If you’ve never done it before, figuring out how to hire a freelancer can be a bit overwhelming. Should you hire a freelancer from your own network? Use a freelance platform like Upwork? or is there some secret method to hire a freelancer that you don’t know about yet?
Whether you’re a client looking to add a freelancer to your team or you’re a freelancer yourself looking to hire your first sub-contractor, this guide will help you understand the ins-and-outs of hiring a freelancer that won’t disappoint and can help take your business to the next level.
1. Analyze Your Needs for Hiring a Freelancer
If you want to hire the right freelancer for the job, you need to know exactly what the job is and what it implies. So before actually hiring someone, take a step back and think about what you’re trying to achieve.
Here are a things to consider:
What goals will hiring a freelancer achieve?
Okay, you know you want to hire a freelancer, but what are you really trying to achieve?
It can be easy to focus on the service you’re hiring a freelancer for (development, writing, social media marketing, etc.) but you’ll have the most luck hiring a quality freelancer if you can get really clear on your end-goals. The “why” that goes far beyond the daily work your freelancer will do for you.
- Instead of “writing,” you want a freelancer who “grows traffic through quality articles.”
- Instead of “social media marketing” you want a freelance who “grows sales from Facebook and Pinterest.”
Can you see how reframing your goals can help get a clearer picture on what kind of freelancer you want to hire?
What are your timelines and deliverables?
Timelines and deliverables will help you get a sense of the schedule and workload before hiring your freelancer. As a result, you will know if you need a long-term collaboration vs. a one-time project, and if you want to hire a freelancer full-time or put the basis of a team.
Additionally, goals are useful when setting the milestones of the project (some platforms, like Upwork or Freelancer allow this right in their platform).
Having a clear idea of exactly what you need done and by when will allow you to hire the best freelancer you can for the job.
Which skills should your freelancer excel at?
Goals and timing are the foundation on which you can hire a quality freelancer. A freelancer’s skills are what helps you find the perfect match for the actual work you need done.
For example, let’s say you want to hire a web developer to work on your app idea. What type of skills should a viable candidate have?
Think about the platforms and technologies you would like them have expertise in. The world of web technologies is incredibly diverse, so it can be difficult to know these details, especially as a non-tech-savvy person.
Therefore, before hiring a freelancer, it helps to discuss your project with a specialist – it will be a bit pricey, but they can put you on the right path and give you a list of skills to look out for. You might even consider talking with an expert as part of your hiring process. Some freelancers will offer free or paid consultations about your project to give you an idea of what it will take to achieve your goal.
However, regardless of technical skills and experience, you also want to find a freelancer with the following skillset:
- Friendly & polite in communication
- Open to constructive feedback
- Reliable & respectful towards deadlines
- Transparent and easy to talk to
- Curious about their field (they stay up to date with the latest developments)
- Determined & consistent in their efforts
Of course, it is difficult to determine all this from a few emails and a quick video chat, which is why you have to study their portfolio and previous work experience. Also, pay special attention to the reviews section of their profile (available on all major freelancing platforms).
2. Establish Your Budget for Hiring a Freelancer
Before you can think about hiring a freelancer, you must understand the type of financial investment it requires.
In some aspects, paying freelancers for a project is a lot easier than adding a full-time employee. Freelancers are considered independent contractors, therefore clients don’t have to pay any taxes or fees that apply in an employer-employee relationship. You can also avoid overhead costs like computers or healthcare when hiring a freelancer.
Still, it takes time and effort to hire a freelancer who’s reliable and within your budget. Additionally, there are a few other legal aspects such as worker classification.
Hiring and working with freelancers doesn’t necessarily mean less paperwork for you, as a customer. However, the lowered costs and the benefits of working with experienced people trump this aspect of the collaboration.
The budget is a crucial aspect of the negotiation process, and it is indicative of the level of quality and professionalism you want when hiring a freelancer. Therefore, before you post the job ad, make sure you tripled-checked the funds.
Compared to the work you’re asking for, is the budget enough for a fair payment?
To make sure your budget is fair and attractive for the type of person you want, research the average rate for hiring freelance professionals you hope will work on your project.
For instance, the cost per hour for hiring freelance developers varies depending on region and level of experience. While a US-based developer may cost between $70 and $300/hour, one that’s based in South Asia will have rates starting around $30/hour and may provide the same quality of work.
