Client Resources

Winning With Independent Contractors

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Sometimes people get very nervous when it comes to hiring independent contractors because they believe it is complicated. It really isn’t, it’s just has its own rules and just like learning the rules to Texas Hold’Em or Cards Against Humanity, once you know how it works, you can play and win.

Rule #1 - Get the definition of the relationship in writing. The employer gets to decide the working relationship and needs to get it in writing so it is understood by everyone. Having an unclear relationship means the worker can say at any time that they have been treated like an employee and then you might need to pay them back benefits if you are audited. Not to mention, the government will want back taxes and penalties. A typical contract will include the scope of work, payment schedule, who owns the finished work, and a project end date.

Rule # 2 - Know your paperwork. You must have a W-9 on file for each independent contractor so that you don't have to withhold income taxes from that individual. You will then have the information to create a 1099-MISC form for that person for the tax year (similar to a W-2 form for employees). All of these are a must. It will also help if you have any information about them that indicated they are working independently from you. Company business card, company address, other clients, etc.

Rule #3 - Businesses of all sizes need to follow the same rules. Don’t think because your business is small you won’t be found out. Audits happen all of the time. Occasionally contractors and employees “spill the beans” and that info will work against you.

Rule #4 - It’s all about the relationship. Let’s say that you have perfectly completed Rules #1-3 yet the auditor says this is an employee. How does that happen? Did you give the independent contractor working hours? Did you manage the job by telling the worker how to do the job? Basically, was this person treated as an employee? Yeah. It’s tough. But compare it to hiring a plumber or an electrician. Do you get to tell them when to be there and how to do their job? No. So it needs to be just like that. If they are working from home, you cannot control their time, but if they are coming internally just let them know the hours the business is open and when you can expect them.

Rule #5 - Temporary workers, probationary, or seasonal workers are NOT independent contractors. This is one of the main reasons that staffing companies exist because they take workers in these categories on as their employees to save you the hassle. Not to mention, staffing companies offer you a little more legal space to move around in because these people are typically hired and treated as employees but with the staffing company covering their taxes, benefits, etc. Another option is that YOU take them on as hourly employees and follow the paperwork that goes along with that.

Now that you know the rules, it’s time to play and win! THE most important thing to remember is to get the paperwork in order, define the relationship, then treat them not necessarily as family but more like the Lyft driver who you have a great time with, but they are really just there to get you where you need to go.


Hiring for Cultural Fit—What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

By Catherine Lang-Cline

We hire for a cultural fit.

Really, we do. And many, many companies do too. Companies do this because it works, but it isn’t perfect. Creating too deep of a mold for a cultural fit can make it so new hires begin to look, act, and think alike.

Let’s start with defining cultural fit. A few years ago the business community determined that every cool business needed a ping-pong table, beer on tap, and a bunch of bean-bag chairs. They were the first steps to building a culture, a place where people with the same interests would want to hang out and work. These turned more into frills as a real culture is built on people that are passionate about what they do. People that work hard when nobody's watching. People that love a job more than their paycheck. (Oh yes, they do exist!)

When people hire for culture and do it in a way that all the employees end up looking the same and thinking the same. They have not allowed room for diversity or special skills. So let’s talk about how to get the best people.

The best way to do this is to dig deeper during the interview process. Great, they love craft beer but if your company is innovative, can they get just as excited about that? Is your customer service something that they admire? Will they be able to work alone or as a group depending on how you currently work? How do they handle conflict?

You are going to want to hear things in the interview that you can relate to, that other people on the team can relate to. Your company has a team of hard workers and your first candidate has a story about how all through their life they have had to pull themselves up. Someone that almost looks identical, is equal in skills, has a story about how lucky they have been, and with their personality, can accomplish anything. Who is the best fit? That really depends on what is a fit for your company.

Does the candidate find job titles important? Do you? How do you feel about egos, communication styles, accountability? All of your questions need to revolve around everything that you value, everything that is important to you, anything that would be defined as a fit for your processes and your team.

If you have the entire team passionate about what you do and have a common approach to getting the work done, rather than all being from the same alma mater, you have a recipe for success.


Time Hop: The Evolution of the Staffing Industry

By Kristen Harris

A relatively new industry, the current concept of “staffing” has only been around for several decades. Even so, it’s evolved over that time.

