How to hire a freelancer - A step-by-step guide

Published Feb. 22, 2021 by Andy L. in Hiring

The freelance market has skyrocketed in the past decade thanks to richer ways to communicate. Email, instant messaging, marketplaces, job boards (like lancer.to) have made the process of both finding work and help on work much more streamlined.

This guide is a summarized take on hiring a freelancer in 2021. We'll do our best to update it as time progresses and tactics change. Let's dive in.

Start with a goal

I hope this is obvious but before you can hire someone to help you a goal must be set. Having a goal outlined helps you communicate your needs better. A goal will also help you vet the perfect freelancer for the job to be done.

Try to think about anything extra that could come up when the project so you can account for the unexpected. This will save you and the person(s) you hire much more time. Constantly changing the goal will lead to bad outcomes and improper use of resources, time, and money.

Define requirements and constraints

When hiring someone for temporary help it's best to be as detailed as possible. The scope of work needs to cover every aspect the freelancer might encounter. Remember that they are foreign to your process, communication style, other employees, and more. They'll need time to adjust so unless you'd like to pay extra for that time you can meet them halfway with some help on how to get acquainted.

This "help" might include a brief on:

  • How you or your team communicates
  • Logins to tools and apps that require the use
  • Who to contact if help is needed
  • Where you should reside if you work onsite for example
  • Project goals and what "success" looks like when complete
  • Duties the freelancer must uphold to
  • Expected working hours and how to report them
  • How the freelancer will be compensated and by whom
  • What will you not compensate the freelancer for? (food, utilities, etc...)

Allocate budget and be transparent about it

Many employers looking to hire freelancers seem to think not revealing a budget is a smart move. Sadly, this is such a time-wasting tactic. To find high-quality freelancers you need to be transparent about what you can and cannot afford. Even if it's not a lot, openly listing it on a job board, email it to a prospect, or communicating it verbally is very much appreciated to those looking for work.

Freelancers often juggle multiple projects at once to stay afloat. You are important to them but they also have other important clientele to take care of.

Defining your budget publicly will allow the freelancer to also vet if you're a good fit for them. Remember, freelancers want to find high-quality clients just as much as you want to find high-quality help.

Quality is greater than quantity

To find higher quality help requires more capital. It's a simple answer to a problem many employers try to take shortcuts on. You remember the expression "You get what you pay for". That rings very much true in the freelance world.

Highly-talented help is there for the taking. You just need to be open to putting the effort and money in to make it work. It may seem hard to grasp at first but imagine if you hired low-quality work that overtime meant a lot of "re-work" (work to fix the work that was done poorly prior). That would end up costing even more in the long run.

Don't fall victim to this.

Communication is vital

When it comes to communication, pick a format that works and stick with it. These days there are nice tools to communicate depending on the platform.

Email is the pioneer of communication but comes with some organizational issues. Slack is a great instant messaging tool but often evades some privacy.

If you can find a happy medium between synchronous and asynchronous communication everything should pan out nicely.

Tools I'd recommend:

Async communication

  • Email
  • Basecamp - Has some synchronous aspects but mostly async. A bit better than email.
  • Notion - Once configured and setup properly notion is a great place to communicate in a longer format. You can create pages, kanban boards, lists, and a ton more. This is probably best if you want more control over your style of communication asynchronously.
  • Trello - A simple Kanban-style of planning, organization, and more.

Synchronous communication

  • Slack - Instant messaging on steroids
  • Microsoft Teams - Microsofts answer to Slack
  • iMessage - Built in messaging on iOS/MacOS devices

Contracts, Agreements, and Disclosures

Ensure both you and your chosen help have the proper contracts in place. If you require an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to hire help, that should come pretty early in the communication history. On top of that you should probably have contracts for the following:

  • Statement of Work (SOW)
  • Service Agreement between the freelancer
  • General contract stating outcomes to common issues that might arise in a working relationship

If a freelancer doesn't provide a contract from their end you might nudge them to do so out of good faith. While no one likes being bind to things it would help them learn to cover their tracks a bit more and also help them get out of trouble if things arise in the legal realm.

Remember that freelancers are often self-employed

Freelancers often work full-time for themselves. You should assume this is the case for most unless they say otherwise. With that in mind, consider the extra costs a solo entrepreneur has to endure day-to-day.

Things like insurance, transportation, utilities, and equipment are all self-funded. That eats up a lot of what freelancers earn which is why you may see that a freelancer's rates are a bit higher than you'd expect.

Keeping those things in mind and putting some empathy into the situation will help you reason with spending more.

Prefer building relationships over transactions

If you require help with work long-term be sure to look for a good relationship over skillset. A good freelancer can adapt to nearly anything you throw at them. If you treat them as human and respect their opinions, skills, and voice you'll find a friend out of the deal.

Friends help friends when in need. If you can find that type of bond you'll have long-standing help that you can rely on.

Pay it forward

Treat freelancers well and they will treat you well. It's as simple as that.

Trust is a big component of working with contracted help. If you can find someone whom you can trust to get the job done right and enjoy working with them be sure to let them know how you feel. Pay them fairly and refer them to other contractors if you can. Doing this will bring good vibes to working relationships to come.

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