four hands putting four different color puzzle pieces together

Hiring a freelancer based on a gut feeling often doesn’t end well, but hiring freelance talent can be a challenge, especially if your company doesn’t have tried-and-true processes in place. The solution? Make your next talent search a group effort.

Getting help with your search can be particularly valuable if you’re sourcing freelancers with skills that fall outside your wheelhouse. For example, a subject matter expert (SME) can help educate you about what your project needs, sharpen your job post, review portfolios, and let you know what to look for—and what to avoid.

Doing anything by committee can grind things to a halt, but when it comes to engaging a great freelancer the old adage, ”two heads are better than one,” can be true. By eliciting help from colleagues in other departments, you can tap into their perspective and expertise, which might be just the insight you need to ask the right questions and feel confident you’ve found a freelancer with the skills and experience to help your project succeed.

Who to recruit for your A-team

Ideally, form a group of three to five advisors who represent a cross-section of your organization. The people who can help—and what they can contribute—will vary according to your position and the project in question. But here are a few ideas:

  • The pro talent sourcer, a colleague who has a track record of working with top-notch freelancers
  • The SME who may not be on your team but has the technical know-how to understand what you’re looking for
  • The team member who isn’t tasked with hiring but will be involved in a lot of the project work and communication
  • The internal customer is someone who isn’t on your team but has a direct interest in your project’s results, particularly if your team is creating deliverables to be used by another department
  • The external customer rep (i.e. sales, marketing, or public relations) who isn’t connected to your project but knows your audience/end user inside and out


The timeline for engaging a freelancer can be condensed: While traditional jobs can take three months or more to fill, you can often engage a freelancer in just three days. Being organized ahead of time is the key to such a speedy hiring process.

As you start your search, get a solid understanding of your project’s objectives and the skills needed to reach them. Working with a SME at this point to help develop your creative brief or project description can help simplify this critical task. This clarity won’t just help you find the ideal freelancer, it can also be valuable when you need to explain what you want to accomplish to the rest of the group.

As you move forward, find ways to streamline your process. If you have a colleague who knows how to find great freelancers, get their input: What can you pull together ahead of time? What tips do they have for screening proposals? Should you include a freelancer test project?

It can be helpful to ask others to help you screen submitted proposals and review portfolios—or even to help you grow your talent network if you’re having difficulties finding freelancers who might be a good fit.

Let’s say your content marketing team wants to improve middle-of-the-funnel conversions so you start asking around for advice:

  • An AdWords wizard on the sales team (the SME) helps you determine that on-page SEO is an effective place to start, and you define a list of the specific skills to look for in a freelancer.
  • The web development team lead has had success finding great front-end developers (the pro talent sourcer). She explains her typical process, critiques your job post, and offers smart tips for screening.
  • As you begin to shortlist proposals, you ask a colleague from the marketing team (the external customer rep) to review portfolios: Does anyone have experience working on projects that target a similar audience?
  • One of your copywriters (the team member) and the SME can join you for the interview and provide input afterward.

Tips to help the group process work better

Once you’ve identified your group of advisors, designate a facilitator—chances are it will be you—who can lead and coordinate things ahead of time and mediate during the interview to keep the conversation going.

Here are some tips to get your A-team organized:

  • Have a game plan. Share your project description, process, estimated timeline, and all the proposals you receive. Confirm each advisor’s availability as it’s best to avoid changing people midway through.
  • Identify roles and responsibilities. Be clear about what each group member’s role should be. During which part(s) of the process will they need to be involved? Will they have input into the final selection or just provide guidance along the way?
  • Share everything. As you move forward with this process, share all the information you have—from proposals to profiles—so you all have access to the same background information. (Pro tip: Add team members to your company account on Upwork.)
  • Divvy up interview questions. When you get to the point of interviewing freelancers, consider either assigning questions to specific people or having one person ask initial questions while each person is tasked with certain follow-up questions.
  • Define common criteria. While each of your advisors will have been chosen for their unique perspective, you’ll still want to compare apples to apples. Discuss what criteria you’re looking for ahead of time so each person has a clearer sense of what to pay attention to.

It can be easy to gloss over the engagement process and go for the first freelancer that “feels right,” especially if your project has a very small scope or limited impact. However, investing in your search for a freelancer and enlisting the right help from colleagues can help you trust that you’ve made the right decision the first time—and potentially fuel a strong relationship with other opportunities and future projects.

Upwork is a freelancing website where businesses of all sizes can find talented professionals across multiple disciplines and categories. If you are a business and are looking to get projects done, consider signing up!