hands holding a tablet, with a resume laying out next to a computer

Ready to augment your team with a skilled freelancer to help boost productivity? Whether you’re engaging a freelancer for a quick project or looking to bring them on for a longer-term engagement, here are a few insights to help you get ready to find and hire a freelancer who’s the right fit for your project.

1. Map out why you’re hiring them and what you’re hiring them for.

First and foremost, have a clear idea about what you need done. Before even entering into any discussions, map out in as much detail as possible what you’re engaging them for—including the deliverables, timeline, and payment schedule. This is helpful for both you and the freelancer because

  • Knowing the project and skills required help a freelancer determine if they’re a good fit or not.
  • Knowing your goals and the deliverables you expect plus any logistics for how the freelancer will collaborate with your company will help you get started without wasting each other’s time.

Be broad, but don’t shy away from details. Write out the high-level goals you’re looking to accomplish with freelance help, but include more granular things, like what you’re comfortable delegating, who they’ll need to meet, any systems and documents they need access to, and how the finished work will be coordinated within the organization.

2. Write a stellar job post that speaks to the cream of the crop.

Freelancers are free to pick and choose the projects that appeal to them and that will both pay well and help them further their portfolios. This means you’re ultimately competing for the best freelancers out there, and the best way to get a leg up on your competition is with an excellent job post. Try a catchy title and include relevant details about your project (e.g., programs, tools or areas of expertise you’re looking for).

A great job post will meet the following criteria:

  • Introduce who you are, your business, and your objectives.
  • Answers any pertinent questions about the work while leaving room for suggestions and input from the freelancer.
  • Includes as much detail as possible.
  • Indicates if the project is fixed-price, hourly, or a longer engagement.
  • Outlines skills and experience the project requires.

3. Look for associated participation, accolades, test scores, or badges to indicate highly skilled freelancers.

Online portfolios and profiles are more than digital resumes—they’re a chance to see how involved and committed a freelancer is. A platform like Upwork makes it easy to narrow your search with filters for skills, what language is spoken, locations, and rates. Note performance ratings, testimonials, and examples of work.

There are other signs that they’re top of their class, too: Upwork also includes profile badges like the Top Rated badge, Rising Talent badge, and a Hubspot badge to indicate a freelancer is also a thought leader in his or her field.

4. Freelancers in different timezones can offer a competitive advantage.

When you’re reviewing freelancer profiles, don’t let a different timezone be a disqualifier. If you’re able to work out a system for communication during overlapping hours, having the increased coverage of someone working when you’re sleeping can boost productivity. You can iterate software faster, handle bugs or crashes quicker, and respond to customer service inquiries in real-time, which can lend a major competitive advantage.

5. You get what you pay for.

Avoid being cheap when hiring a freelancer, as paying a higher rate typically means you’re getting the better talent. It can be complicated to figure out what you’re willing to pay a freelancer, but be open to negotiation and also consider e the complexity of your project when budgeting. The more high-stakes your project, the more you’ll want to spend. In many cases, higher rates mean higher quality.

6. Don’t be vague abouts deadlines.

If you know when you want your project finished by, don’t leave this off. It could be the difference between hiring your dream freelancer or finding out too late that they have a conflict and can’t take the project.

Also, they may or may not have other clients or projects going on that conflict or dial back their availability. Ask if your timeline is realistic to them—and don’t forget to get their help estimating the timing of a project if you’re not sure.

7. Have a plan in place to protect your intellectual property (IP).

Concerned about your IP? You’re not alone. However, there will come a time when you need to give your freelancer the details they need to get to work. Discussing ideas can be tricky because there’s no such thing copyrighting ideas. Upwork offers a terms of service agreement that includes a confidentiality clause, if you’d like that built in. Or, have your freelancer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

8. Interview the freelancer virtually—but try video for a more “face to face” feel.

Once you have all the questions you’d like to ask lined up, iron out all the logistics of your interview. Confirm the time, the channel you’ll be meeting over, make sure your background and area look professional, and double-check that your mic and video work.

As a rule, video interviews are the better way to “meet” a freelancer and really “get a feel” for what it would be like working with them. Having someone you feel comfortable with could be the difference between good and great work.

9. Vet freelancers with a paid test project for even more insight.

Still not sure which candidate to choose? Try a test project to see how things go. Having candidates tackle a small piece of the project lets you see how they work and how they handle communication and timelines.

10. Make an offer, agree on terms, then work up a contract.

Once you’ve found that perfect freelancer, it’s time to make an offer and get the ball rolling. Don’t forget to take compliance considerations into account—hiring a freelancer is different than hiring an employee and has its own ins and outs to keep in mind—from legal and payment to communications—that you might not be aware of.

In the contract, be sure to include

  • What work the freelancer will deliver and when
  • If the project is fixed-price or hourly
  • The hourly rate
  • When and how will payments will be made
  • Milestones and when should they be met