mind but also saves them significant costs on pet care.
  • Food and drink freebies: offering your team free snacks, soda, or coffee can help boost morale and make your company a great place to work.
  • Team meals: whether it’s once a week or once a month, offering a free catered meal to your team is an attractive benefit.
  • Corporate responsibility: give employees dedicated paid time off to volunteer on a monthly, quarterly, or yearly basis. Nowadays, employees are looking for a workplace that affords them a greater purpose in life. Instilling opportunities for volunteerism can make your company more attractive to purpose-driven employees.

Offering Equity

While larger companies attract employees with lucrative salaries and stability, startups afford their employees the opportunity to directly reap the rewards of the company’s financial success via equity in the business. Equity is a unique bargaining tactic startups possess that larger organizations don’t, and it should be leveraged accordingly.

If a particular candidate is risk-for-reward driven, they will often forgo a higher salary now for the promise of potentially greater financial rewards in the future. Not to mention, financial equity aligns your team with the company’s long-term objectives. As such, aim to actively involve these team members in important business decisions moving forward.

Aligning compensation with company performance

Another strategy to hire great talent when your cash flows are tight is to offer a lower salary upfront, but with the promise of incremental salary increases in the short-term future. For example, you might offer an employee 60% rate of market compensation up front but include the opportunity for 80% market salary within one year if a financial company milestone is met.

You might also structure employee salaries with a below-market base but the option for a significant year-end bonus if your company’s financial goal is met. Aligning compensation with company performance keep costs down and aligns employee interests with company goals.

Key Takeaways

In today’s post we explored several ways you can hire great talent on a budget. Some key takeaways include:

  • In cases when a full-time hire doesn’t make sense yet, contractors, part-time hires, and interns can be cost-effective options
  • Non-traditional employees can be skilled hires willing to accept lower salaries in exchange for experience at your company
  • You don’t need a large budget to offer high-impact employee perks like flexible hours, remote work, or causal dress
  • Equity can entice top talent to forgo a larger salary up front in exchange for the opportunity for future gains
  • Structure incremental performance-based salary increases into employee compensation

What methods do you use to attract and hire great talent on a tight budget? Drop your ideas in the comments box below.

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