Contract labor isn’t a new concept, but the rise of the gig economy combined with shrinking talent pools has given contract labor a new purpose. And for employers who are thinking strategically about their workforces, contract labor can be an ace in their sleeve. Are you heading into a busy season? Looking for a ringer to knock out a few tasks? In some cases, contract support can unlock increased productivity.

So how do you know when (and how) to call on contractors? Here are a few signals it’s time to look for a little help.

Your Headcount is in Flux

We’ve all been there: A team member’s resigned, and suddenly, there are more tasks on your to-do list than there are hours in the day. Or maybe you’ve decided to create a new role to handle your department’s growing workload, but you’re still looking for the right fit. Either way, the work is piling up, and burning out members of your team while you try to keep everything afloat. And in a job market like the one we’re seeing—where searches take a long time and competition for talent is tight—the hunt for the right person could take months.

This might feel like the most obvious reason to call in contract help, but it’s a sad truth that too many of us drown in the work while avoiding calling on outside help. If you find the right contractor, they can be a surefire solution to bridging the gap on team resources.

You want to Try Something Out

This one might be my favorite. Using contractors when you think you might need a new headcount or you want to try out a new role and job description (before you commit to benefits and a permanent seat) is a great way to experiment with growing your team for a fixed period of time. The true cost of a new hire is pricey. From sourcing to the benefits and salary, adding headcount can cost you a pretty penny.

If the role works out, some contractors are amenable to contract-to-hire arrangements. So as an added bonus, you may be able to snap up a talented contributor without launching a new search.

And with contract support, the terms are clear: We need you until we don’t. So there are no hard feelings when you decide to either make the role permanent or nix it in favor of trying something else.

Things Are About to Get Hectic

We all have our busy times and big, audacious goals. Stretch projects and work surges can mean long hours for your team. And no matter how much grit and commitment your team has, there’s a limit to the hours each of them has in a day. If you’re not careful about the balance between your work and your resources, your team could be headed for burnout and sloppy errors.

A contractor (or two) can help your team manage the tidal wave of work headed your way. And—unlike with adding the headcount of a full-time employee—when the work cools down, you can dial your budget back down and end your work agreement with a contractor.

Finding Your Contractor: Independent Contractors vs Agency Contractors

The truth is, not all contractors are created equal. Just like with employees, you can run into mismatches and performance issues. With independent contractors, you might be starting with little to no knowledge of the contractor’s strengths, and you might end up paying a premium to help cover the costs of an independent individual’s operating expenses. That’s why using an agency to source your contractors is the safest bet.

The agency handles the nitty-gritty details, like interviewing and selecting the right candidate. And in many cases, they already have a pool of vetted talent waiting in the wings. Even better, agencies pick up the administrative costs of a contractor, including their benefits and PTO, so you can be sure everyone’s best interest is being considered—without you having to take on the extra line items.

Does this sound like a win-win for your team? Do you a success story to share? Start a conversation by leaving your comments below.