Let’s jump in the way back machine…

The first temporary staffing firms started just after World War II, tapping into a growing market for part-time help. These early firms mostly focused on filling part-time or intermittent needs, especially in offices and secretarial pools. A combination of a few national firms and lots of local firms providing these services continued to grow throughout the 1950s and 60s. This type of work was especially appealing to women, allowing them to work outside of the home on their terms. In 1959, of the 150,000 people per year who found work through the top five firms, 85% were women

By the late 1960s and into the 70s “temporary help firms” were placing people with a broader range of talents and skills beyond the traditional office or clerical roles. Engineers, executives, financial controllers, and other professionals liked having more control over their work opportunities and schedule. This became especially attractive to people who were retiring but wanted to continue to work in some capacity.

In response to attempts at regulation of this new and growing industry, The Institute of Temporary Services was formed in 1966 to defend and advance the interests of their members. Now called The American Staffing Association, this industry organization continues to be the leader in support and advocacy for the staffing and recruiting industry.

Today American staffing companies employ more than three million people in an average week, adding up to nearly 17 million people per year. No longer just focused on office or clerical roles, there are staffing and recruiting firms to serve virtually any occupation and fill roles at any level. While there are plenty of firms that accept requests for any type of role, there are many firms (like ours) that have expertise in a niche. Instead of all jobs for all people, niche firms focus on specific jobs for specialized people.

Candidates who work with a staffing or recruiting firm gain access to more short-term, long-term, or full-time opportunities, based on their career interests and personal needs. Schedule flexibility is still a top reason people choose to work with staffing firms. However, half of the staffing employees see it as a route to a permanent position, with 9 out of 10 saying they felt their staffing assignment made them more employable.

As the needs of business and employees evolve, the staffing industry continues to evolve as well. Acting as hiring experts and consultants, firms partner with their clients to solve workforce needs and are often seen as a critical piece of a company’s hiring strategy. 

Want to know more about the staffing industry? Check out the American Staffing Association’s online timeline and historical archive.


Want to know more about the creative hiring specialists at Portfolio Creative? Connect with our team at portfoliocreative.com/contactus

People Like Us

Why We Started a Business

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Two graphic designers start a business, but it’s not a graphic design business. That is, we don’t design anything. The people we work with are the creatives and we just decided to help everyone find each other.

People like us, in the creative industry, know the challenges of finding great help. We also know the challenges of finding a place where we are happy to do our craft. Speaking for myself, I started out in a production role. Then did graphic design, then I designed gift wrap, then I worked at an ad agency, then another one, then I got into two retail marketing departments after freelancing for them and freelancing for a few other companies in between all of that. Creative roles needed to keep me interested and I moved around often. I am guessing that the majority of the people in creative roles operate in a very similar way.

People like us struggle where our creativity can’t be free, be challenged, be made to blossom. We know that we might be the misfits of an organization because we think differently and do our work with the opposite side of our brain than everyone else. We think in color. If we are lucky, we also can fire up the entire brain and think logically. People like us were told to write with our right hands, pay attention and stop doodling, and quite often were discouraged to be good at math.

That is why we wanted to help people like us. We understand what it is like to be the client looking for a candidate that will come in and “get it.” One that won’t have to be trained on the software and can bring a specialized talent to the table. We also understand what it is like to be a talented person just wanting to be a part of the creative process and really want to “wow” the team. We help them by knowing them. We help them by connecting them. We help them by being a part of their career and their creative process by finding the people that we would want to work on our projects. 

In order to do all of this properly, we needed to make this a business. It was a full-time job. Sure, it might look like a staffing company but it really is about connecting people like us. It is about understanding our clients' projects and understanding who is the best person for the task. It’s about partnership and pride and making creative things, and we love that we have created a business that brings together people like us.

Let’s all be creative together.


Expanding Our Table

By Catherine Lang-Cline

When you want to invite more guests to your conversation, you add chairs and expand the table. When you believe you can offer more people your service, you expand your business.

Fourteen years ago, we had this idea to specialize in creative staffing. My business partner and I worked in advertising and marketing for many years and really understood the industry. As a result, we created a company that created perfect matches based on that experience. Then we asked, why stop the conversation there? Let’s add people to the table.