Don’t aim for the cheapest freelancers unless you are looking for low-quality work or beginners. While it may not always be true, low rates usually mean the freelancer is inexperienced or doesn’t know how to value their work.
Lastly, a freelancer who is happy with your offer may become a long-term and reliable collaborator. So, it pays to be well-intentioned and fair from the start.
3. Choose the Right Platform & Post the Job
We cannot talk about how to hire a freelancer without mentioning the many freelance online platforms that allow clients to post jobs and find their best candidates.
Choosing the Right Freelance Job Platform
Platforms like Upwork & Fiverr are at the top of the popularity ranks right now, but there are so many freelance job sites that anyone can find the right freelancer for their needs.
Here are a few things to look for when you’re browsing freelancing platforms:
- The type of freelancers available (is it a highly specialized platform or a general one?)
- How they screen freelancers (most practice a reviews-based system)
- Types of projects you can post (complex, one-time-only, gigs)
- Entry fees and other commissions
- Reviews from other users
Moving forward, here are a few tips on how to hire a freelancer using the most popular five platforms:
While the platform started as an alternative to all the big boys out there (you could get gig jobs done here easily), nowadays, it plays host to professionals in digital marketing, web development, social media, and more.
On Fiverr, you can browse freelancers (or sellers, as they’re called here) and their skills, prices, and portfolios, and select the ones you think are a good fit.
As one of the largest freelance platforms in the world, you can trust Upwork’s services and processes. Upwork is a platform that unites professionals from a wide range of domains, but predominantly, you will find people from online marketing, programming, and website design. However, they are considered a bit pricey by both freelancers and clients.
On the other hand, the platform is secure (for payments) and provides users with tools for time-tracking and communication.
Freelancer seems to be the ideal platform for small and medium-sized businesses looking for help in areas such as web design, social media marketing, logo design, web development, and more.
The platform works on a bidding system (freelancers bid on job offers) and provides users with plenty of tools for tracking progress and communication. It’s also secure for performing payments and sending and receiving files.
Flexible and cost-effective, Guru is a platform that hosts about 3 million freelancers from a wide range of domains (web development, software development, online marketing, and so on). Some freelancers seem to prefer this environment because it’s more convenient in terms of fees and commissions.
All the platforms above are general (freelancers from all domains) and use a reviews-based system to differentiate freelancers and showcase their level.
Toptal is different, in the sense that they only allow a few specialties (such as software development, financial consulting, management), and all their freelancers are vetted by an extensive screening process.
Of course, this means the talent pool is considerably smaller, but you have the certitude all of them are professionals.
Getting the Freelance Job Description Right
The freelance job description is one of the most important steps when learning about how to hire a freelancer. Most freelancing platforms will provide some type of guidance but it all boils down to providing an easy-to-read and clear description of your project.
You have to be thorough, without revealing too much information about the project (sensitive information and such). You also need to know the type of skills and commitment you’re looking for as mentioned previously.
For a well-designed freelance job listing, consider including the following:
- A comprehensive title (most freelancers skim through the list of most recent jobs, so the title will be the one to catch their eye)
- A short company presentation (who you are and what you do)
- The type of work you’re looking for (eg. professional web developer vs. beginner web developer)
- Duties and tasks the freelancer is expected to perform during the collaboration
- Skills (and their level) needed so the project will be a success (eg. extreme attention to detail or passion for good organization)
- Length (also specify if you’re looking for payment per hour or per project) and expected availability during the day
- Budget – how much are you willing to pay (you can also ask freelancers to send their own rates)
Additionally, some platforms will allow you to add a short questionnaire, as a pre-interview. This tool is quite useful during the selection process, so make full use of it. Also, ask freelancers to send samples of their previous work or links to their portfolio.
4. Select the Best Freelance Candidates
Once a freelance job is posted, it becomes visible on the wall of the platform and freelancers can apply/bid on it. If you follow the steps mentioned above, your job will get quite popular fast, and you will have a lot of applications to review.
This is a good thing, but it’s also a time-consuming task. Also, not all applicants follow your requests since many freelancers apply in the hope you’ll overlook their lack of experience in the field.
Trim down the list to include only the candidates that fit your specifications.
