How To Hire A Freelancer In 3 Easy Steps

freelancerSo you’ve read my last article on the pro’s and con’s of working with Freelancers vs. Full time employees of our series hiring and managing and decided that you want to try working with some freelancers.  Great!  In this article we will show you how to hire a freelancer in 3 easy steps.  So let’s get started!

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How hiring a freelancer differs from hiring a full time employee

When we first started hiring freelancers for our business, we treated the process pretty much the same as hiring full time employees.   We would post the full job details, filter the applicants, and then set up phone or skype interviews to select the worker that we wanted for the project.

What we found however, is that we wasted a lot of time and money speaking to and working with candidates that were really not a good match for the job.  More recently, we switched up that process, and have had great success after doing so.  Here’s what we changed:

  1. Instead of posting the full project, we now post one piece of the project that we want the freelancer to complete.  We make it clear in the job posting that if this first piece of the project is completed successfully, there would be more work to follow.
  2. Since we are only paying for a small piece of the project, we don’t waste time with phone and skype interviews.  After filtering out the candidates that we can tell from their initial responses are obviously wrong for the job, we give the test project to multiple freelancers.   Then we simply choose the one that does the best work for the full project.

Once you understand the above the rest is easy.  Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Choose The Site You Want To Work With

As we discuss in our full article on the topic, we recommend working with Elance.com.  You can hire freelancers on Elance for any variety of tasks, ranging from web site design, to product development, to legal and accounting help.  Sign up for a free Elance account here.

Step 2: Post Your Job (start with a small piece)

One of the best parts about working with Freelancers vs. Employees is that you don’t have to make a decision on awarding the whole job right from the get go.  Instead, you can post a small piece of the job and then hire the person to do the full job only after they have successfully completed the test job.  Some people will tell you to require the freelancer to do the test job for free, however I think this is a mistake.  Most serious freelancers are not going to do work for free.

This is how the job posting should be broken down:

  1. Give the post a compelling title that is representative of the project.
  2. Introduce yourself and your company.
  3. Give the exact specifications of what you are looking for.  Be as specific as possible in order to avoid confusion and misunderstandings down the road.  If you are unsure what the steps to complete the project will be, then define what outcome you are looking for and ask the freelancer to provide the steps required in their proposal.
  4. Convey that this is only the start, and what additional work you have for them after the test job is completed successfully.
  5. Ask them to provide a quote for this first test job.
  6. Offer to answer any questions if anything is unclear.

Paying by the hour vs. by the project

Once you have written the job description you will be asked to give a timeline for completion and whether you want to pay by the hour or by the project.   I personally always pay by the project.  Once I have decided how much I am willing to pay for a project it doesn’t matter to me whether the freelancer takes 1 hour or 10 hours to complete it, so long as its done right.  This also saves me from having to review time logs, and gives the freelancer the same flexibility that any self employed person wants.

Step 3: Filter Candidate Responses

After posting many types of jobs you will start to receive proposals from freelancers almost immediately.  To avoid getting distracted every time a new proposal comes in, I usually just file them all away, and then go back and review them after at least 24 hours has past.  This gives enough time for the post to have exposure and for enough candidates to respond.

Once you are ready to start going through the responses here are the steps to follow:

  1. Responses generally follow the 80/20 rule, meaning 80% of them will be garbage and not even worth considering.  If it seems like they simply sent you a canned response and didn’t really read the requirements just reject it.
  2. Next filter out anyone who does not have a 4 star rating or above and hasn’t done at least 6 or more projects on the site.  You don’t want to work with new freelancers, as even the ones that look good flake out about half the time.
  3. Look at their work examples/portfolio.
  4. Select the candidate or candidates that you want to try out with your test project.

If for some reason you did not get enough responses to your job posting, then you can very easily filter through all the candidates on Elance.  Use their search box to filter by skillset and rating, and then invite several to bid on your project that you think might be a fit.

A Note On International Freelancers

Many people do not want to work with international freelancers, especially ones from emerging countries like India.  While there is no question that it is easier to find high quality freelancers in the United States (and other developed countries like Canada, Australia, and much of Western Europe), the cost is going to be substantially higher as well.

From my experience a good rule of thumb to follow is that the more discretion that you need a freelancer to take with a project, the more likely it is that you are going to have issues with freelancers in emerging markets.  The more specific and “just follow these steps” a project is, the more likely it is that the cost savings of working with a freelancer in an emerging market will be well worth any additional issues that arise.

A noteable exception to the above is uassist.me a virtual assistant firm based in El Salvador that I use for several ongoing projects and have had a lot of success with.

The Bottom Line

One of the best parts about hiring freelancers vs. fulltime employees is that you can let the freelancing site you choose to work with do much of the heavy lifting for you.  Don’t worry about spending a bit of money here and there on test projects for candidates that don’t pan out.  The time you save by following the above steps should more than offset the cost.

Have you had success with hiring freelancers using this or other methods?  Let us know in the comments section below. Also be sure to stay read the next article in this series where we discuss How To Conduct Initial Interviews: 4 Critical Questions.

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Other great articles on hiring freelancers:

Hubspot.com: What Everyone Should Know About Hiring Freelance Designers
NonProfitMarCommunity.com: How To Hire A Freelance Writer
DennyBritz.com: How To Hire A Freelance Programmer
FreelanceSwitch.com: 5 Factors to Consider When Hiring a Freelancer
Elance.com: Protecting Intellectual Property When Hiring Freelancers

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