Let’s start with how much we love Columbus. Columbus has been so welcoming to us and many, many other entrepreneurs. Columbus also has a great arts community; great museums, theaters, and more. If you have ever been to Cleveland or Cincinnati you know that they too have an incredible arts scene. Because it is so strong, we know that the people that live there have an admiration for the arts and thereby also appreciate great talent in all things creative, including advertising and marketing. That is the only way that this formula works.

It is for these reasons we believe that we can add Cincinnati and Cleveland to our conversation. We speak creative and have ingrained in us the type of excellence we expect our clients to have. Clients that belong to creative communities and understand the value of creative talent. Yes, yes, many staffing companies place creative talent and general staffing and they exist in both places. We believe that placing creative people is not typical staffing. It is based on a person’s personal style. It is also based on strengths and whether or not a person is a fit with your values and culture. But creative teams know this. 

As we sit between both cities, we have loved visiting Cleveland and Cincinnati. We have been to its ballparks, museums, restaurants, and mostly we know a number of creative people that live in both places. So pull up a chair and let’s talk (more) creative.


What Makes Us Unique

By Destiny Evans

When you wake up in the morning what motivates you to get through the day? Excellence is the driving force behind the day to day activities here, contributing to an environment where accountability keeps us in control. Here at Portfolio Creative, our company values are instilled in each and every one of our team members. Providing top-level talent requires us to be at the top of our game. We use each day to be better than the last. Today we explore the key to a healthy work environment. Owners Catherine and Kristen both highlight pivotal moments that have influenced the culture here at Portfolio Creative. How does the company culture foster positivity and healthy, productive work relationships? From tips on work-life balance to the foundation of company values, we can see what it takes to create the perfect workplace! 

Catherine: 

Kristen and I began at Limited Brands where they emphasized facetime or hard work in the office. It was a great company that paid its employees well and really offered lots of opportunities to advance and grow. The big thing was that there wasn’t a lot of work-life balance. So moving forward we wanted to use what we learned but expand and make it better. We’ve engrained a level of excellence into our company that pushes everyone to do their best. With a small company, everyone plays an important part in striving for that excellence. Everyone can bring forth suggestions and ideas. We are within the realm of “do your best” and meet your set goals at work, and in your personal life. Life balance is important for personal and professional goals. We send our team information on events they can go to, boards they can join; all in an attempt to foster constant growth which benefits the company and the team. We don’t believe in counting anyone's time because everyone holds each other accountable. Keeping it fast and loose helps everyone work when they are at their best! 

Kristen: 

We were very purposeful in creating the culture because we wanted it to be a place where we wanted to work. We have both worked at many places where we felt that the environment wasn’t the best. We strive for fun & friendly! Company culture is a reflection of the people who work there and in a way it embodies our personalities. The relaxed environment comes from peer accountability. Everyone is responsible to each other which is a direct result of our company values growth, passion, excellence, drive, and accountability. We use these values when screening candidates because we are a self-regulating team. People catch each other and have each other's backs. Because of that, we can have relaxed policies and rules which works for our small size. We don’t want to let each other down and our collaborative environment reflects that. Our EOS system helped to capture what tools we needed to put in place. Our formal meetings, agendas, and metrics help emphasize expectations amongst the team.


5 Great Tips To Develop a Successful Remote/Work From Home/Freelance Habit

By Catherine Lang-Cline

In brief, my career has consisted of working for a company, freelance,  working for a company, freelance, working for a company, freelance, etc. While I was self-employed as a freelancer and even when we started our business, there were a few rules that had to be followed as far as setting up shop at home. These were put in place to make sure that I/we developed great work-from-home habits that turned into real business behavior.

Here are the 5 top things that worked:

  1. Get dressed for work. You can keep it casual, but get dressed. No successful business person stayed in their pajamas all day. Getting dressed means that you have a purpose, you are ready for anything! While you are at it, make your bed, too.

  2. Have an “open-for-business” start time. Pick a time that you think you will be ready to work and stick with it. In the beginning, I showed up at my business partner’s house at 9 AM, dressed and ready to work. Every day. Then do your best to work a “full day.”  Time will go faster than you think, so when start time arrives, get to work!

