Hiring Freelance Contractor: 8 Things You Need to Know

Editor’s note: This is a contributed post by Paul Dunstone, the founder of JobStock.com, a freelance marketplace that provides job opportunities for freelancers across 250+ different job categories. Paul is also the editor of the JobStock blog which provides tips for freelancers and small business professionals.

Hiring a freelance contractor is a great way to save time, money, and connect with a talented digital specialist to get your job done. However, because the freelance marketplaces across the globe are filled with freelance contractors all tendering for a limited amount of jobs, you might get flooded with a large number of proposals for a given job. How are you to know which freelancer is the right contractor to hire?

(Image source: Bigstockphoto)

The tendering process in this case is run on a global scale (as oppose to a local scale) which can throw all sense of price point clarity out the window. To help out, the following 8 crucial things you should look for when hiring a freelancer will guide you in selecting your next contractor.

#1. Check The Freelancer’s Portfolio

Before you start pitting one freelancer against the next in terms of their price point, you’ve got to know if the freelancer tendering for your job can actually ‘walk the walk’, and not just ‘talk the talk’. The only way you can legitimately do this is by seeing a portfolio of work.

If the freelancer has provided some links to some online examples of their work, great; however if you feel you need to see some more, don’t hesitate to ask. If the freelancer is indeed keen on working for you, this should be no problem for them.

The number #1 rule in hiring a freelancer online is, if you can’t see any work examples, then don’t make the hire, especially if they’re asking for upfront payment. You have to be comfortable that the freelancer can do the work you require.

#2. Communication Frequency And Medium

It’s really important to remember to set the ground rules for communication with your freelancer. Whether it’s by Skype, email, or a weekly phone call, either way, you need to be comfortable with the communication frequency and medium prior to starting any job.

Often you’ll be working with freelancers who are not in your locale, it is important to set up time and method where your freelancer and you can communicate freely. Be upfront with any concerns you may have. Most freelancers are very accommodating and may have solutions to your problems, particularly those they have experienced with prior clients.

#3. Don’t Automatically Pick The Cheapest Contractor

It can be so tempting to pick the cheapest option when selecting a freelancer but this can more often than not lead to disaster. It’s not to say that each and every time, picking the cheapest contractor won’t work out, but be careful when considering an entry-level price point contractor as you do get what you pay for when hiring freelancers.

It’s important to remember that freelance marketplaces generally push the price point down anyway, so you will get good value for money regardless of who you hire. Just remember you are far better off choosing a contractor based on expertise and experience than price point, because generally you will be doing well financially regardless of your choice.

Do consider that the value of certain work in your country may be higher than that of another country, so weigh this up in your decision-making process.

#4. Ask For References

Just because you’re not hiring a freelancer in the typical face-to-face scenario where you would receive a full CV and do a reference check, does not mean you don’t have the right to at least ask for some form of reference, or even contact a previous client with the freelancer’s permission.

Again, you need to be comfortable in your hire. More often than not, once you do hire a freelancer for the first time, you tend to work with them multiple times especially if they did a good job. So take the time to ensure your hires are the ones that you want to go into long term working relationships with.

#5. Get A Team Player

This can be a little tricky to determine, but if this is a requirement for you, i.e. your freelancer needs to interact with various members of your team, across complex items, then simply ask them. At the very least this will indicate to the freelancer that teamwork is important or a vital element to them succeeding as your candidate worthy of hire.

#6. The All Important Timeline Management

There’s nothing worse than running a project that misses numerous milestones for one reason or another. The best way to mitigate this is to be upfront with your expectations for delivery of project milestones. This should be very clear in your job advertisement, and you should not bend on this at all when making your hire.

However it is important to treat your freelancer with the same degree of due diligence as you would expect yourself by providing them with everything they need to meet their deadline so that both parties can live in harmony together.

By being well-organized and providing a clear framework for the project, which may include external elements relevant to the freelancers role on the project, you’ll be ensuring that your freelance project runs on time and to schedule, keeping all relevant stakeholders happy.

#7. Has It Been Done Before?

This really “sets the men apart from the boys”. If you can find a freelancer who’s worked in your industry, or has done a comparable job for another client, this can go a long way to ensuring that your job will be completed to a high standard.

Because the freelancer has already completed a job of similar nature, they will most likely be able to produce your work in a speedy and more developed state based on having already completed a “trial run”. This can really help to narrow your search for a truly suitable freelancer particularly if they can show an example of said work.

#8. Payment Terms Must Be Reasonable

I am always skeptical when I see a freelancer asking for large amounts of upfront payment prior to starting a job. Sure, project milestones are more than reasonable, especially if the project is lengthy, but to ask for payment prior to starting work rings alarm bells for me.

Nevertheless, this is common in the freelancing industry, so you may encounter this. This can and is often more than legitimate, so don’t fear this. But, you do need to be happy with the terms of payment when making your hire.

For a longer-term project, two or three milestones is a common scenario. This is something I believe works well, as it rewards the freelancer for the work they have done, and signals the next stage of work to come.

Do try to sort these things out with your hire before you make an actual hire. This will ensure that things will be smoother in the long run and well into the completion of your project.


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