Church Payroll: Can Churches Hire Freelancers? Employment Considerations.

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Church Payroll: Can Churches Hire Freelancers? Employment Considerations.

Churches hire full-time staffers on a regular basis. They also work with part-time hires. But what about freelancers?

Can churches hire freelancers? What are the benefits that come from working with a freelancer in the first place? Are there additional considerations or even downsides that come from working with a freelancer?

Let’s break down the concept of church freelancing and consider where it does and doesn’t make sense to add them to the church payroll mix.

Can Churches Hire Freelancers?

Let’s get straight to the point. Yes. Churches can hire freelancers

As an organization, a church has the ability to work with professionals in multiple formats and with various compensation structures. One of these is the freelance format.

A freelancer is a self-employed individual that offers a service for hire. That means, as a church, you can sign a contract to have a freelancer perform certain duties or fill a specific function for your church.

If you work with freelancers, you aren’t allowed to interfere with how they perform their work. Instead, you can set expectations for what the final product or service will be. In comparison, you can oversee, adjust, and direct the specific on-the-job behavior of church employees.

Freelancing also impacts taxes — though not in a bad way. When tax season rolls around, you can’t create W2s the same way you would for an employee. Instead, freelancers require a 1099 (a simple report detailing the compensation they received for their services throughout the year). It may be different than your typical payroll taxes for your staff, but the process remains fast and simple all the same.

Important Clarifications for Church Freelancing

To be clear, working with freelancers is different from hiring a temporary or part-time employee. If someone is a formal employee of your church, even if they work shorter hours, you must still treat them with the employee classification. That means you still have to tend to things like offering appropriate benefits and withholding taxes.

It’s also worth pointing out that pastors are technically given dual tax status. They are taxed as both an employed and self-employed individual. However, the majority of the time, their employment status is as a W2 employee.

What Kinds of Faith-Base Jobs Are Good Freelancing Candidates?

Knowing that you can hire a freelancer is one thing. But should you? What do you need freelancers for in a church setting? 

The number of options is surprising. Here are just a few of the many roles freelancers can fill for a faith-based organization:

  • Marketing and content creation: Freelancers can help generate website content, manage social media, create videos, and engage in similar activities.
  • Consulting: Freelancers can provide third-party church consulting services that can help church leaders make important decisions with confidence and impartiality.
  • IT Support: From web design to database management, freelancers can provide effective professional support for all things IT.
  • Virtual assistants: Off-site contracted assistant services can help streamline pastoral and administrative workloads.

There are many other ways that churches can utilize freelancing services. The important thing is to remember those key differentiating factors that set freelancers and employees apart.

Pros and Cons of Church Freelancing

Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages that come from churches working with freelancers:

The Pros of Church Freelancing

  • Freelancers are cost-effective: They provide professional services at a fraction of the cost of a full-time hire. 
  • Freelancers save time: From hiring to training to managing, freelancers remove much of the administrative burden that comes with overseeing employed staff.
  • Freelancers are professional: Many freelancers are highly experienced professionals. This gives churches access to high-quality services for low-cost compensation.

The Cons of Church Freelancing

  • Freelancers work on their own: You have less control over how a freelancer does their job, which is ideal for some things, like posting on social media, and not for others, such as providing counseling services.
  • Freelancers are less plugged in: You will have less knowledge and accountability about a freelancer’s background and beliefs over time, which can be an important factor in a faith-based setting.
  • Freelancers can lead to higher turnover: Part of the contracting workflow is that freelancers can come and go faster than employed staff.

Church Freelancing Considerations

What should you keep in mind when hiring freelancers for your church? Here are five key tips to help your freelance experience go smoothly:

  1. Sign contracts: Even if you’re working with a Christian (more on that in a minute), always sign contracts so that everyone is on the same page.
  2. Onboard effectively: A freelancer likely won’t need the same training as an employee. But consider what onboarding and equipping can help them serve your ministry more effectively.
  3. Pay on time: Freelancers don’t have the same built-in security as employee paychecks. Make sure you’re paying them on time, so they can tend to their needs at a predictable cadence.
  4. Remember boundaries: You can’t over-exert your employer’s influence on a freelancer. Treat them as peers, not employees.
  5. Look for faith-based freelancers: Freelancers can specialize — even when it comes to faith-based qualifications. Look for freelancers who understand what it means to operate professionally in a faith-based setting.

Working With Third-Party Faith-Based Professionals

Freelancers are similar to contractors like Chaney & Associates in the sense that they give churches affordable, professional alternatives to hiring employees. As you prayerfully consider how to incorporate faith-based professionals into your ministry’s activities, keep outsourced options like these in the mix. 

If you find that you’re in need of church accounting services, in particular, reach out to our team, and together, we can explore third-party solutions for your church’s finances.

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