  3. Have a dedicated work space, separate from distraction. When working from home I have tried working at the kitchen counter but within my view was the television, the laundry room, and food! Just one show, one snack, or maybe throwing in that laundry slowly chips away at the time. Once I set up a desk in the guest bedroom did I actually stay in there for hours and conquered all of my tasks. If you don’t have a guest room that is okay, just set up a workspace that is void of or not facing any distractions. Also, try not to let your work take over your entire house. If possible, keep the work in the workspace. (I will admit when we started our business it did take up a lot of my business partner’s house...but she had a lot of space to do so.)

  4. Set up a daily or weekly schedule of when you will work on things. A calendar on your computer is perfect to plan and set up reminders. Set aside times to work, set aside time to send out invoices, deposit checks, do some marketing, and of course, sales and networking. Map it all out and stick to it! If you need to save some time for working out or running errands, do so. This schedule is meant to be flexible and make time for you but also cover all of the basics of business. You will be surprised how quickly invoices can back up if it is not scheduled and you want to keep that cash flow coming in. 

  5. Have a stop time. Since work and home have now become one you need to be able to separate the two as well. You might find yourself working well into the night because you conveniently live at your office now. “I can get just one more thing done.” This may work for a few days when chasing a deadline, but you really need to unplug and refresh at the end of every day. Again, this is business, be aggressive, work hard, but know when you are done for the day.

The overall idea here is disciplining yourself in your “new” surroundings. Up to this point you have just lived in your house. It has been a place of safety, comfort, and rest. Working from home changes that overall feel and it does take some time to get into a rhythm. You can do it and you can enjoy the flexibility that you have worked so hard for.


How to Market Yourself at Networking Events

By Catherine Lang-Cline

It seems like there are networking events every day of the week. After you have decided which one to attend, you need to figure out how to get the most out of your time, something beyond, “what do you do?” and “can I have your card?”  Everyone is there for the same thing, to shake hands and maybe make some sales. With that in mind, you should not be afraid to start a conversation. You should also be doing more then just collecting cards too. Here are a few things you can do to not only meet people, but market to them, too.

  1. Be happy to meet someone. As you are introducing yourself, do it in a way that is friendly and warm. Seem obvious? Apparently it is not, as many people can treat you like just another handshake with no eye contact or no real interest in their voice. You never know who you are going to meet, so display an attitude of what it would be like if they are your customer. People like working with people they like and people that will take care of them. The first impression you give markets your business as a place that is friendly and can help them.

  2. Everyone is talking business and sales, so throw a curveball and talk about the food at the event, ask if this is their hometown, maybe ask what they like to do when they are not working. The idea is, you want your conversation to stand out. It will really stand out if you discover that you both have something in common. People like to do business with people that they share common interests. Dig for that and they will remember you as someone that they can relate to.

  3. Ask them about their business first, people love to talk about what they do. It is giving them the opportunity to make the first pitch. You then get to talk about you and your business. Since they went first, you can make your pitch to directly address their needs, you can customize your pitch to fit their business. Target your products or services based on what you heard and connect the dots for them! Plus, once they see how you can actually help them, you will stick in their mind the next time they have a struggle.

  4. Ask how you can specifically help. If you can’t help them, is there someone that they know that they can connect you with that does need what your business offers? Warm lead! Is there someone you can introduce them to at this event that they would like to meet or can help them in some way? Connect them! They will not forget your helpfulness and they will love to know that they helped you. You are marketing yourself as a connector and a partner in the community.

  5. Think about how your social media is set up, what information are you pushing out, what articles have you written, or what information are you sharing with the world? All of these things are great marketing talking points and conversation starters to show others how you are the expert in your area. People love hearing from an expert and you can think of this conversation as you hand-delivering your social media marketing. Sometimes people don’t need your business right away, but if you can help them right now in another way that shows off your expert thinking, they will first be grateful, and then remember you as the expert when they do have a need.


None of this can guarantee business of course, but what it does do is allow you to market yourself through conversations that will be remembered. It takes a number of events and meetings with people more to get your message out. There is an unwritten rule in marketing that people need to see a message seven times before recognizing it or acting upon it. Be patient, be present, and market yourself as you go.


What Inspires You?

