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Your project needs someone with a specialized set of skills if you’re going to get the results you need within your timeline. But your usual sources are coming up empty-handed: Nobody knows of a freelancer they can refer you to. What are your other options, short of going through a full-blown talent search?

The most effective search for freelance talent starts with a clear understanding of what you’re looking for. It can be helpful to start by writing a creative brief or job post that may include:

  • The scope of your project and its deliverables
  • The services or skills you need
  • The level of expertise needed to do the work
  • Any technical requirements
  • Your timeline and relevant deadlines

When you know exactly what you’re looking for in a freelancer, you can choose the approach that works best for you. One option is to proactively get the talent to come to you. Another is to reach beyond your usual contacts. Here are some ideas to help you get the talent you need by looking outside your usual network.

Invite freelancers to consider your project

Once you have an outline of your project requirements, consider publishing a job post — but not to open the door to a rush of proposals. Instead, publishing your post on a site such as Upwork helps facilitate your search: You can browse qualified freelancers, check out profiles and portfolios, then invite a handful of freelancers who appear to be a good fit to consider bidding.

The benefit of this approach? A review of job posts by Upwork found that they’re more likely to be filled successfully when five or more freelancers are invited to submit a proposal.

Be proactive, look online

If you opt for a proactive approach, there are a lot of different ways to find freelancers to reach out to. For example:

  • Related blogs: Many publications turn to guest authors to add expert perspectives to their content. Look at blogs–such as Medium, Business 2 Community, or others related to your industry—for content that’s relevant to the skills you’re looking for, then see what you can learn about the author. On Upwork’s Hiring Headquarters, guest authors may be featured as Editor’s Picks.
  • Online communities: People who are passionate about their work often take time to share their expertise with others. Online discussions, such as those found on Quora, can be a helpful way to identify people with the knowledge and experience you’re looking for.
  • Social media: Searching for talent via social media can have limited results, but you can improve your chances if you narrow your focus. Social networks such as LinkedIn and Facebook have many groups dedicated to specific professions. You may find one that links you directly to people who have the skills you need, or one where it would be appropriate to ask for referrals. (Just be sure that job-related posts fit within the group’s guidelines.)
  • Recommended experts: Looking for someone who’s a pro at using a particular software program? Some platforms have certification programs that freelancers may list on their profiles, or they may have a directory of freelancers you can reach out to.

Find the hidden corners of your existing network

When people look for word-of-mouth referrals, their first step is often to turn to the people closest to their work: Team members and colleagues. It’s a strategy that can be very effective—until that group proves too small to find the talent that’s needed.

Take your project details and consider sharing it with groups you may have overlooked:

Your favorite freelancers

Even if you want to engage someone who’s in a different field, people who are self-employed often have their own networks—other freelancers they’ve met through other clients, professional associations, connections from coworking spaces, and other opportunities.

Friends who moonlight

Maybe you already asked a talented friend whether they know any great freelancers who work in the same space. But what if your friend could pick up your project on the side? According to last year’s Freelancing in America report, 16 percent of freelancers are full-time employees who earn extra income from side projects.

Make new connections

It may be too late when you need a freelancer who can work with your team right away, but it’s always a good time to look toward your next project by growing your network.

Whether you opt for an online or in-person approach, networking helps you build connections across different professions and can be an effective source for new relationships and referrals. Here are a few opportunities you might be able to fit into your schedule:

  • Coworking is a growing movement that can bring existing teams, remote workers, and freelancers together into one shared workspace.
  • Twitter chats, such as the monthly #UpworkChat, can be an interesting way to get new ideas and connect with others who have a shared interest.
  • Many industries have long-standing professional associations with chapters located across the country or around the world. And if you don’t live near an urban center there’s good news: A lot of them have gone virtual with strong online communities.

However, you choose to reach out, your chances of finding a freelancer who will be a good fit for your project go up the more people you ask. By knowing what you’re looking for and expanding your circle of contacts, your project will have the talent it needs in no time.