Hiring freelancers – there are success stories and there are horror stories. However, sometimes getting that extra help is necessary step for your business. To help you make the right decision for your company, here are some tips from businesses that have extensive experience in hiring freelancers so that you can benefit from the insider knowledge they have to offer.
1. Know what you want done.
Yes, I know that this seems like a no-brainer, but you would be surprised how many people, when they set out to hire a freelancer, don’t really know what they want. This is especially true when clients are hiring people to do work that is outside their area of expertise.
The web is full of horror stories from the freelancer’s perspective about clueless clients. Clients From Hell is an entire site devoted to the topic. One graphic artist talks about a client who wants webpage buttons to look “3D” and then complains when the artist adds a gradient and highlighting.
The key here – don’t “jump the gun.” Discuss what you need in-house before contacting a freelancer. It will save you money and frustration. Also, understand the skills and aptitudes that are required, and have some grasp of the terminology and technical fundamentals. You don’t want to be like the client who asked his freelance photographer:
“They are only for my website, so I don’t need the full quality files. If I only take like a 4.5 megapixel version of each photo, can I pay you a quarter of the price?”
2. Write a detailed job description.
Once you know what you need to accomplish, you should be able to put it in writing.
Eugene Marchuk is the president of Full Service Internet Marketing Firm and has worked with a lot of freelancers in a wide variety of roles. “The description of the job sets the tone and expectations, and makes it easier for freelancers to fulfill expectations and deadlines,” he explains.
“Setting realistic deadlines is an important part of working with a freelancer and including this information in the project description is essential,” Marchuk adds.
3. Consider the cultural fit.
Much has been written about hiring inexpensive labor from overseas. However, recently we’ve also seen the trend of firms abandoning that strategy because the cultural chasm can be too difficult to cross.
Canadian firm Perly Fullerton has employees in that country and in the U.S. It’s virtually an “officeless” company. Founding partner James Perly says they originally tried offshore outsourcing, but discovered that they weren’t getting the quality of results they needed because of cultural differences. They turned back to hiring professionals located in North America.
For some tasks with a very specific responsibility, offshore freelancers may work well. But when branding, creativity and culturally sensitive communication are required, be aware of the impact of language and style differences.
4. Don’t expect something for nothing.
There is a reason that quality freelancers command decent fees – they are worth it. If you put out a job for bidding and get some extremely low bids, it should send up a red flag. The freelancer might abandon the project half way through or demand more money later. Remember, you get what you pay for.
5. Plan your screening process.
For important work, think about more than just reviewing bids in your selection process. Video screening is highly recommended for crucial projects; it’s becoming an important aspect of hiring via the Internet and we’re seeing various video resume services being established.
At Perly Fullerton they ask candidates to answer some questions in writing. Perly says they consider how candidates respond not just to the questions, but to the overall process. In a similar way, if you ask for a video, you’ll get a very good idea of how well your potential freelancer communicates. If you’re considering a few candidates, ask them all to respond to the same questions. You should be able to eliminate some candidates quickly and also get a feel for who would fit well in your organization’s culture. The importance of this cannot be overstated.
When you ask for a video or for a specific written answer, you can get a feel for how your potential freelance hire deals with deadlines and how responsive in general the person is. Further, mini-work products such as these can give you an indication of how much effort the freelancer is willing to invest in your job. A slap-dash response would be a warning sign.
6. Read reviews.
Experienced freelancers will have significant job histories and as a result of that should have a significant number of reviews. Frankly, it’s human nature to avoid conflict, so unless a freelancer is absolutely horrific you won’t find reviews that completely trash the freelancer. Sometimes you’ll have to read between the lines. If a review says, “Joe was pleasant to work with,” but mentions nothing about the quality of Joe’s work, beware. It’s like being sent out on a blind date with someone who has a great personality or dances well!
Make sure that you see evidence of reviews for projects similar to the one you are hiring for. For example if you are hiring for a complex coding project and only see reviews for installing ready-made WordPress themes, then it doesn’t provide any indication that the freelancer has the tried and true experience you need.
7. Trust your gut.
Many times we have visceral reactions to people and situations. When starting a new relationship with a freelancer, listen to these inward signals. If you sense the possibility of the person being untrustworthy or the chance of a personality conflict, take a step back—it might not be the ideal fit.
8. Consider a turnkey solution instead.
Selecting qualified freelancers takes considerable effort and can be a challenging proposition for businesses that are risk averse. The very popularity of freelancing and access to resources from around the world makes the process of screening scores of applicants a time-consuming process. Virtual professional services companies like Worldwide101 have a pre-established team that can jump in straight away for a wide variety of tasks from admin and customer service to web development and design. They do the vetting, verify the skills of their team members and can help you connect with the right talent quickly and easily. Better yet their work is covered by a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
Sandra Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Worldwide101, a virtual professional services company, which provides admin, customer service, and marketing for companies worldwide.