By Catherine Lang-Cline

What inspires you? It is a tough question sometimes because when asked the question, we tend to state what other people think we should say. Typical answers can be my parents, my spouse, my children, etc. All of these are really good answers because you see them and you want to do better, work harder, and provide more but the word “inspire” is really much more.

Dictionary.com tells us that “inspire = fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.” So yes, people can inspire us but let’s think differently as there are a lot more things that can inspire us in more creative ways.

For me, I find delight in any form of the arts. Seeing actors in plays or dancers on stage make by heart and soul swell. When music plays I can feel it in my heart and it sometimes it gives me goosebumps. It generates a genuine physical reaction that is again, delight, it “makes me feel something.”

What inspires me the most are things that I believe that I am capable of doing. For example, I go to an art gallery and see the paintings and because I paint, I am inspired to apply their techniques, work on larger canvases, try mixing mediums, and altering my style. Granted this is WAY more elevated than where I am, but it gets me excited to try something different, to push myself.

In my career, it works the same way. I see how others are achieving their goals, I study their techniques, their style, and try to up my game. People that have worked hard to achieve their dream inspires me. People that build a great marketing message, a solid brand inspire me. People that develop great cultures in their business or do things that really matter inspire me. Building a business was uncharted waters but we surround ourselves with people that could help us, would push us, and inspire us.

Being inspired is seeing something amazing and wanting to reach that high, too. So now, what inspires you?


The Importance of Having a Mentor

By Catherine Lang-Cline

Lots of people start a business or begin their career thinking that they are all alone on their adventure. Or find themselves surrounded by people that are just like them; recent grad, laid-off employee, or a recent start-up trying to forge their way through the next day. It is at times like these that having a mentor is so important but really anytime is a great time to have a mentor if you want to grow in your career.

We can’t possibly know everything that is going to happen on the road ahead, so there is nothing better than to have someone with experience on our side to be our cheerleader and our guide. A mentor can help you plan your path, break things down into steps, introduce you to key people, have serious conversations about your choices, and hold you accountable. In a panic about something? Contact your mentor. Need a pep-talk? Contact your mentor. Not sure how to handle the call that you just got from an inspector? Call your mentor. See the pattern?

You can have one mentor or you can have a few people. With one mentor, meetings should be scheduled monthly or quarterly and have an agenda covering what you would like to discuss and what the status is of everything you have discussed prior. Stick to this schedule because their time is very important. Also, listen to what they are telling you. If they feel like you are wasting their time they might bail. Even if you don’t agree, listen and discuss why you disagree. You have to do what is best for you but also don’t be afraid to try something new. Discuss to think things through.

It can be a lot more casual if you choose to meet with a few mentoring people that can offer you different things. They could be in different places in their career, have a lifestyle similar to yours, be the person you want to emulate, or be an expert in something that you are not. Just plan an occasional meeting, could be breakfast or lunch, and catch them up on what you have been doing and ask them for their experiences in the areas that you are needing help. Again, keeping in touch will keep you accountable.

Where can you find a mentor? Mentors can be found anywhere but ideally, a good mentor is someone that knows you, at least a little. Tell your family and people that you know that you are looking to find a mentor. Hopefully they can recommend someone that they know fairly well and can introduce you. It doesn’t have to be someone in a completely related field, but close is good.

If someone in your close circle doesn’t know anyone, try networking events in the area of your interest. Start a conversation, see if you have a personality “click” and then set up a time for coffee to talk more to see if this person could be a good mentor for you. Stepping even further out of your circle, is there someone in your field that you would like to emulate? Research how they got to where they are today and come up with your own strategy to do the same. There are also organizations that can offer you a mentor or career coach for a fee. Don’t let a fee make or break your decision because quality it typically achieved when there is “skin in the game.”

Still not convinced that you need a mentor? Let me put it this way, I am sure that you are awesome at what you do, but you are not going to be good at everything, and you are not going to know everyone. I have been in business for 14 years and I still meet with mentors and people that I admire all of the time. The higher level conversations are amazing and all outside of your daily circle. It is great to be challenged and it is great to get answers for things that concern us.

Having a mentor is having a real pro on your team. Most importantly, when you are ready, always reach back and mentor someone else coming up through the ranks or in need of help. You can be a game-changer for them.