It’s true: looking for a new freelancer can be a pain.
But there are times in the life cycle of every business when you’ll need to find someone to do freelance work for you.
Maybe it’s because your business is expanding rapidly, but it doesn’t make sense yet to hire a full-time employee. Or maybe you just need some outside help on a one-time project that isn’t likely to recur.
Wading through a sea of independent contractors can feel, well, daunting. Not to mention tiring.
But it doesn’t have to be!
There are plenty of resources that can help with finding a freelancer. And there are often many resources within our own networks to help simplify (and speed up) the process.
Here’re some tips on hiring freelancers no matter the project: from freelance marketplaces to how to decide if someone is or isn’t a good fit.
Here are a few places to start your search for a freelancer. This way you aren’t stuck just staring at a long list of seemingly qualified professionals.
You can start your search by posting an ad on a freelance marketplace. The pay rates vary wildly, and unfortunately, so can the work quality. But there are still plenty of excellent freelancers finding work through these sites, so it’s worth looking—particularly if you’re on a budget.
There are several solid options to find a freelancer for your next project. Here’s a few where you can find a variety of freelancers for branding help, graphic design, web development, or great writing.
- Gigster (for tech talent)
Query on LinkedIn
Many recruiters and project managers go straight to LinkedIn to look for nearby freelancers. This is a great strategy to find individuals with the specific skill set you need. It also offers the advantage of showing what network contacts you have in common. This way, it’s easy to get more details on working with that freelancer by talking to someone both of you know.
When looking for people in LinkedIn, your mutual connections show up too.
LinkedIn gives the option to search for individuals by keyword and will list the people already in your network first. So, the more specific your search terms, the more tailored your results will be.
(TIP: If you want to be found on LinkedIn, make sure your LinkedIn summary is on point so your profile shows up first.)
I know. This one sounds obvious. But it’s one that’s often easy to overlook!
Ask your network for recommendations. It’s a fast way to find strong freelancers that have already met a higher threshold. They’ve already worked with someone you know—and impressed them.
If there are freelancers that have already worked for you but aren’t available, remember to ask them as well if they have any peers who can get the job done. They already know what it’s like to work with you and your company and can recommend someone who fits the bill to the same standard.
Ask About Work You’ve Loved
Rather than reviewing a million portfolios, it’s simpler to ask about the work you’ve already noticed and appreciated.
Of course, that means keeping track of outstanding work you’ve noticed, even if you’re not looking for a freelancer at that moment.
Whether it’s design work or writing, it’s easy to keep a digital or hard copy folder of projects you thought were outstanding. If it’s created by a freelancer who’s already too busy or out of your budget range, they can probably recommend someone they trust.
So you’ve identified some freelancers with skills you’re seeking. But how, exactly, do you know if they’re someone you want to work with—particularly if it’s going to be on a consistent basis?
Know What You Need/Define the Scope of Work Beforehand
It definitely makes a difference (and will save you money) to know what work you need. Freelancers—or any employee, really—can’t produce what they haven’t been asked for.
If you can explain up front what you’re looking for, it will also help them answer whether it’s something that’s actually within their ability.
Even if you get referrals, you’ll still need to look at some portfolios! Take a look at similar work your potential freelancer has already done.
But don’t overlook what may seem unrelated, either.
If you’re hiring a copywriter, of course look at their copywriting work. If that person has done other work that takes creativity, check that out too. Someone who spends their days writing ad campaigns and their nights doing comedy has a very useful extra tool at their disposal that can help you, depending on your business.
Portfolios can often be found on a freelancer’s website.
If you’re hiring a graphic designer, you may want to see how they were able to execute a project brief or bring additional expertise in imagery into a project. Meanwhile web developers should be able to show off what other work they’ve done, even if it was not a site like yours.
Talk Face to Face
If possible, it helps to have an in-person meeting with potential freelancers. This will give both of you a sense of whether you get along and can communicate well.
Take some time to explain the project to them and give them plenty of space to ask questions and clarify your needs. It’s a sign they’re thinking through the practical aspects of the work and are getting the details they need to do the job well.
And of course: see how well you get along. You’ll want to gauge if this is someone you can easily communicate with who takes feedback well.
Tina Fey said of hiring writers in Bossypants, “Don’t hire anyone you wouldn’t want to run into by the bathroom at three in the morning.”
She was talking about pulling all-nighters with a bunch of TV cut ups, but even for choosing a freelancer, it’s decent advice. Do you think you’ll get along with this person when both of you are tired and frustrated?
That will give you insight into whether you can work together when circumstances are great.
Give Them a Starter Project or a Trial Run
If you have a good feeling about a freelancer, try giving them a trial project. A project that’s on a trial basis lets you get a feel for how someone works and how quickly they incorporate and adjust to feedback.
For instance, a writer might not be able to nail your business’s voice in one try. But if they incorporate feedback and takes notes well, it shows how flexible they are as well as any learning curve they may have.
So you’ve chosen a great candidate (or several!) and now it’s time to roll.
Before you get your new freelance force off and started on projects, you’ll need to integrate them into your business and process flow.
Establish a Payment Protocol
It’s tempting to put off the nitty gritty of W-9s and invoices until it’s necessary, but skipping this step can slow down your freelancer and may hold up receiving deliverables.
Give clear instructions on what tax information you need from them, who and where to send invoices to, as well as when to send them. This way, they can invoice you easily when it’s time and there won’t be need for a flurry of emails when one of you isn’t available.
Create a Project Brief
Freelancers cannot read your mind.
What might seem obvious to you might raise a ton of questions on their end. And ultimately, you don’t want to be paying a freelancer to run around getting details for assignments when they could be doing the actual work.
So brief out your project to make sure they have all the information that they need.
And—this is crucial!—put it all in one place.
Whether you use Basecamp or Asana or would rather send a single Word document, make sure your freelancer has something they can reference when they need to find an asset or reference key figures.
An example of an assignment brief (look familiar?)
And because freelancers can’t read your mind, it’s also important to…
Create a Productive Feedback Loop
It’s rare that any work doesn’t need some sort of revision or editing. You need a process for communicating feedback about that editing process that’s clear and constructive.
Tearing apart someone’s work might be easy, but it won’t help you get the deliverables you need.
These are all strategies to make the process simpler and make the search significantly less painful. Happy freelancer hunting!