This can be done by checking the pre-interview questionnaire (if the platform has such an option) or by sorting the applicants based on reviews and overall scores.
Some platforms also offer a tool that lets you know just how compatible the freelancer is with the profile you established. This means you can further sort the applicants from the most to least compatible ones.
Go through their applications one by one.
Start with the applicants that have the most (and preferably best) reviews. Check if they fit within your budget and make sure their skills fit your needs.
This activity leads to a shorter list of freelancers to hire most compatible with your job profile. Once you have this, it’s time to get in touch (usually via message) and discuss the details.
Most platforms will also allow you to invite freelancers to apply to your job post. So, if anyone catches your eye, look for an invite feature. They may not be available, but you can’t know until you ask.
5. Perform Freelancer Interviews & Last Details
Now that you have your shortlist of candidates, it’s time to actually talk to these freelancers and see if they’re up to your standards and worth hiring.
If possible, meet the top candidates via a video call. It’s a lot easier to assess the person when you see their reactions to questions and how they behave in conversation. Otherwise, let their previous work speak for their skills and try to have a nice chat using the text messenger app of the platform.
In both cases, here are some things you should consider covering during the interview:
- Samples of their previous work or link to their portfolio (if you don’t have them already)
- How they feel about your project and if they consider themselves prepared to tackle it
- Whether they have worked on a similar project before (if yes, ask for details)
- How they feel about the timetable. What is their current workload? Freelancers usually work on several projects at once, so it’s important to ask in advance about their overall availability
- Their openness to constructive feedback.
- How they deal with an unhappy client
- Their preferred method of communication
After the interviews, you should have two or three best candidates from which to choose your favorite. We think that the person most open to communication and eager to provide samples of high-quality work is the best choice, but the decision is yours at this point.
Once you have the candidate(s) you like, make sure to provide them with all the details they need to start. Also, go through the payment and schedule details one more time, to make sure everyone is on the same page.
There is no way to know for sure if the freelancer you like will prove to be as-advertised. So, it is best to start with a test period (a few weeks and up to a few months) during which you get to know each other better. Try saying something like “Let’s try this out for a few months and then we can revisit to make sure this is a good fit for both of us.”
6. Hire the Freelancer!
Congratulations if all the previous steps have gone well, you can now hire your favorite freelancer from your list of candidates. If you’re using a freelance platform, click to hire the freelancer for your project. If you’ve used another method, call or email them to let them know you’ve chosen to hire them for your project.
Hiring a freelancer can a satisfying and exciting time for both you and the freelancer your hiring. But that doesn’t mean your work is over. In fact, in many cases, the real work is just beginning.
Here are some important next steps after you’ve successfully hired your freelancer:
Establish Communication Rules
Communication is critical when hiring a freelancer and working with them successfully. Here are a few rules you may want to cover together:
Do you need a Non-Disclosure Agreement?
If you will share sensitive information that could affect your business if leaked, then an NDA is a good idea. Additionally, train the freelancer how to use the information and how to protect your project from any prying eyes when they work on it.
Will this be a work-for-hire?
Even if you hire a freelance professional to put together an app, the app is yours. For this, make sure they agree that any such creations belong to your company after they receive the agreed payment.
How will they report progress and handle errors/feedback?
Establish a protocol for progress reports (at the end of the workday or workweek) and provide your collaborators with various methods of reaching out in case they need your advice or information on the project.
Also, talk to them about errors and mistakes. Establish a system, where they will notify you if something happens so you can stay on top of any security risks and other issues.
7. Follow Progress & Provide Feedback
Now that you’ve hired a freelancer, it’s your job to manage the relationship and stay on top of everything. You can’t just lay back and go about your life just because you hired a qualified freelancer.
Even if you’re working with a freelancer who has all the right skills, it’s still mandatory that you follow the progress and provide constructive feedback. After all, this is your project and the freelancer is just helping you bring it into reality.
Final thoughts on hiring the right freelancer
At the end of the day, learning how to hire a freelancer isn’t all that complicated. The process is rather simple and is quite similar to online job applications. Only this time, the interview won’t end with a job offer and you won’t have to worry about hiring someone new. Moreover, the freelancing market is so wide and diverse that you can find specialists in almost all domains.
Use the advice above to try hiring your first freelancer without being disappointed in the end result.
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