More and more businesses these days are choosing to hire freelancers, rather than taking on new employees. This can be a smart move, depending on the type of work your company needs help with. Larger organizations can justify having an in-house graphic designer, writer, or web designer, but smaller businesses often can’t afford to have multiple full-time employees or just don’t have enough work to keep someone busy in these positions.
There are lots of benefits to hiring a freelancer. You’ll have more flexibility within your budget when new expenses come up and you won’t have to worry about paying benefits for another employee. You can also choose freelancers with extensive experience and skills that are lacking in your permanent workforce.
With that said, how do you vet freelancers and hire someone who will be reliable and give you the results you’re looking for? Here’s what to look for.
Samples of Past Work
Experience is great, but it’s not as important as what someone can do. One of the first things to ask when you connect with a freelancer is “do you have a portfolio or samples of your work that I can see?” Even if they don’t have a sample that directly relates to the work you’re outsourcing, a sample of their work can still tell you a lot.
Choosing a freelancer who can’t or won’t send you samples of their work (or at least discuss the results they’ve achieved in the past) is a huge gamble. It’s important to see proof that they can do the work before you try working with them.
It’s always best if you can hear from a freelancer’s past clients before you decide to hire them. It’s not always the norm to ask for references when hiring a freelancer, but many professionals will have testimonials available on their websites. Review these to get a sense of a freelancer’s strengths.
It’s frustrating to set a deadline, only to find yourself empty-handed after the due date. Reliability is critical for freelancers, but there is a surprising number of people out there who consistently struggle to meet deadlines or show up for meetings.
When setting up meetings with freelancers, pay attention to their communication and punctuality. Were they on time for the meeting? If they were running late or needed to cancel, were they proactive about it?
You can’t always assess reliability from your initial meetings with somebody. However, it’s important to watch out for red flags.
Freelancers spend a lot of time working with clients, so they should have good communication skills. Setting up a phone call or video chat to discuss your needs is an important step in the vetting process. You’ll get a good sense of what it will be like to work with them through this process.
Asks Questions & Tries to Understand Your Business
During your first meeting with a freelancer, there should be a lot of give and take. A freelancer who cares about quality and takes pride in doing a good job will ask lots of questions about your business and take the time to understand your product or service, your audience, and your goals.
If a freelancer doesn’t have questions for you, then they might not be the type of person to see the big picture or take the initiative, which can end up being a problem.
Can Follow a Brief
Some people are very good at what they do but aren’t able to follow simple instructions or a project brief to save their lives. It’s a good idea to make sure that any freelancer you hire can follow your instructions without multiple back-and-forth conversations. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to provide a (paid) test project to make sure anyone you hire can follow a simple brief.
Will Provide Their Own Ideas
Even though it’s important to make sure a freelancer can follow instructions, that doesn’t mean they should just go along with what you want at all times. Freelancers who can provide their own opinions and explain why they recommend something will help make your business better. You are hiring a professional who might very well have a different skill set than you do, and it’s important to hire a freelancer who isn’t afraid to speak up with their own ideas and recommendations.
Interested in Ongoing Work
It can be nerve-wracking to hire a freelancer you’ve never worked with before. At some level, you have to put a lot of trust in someone you just met. That’s why it’s always best to start building a list of trusted freelancers you can turn to whenever you need help on a project. Hiring a freelancer who is open to future work after the completion of your initial project presents an opportunity to start a valuable business relationship.
Even if you’re hiring a freelancer for just one project, you’ll be communicating with them to some degree throughout the project. There is likely to be a revision process, at least initially. With that in mind, make sure anyone you hire is personable. You don’t want to end up working with someone you don’t get along with!
Hiring Freelancers Makes Financial Sense—But it Does Require Legwork
For businesses on a budget, hiring freelancers can make a lot of sense. A freelancer’s per-hour or per-project rate might be higher than an employee’s overall, but you’ll almost certainly save your business money because you’ll only be paying for specific projects, not keeping them on the payroll all year.
With that said, there is some up-front work you’ll have to do in order to find reliable, skilled freelancers you enjoy working with. Finding the right freelancers can feel like a lot of effort, but it will help you grow your business and make important connections that can last for years.