Top ways to hire a freelancer
The freelance industry is exploding. In fact, it is estimated that by 2020, 40% of the American workforce will be freelancers by choice.
At Moonlighting, we know that for business owners, this stands for numerous benefits too – less overhead costs, limited payroll and ultimately a more skilled and affordable worker on board as despite the higher hourly rates, business still save 20-30% on average when hiring freelancers.
Yet, finding a good freelance “match” can be a tough call. You must follow some critical steps to make sure you get the most qualified and reliable person to “fill the bill,” considering that you may have never actually “meet” them in person. By paying attention to the next 10 pointers, you will be able to hire the right person for your team!
1. Experience in your industry
The very best content writer in the world may be creative and engaging in many niches. But if your niche is legal and the writer you are considering doesn’t have experience in that niche, there will be a learning curve that will be too long and complex. No matter how much you may like the samples a freelancer presents, you must consider niche knowledge. Same goes for designers, developers and other digital professionals.
2. References and testimonials
The depth of reference checking relates to the depth of your project. If you are hiring someone to design a logo for your company, then you will want to see the person’s portfolio and that’s pretty much it. If, however, you are hiring someone to develop an HR manual, you will obviously want to see more than just samples. You will want to talk to others who have used their services for similar projects. Great professionals won’t mind sharing public testimonials, putting you in touch with a former client or showing some case studies
3. Established online presence
Professional freelancers typically run personal websites or portfolios; are active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Do a quick “background check” to pick up more information about your candidate, along with the possible references.
4. Availability to schedule a discovery call/quick interview
That might not make sense for smaller or one-off tasks, but getting on the phone/Skype is essential when establishing long term co-operations. First of all, this will allow you to see through watching facial expressions as you ask questions; talk over the key details in real time and merely get a better idea about whom you will be working with. If a professional feels absolutely reluctant about scheduling at least one quick call, consider this a red flag.
Most freelancers bill you either by the project (fixed price) or per hour. Paying by the hour can be a bit risky, because those hours can add up quickly and even expand to more time than you originally thought. Some freelancers do charge this way, however, such as lawyers, and you will need to be certain that you ask for a full and detailed accounting of their billable time. Never go with the cheapest freelancer. Research the going rate for the type of work you need, and get an idea of the average for the niche. This will at least let you know if a freelancer is within the ballpark of reasonable pricing.
6. A simple contract
A professional freelancer will want a contract as much as you do. This is a legal document that will spell out all of the responsibilities of both of you. It will include the full details of the project/task, the timelines, and, of course, the payment. Having a mutually acceptable contract in place will set proper expectations from both sides. You may be going through a freelance platform. In that case, you will find contract templates that have been carefully designed, so using those will give you all of the details you need.
7. Clear payment agreement
When you hire someone to do work on your home, let’s say painting, you do not pay the entire amount upfront. You pay a certain amount in the beginning and the remainder at the end. The same should work with a freelancer. The only time this is not the case is if you go through a freelance platform. You may need to make the entire payment up front, but the funds are not released to the freelancer until you have received delivery and are satisfied.
8. Well-defined communication pipeline
Normally, these will be spelled out in your contract. But there are some things that you will want to emphasize with the freelancer. For example, how often are they supposed to provide a progress report to you? At what points during the project do you want to see what has been done and approve it? Talk this through in advance.
You want a freelancer who is enthusiastic about your project. This is usually revealed in voice tone and a willingness to talk about the details of the project. Does the person ask a lot of thoughtful questions? This is also a good sign.
10. Your gut instinct
This is hard to define. But if you just have a feeling that this is not a good match, move on. There are lots of freelancers in every niche, and you want one that you feel good about right from the beginning.
What qualities to look in a freelancer
As small business owners, we’re often compelled to go it alone. After all, we’re “self-made” men and women, are we not? We’ve done what it takes to get by, making the necessary sacrifices — giving up our weekends and vacation time for months on end. Business has become a carefully-orchestrated game and suddenly calling in extra help would be akin to cheating…right?
Not so. In fact, asking for help is not only one of the easiest ways to prevent burnout; it’s also one of the best ways to continue to grow your business as a whole. If running business is a game, then consider the art of delegation one of the best power-ups available. In fact, it would be a mistake not to hire on extra help when you need it!
But, although we’ve encouraged you to outsource work before, we’ve never told you specifically what to look for. Sorry about that. After all, hiring a freelancer or group of freelancers to look after your business — to take on the tasks that you either can’t or don’t want to do — can be a nerve-wracking process. However, that process can be less anxiety-inducing when you know what to look for.
What Questions have to consider,When Hiring a Freelancer
1. Do They Walk the Walk?
It’s easy for someone to “talk the talk,” but does the freelancer you’re considering also “walk the walk?”
Pay close attention to what the freelancer is claiming they can do for you. Are they promising killer blog articles? Fabulous web design? To attract new followers in the thousands? If so, they should be able to back up their claims with proof — usually in the form of a portfolio.
Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon for a freelancer’s own business/website to go unattended if they have a steady influx of work coming in. When a freelancer is forced to choose between paying work done for others, or working for themselves for nothing, they will almost always choose the former.
Just because you don’t see what you’re looking for on a freelancer’s website doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t have it. Provided that everything else about them seems on the level, it would be worth it to you to just ask them for additional samples. There’s a good chance they’ve got a folder full of work sitting on their desktop that they simply haven’t found the time to upload yet.
2. How do They Prefer to Communicate?
Communication is an important factor to any working relationship. Even the most competent freelancer can become frustrated — or run amok — if not provided with a line of clear communication from their client (you). And, of course, you don’t want to leave your business (even just a small aspect of it!) in the hands of someone you can’t get a hold of.
Every freelancer has their preferred method of communication. But, most will have a back-up method that they’re willing to use, if needed. A freelancer to typically does business via e-mail may concede to using Skype or their cell phone if the client is worth it. All you need to do is ask. Most freelancers allow a certain amount of flexibility into their day-to-day.
However, don’t force the freelancer to communicate with you a certain way. If you prefer to do all of your business via Yahoo Messenger, that’s fine; but don’t insist that everyone who works with you download the program too — unless, of course, you make it worth their while.
Communication is a two-way street. Flexibility will be required on your end as well. Or, if you’re unwilling to compromise, a bigger paycheck may be in order.
3. How Much do They Charge?
Whilst it’s not the best idea to go for the cheapest freelancer on the market — after all, you get what you pay for! — that doesn’t mean that you can’t find someone who provides great work for reasonable prices. But how is “reasonable” defined in this situation? Simply put: it’s what you’re prepared to pay!
Be up front about your budget — you don’t want to waste your time or theirs. And don’t be afraid to pay up front for smaller projects. Bigger projects may require a percentage up front as well. Both of those situations are perfectly normal and acceptable. However, if the freelancer wants a large payment entirely up front, you’re allowed to be suspicious.
Personally, my favorite freelancers are the ones who are fine with waiting to be paid until after their work is completed. It shows trust from both parties; and trust is an important component to my business as a whole. But, as a freelancer myself, I understand that it’s all-too-easy for freelancers to get “burned” out on the field. If you ask for your freelancer to trust you, be worthy of that trust.
4. Do They Provide the Services You Require?
This might sound like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised how many business owners hire the wrong person for the job at hand. Don’t hire a writer as your web designer or a children’s book illustrator to perform SEO. (Unless they have proof they’re fully capable of performing dual careers).
Take the time to do your research and hire the right person for the duties needed.
5. Do They Have Testimonials from Previous Clients?
Were their former clients satisfied with the work that was performed? More importantly, do those clients mention being pleased with final projects similar to what you’re considering hiring the freelancer to do? For it’s all well and good for a freelancer to have dozens of great referrals — none of that praise will matter if it isn’t relevant to what you’re looking for.
If the freelancer doesn’t have any testimonials showing on their website, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve never had any clients. Certain contract restrictions may have forced them into being overly private with their clients’ information. Ask them — you may be pleasantly surprised.
Of course, there’s always the possibility that they are new to freelancing and you’re their very first client. In which case, you’ll need to ask:
6. Are They Willing to Learn?
If the freelancer you’re considering for your project is trying to break into the field, you might end up being their first client. It doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t know what they’re doing — few people start a career (online or off) without knowing something about the work it entails. Everyone has to start somewhere. You may need to go with your gut.
However, as a fledgling freelancer, there may be a bit of a learning curve involved. Are you willing to spend the time it takes to help guide this person in the right direction?
A willingness to learn is also important if you have a particular way of doing things that contradicts traditional “norms” for the job at hand. For instance, if all of your margins need to be set at half an inch rather than a full inch on written documents. Or if you need everyone who works for you to knock three times and spin counter-clockwise before entering your office. Even someone with years of experience in the field will need time to learn or re-learn the skills needed to cater to your whims. Which brings me to the last question…
7. Do They Have Time for You?
Even the fastest freelancers only have so many hours allotted to them per day. And, if they’re good at their job and in high demand, those hours will fill up quickly. Make sure the freelancer you’re considering has space for you on their client roster.
Is this going to be ongoing work or a one-off gig? When do you need your project finished by?
Be up front about your deadlines so the freelancer can tell you immediately whether or not they can fit you into their schedule, now or in the near future. If the answer they give you isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t be afraid to ask them for a referral. Freelancers who work within the same field tend to run in the same circles, networking with each other. If the freelancer you’ve found isn’t available for the job you need them for when you need them for it, they may know of someone else who is.
And, just as we encourage freelancers not to rely on one client for the entirety of their income, we’d like to encourage you not to depend on one freelancer for all of the work you need performed. Instead, gather together a “stable” of stable (see what I did there?) freelancers. Once you’ve found a few loyal, capable workers, you’ll be amazed at how much easier your life becomes. With a little help, your business will thrive. You may even be able to take a vacation!