As freelancing and remote work continue to grow in popularity, more businesses are bringing freelancers on board to provide fresh perspectives and expertise on a broad range of projects. However, hiring the right freelancers for your business can be a challenge — particularly when hiring remote freelancers or independent contractors.
We’ll explore the factors business owners and hiring managers should consider and evaluate when adding freelancers to their teams.
Interested in becoming a freelancer? Investigate highly rated freelance websites, build a profile and portfolio, and determine fair prices for your services.
What to look for when hiring freelancers
Finding talented freelancers can help grow your business, expand your organization’s expertise, and add new insights and perspectives to your team. Companies choose freelancers over full-time employees to fit the needs of specific projects, save money, and gain specialized skills and expertise.
Here are 17 tips for ensuring you add the right on-demand workers to your team.
1. Freelancers should provide referrals and portfolios.
Reviewing a freelancer’s past work helps businesses get a sense of their experience, creativity, and working style, according to Marcus Clarke, founder of Searchant.co.
“Look for a diverse range of project portfolios to ensure that the freelancer is versatile and can handle any project you throw their way,” Clarke advised.
2. Freelancers should have the specific skill set your business needs.
A freelancer’s expertise — or lack thereof — can be the difference between a profitable project and a money pit scenario, according to James Prior, founder of DoTEFL.
“If a business hires a freelancer who lacks the necessary expertise and experience, the project may be delayed or may not meet the required standards,” Prior cautioned.
3. Freelancers should come with high ratings and reviews.
Freelance websites like Upwork and Fivver allow potential employers to review freelancers’ portfolios, which provides valuable information. Additionally, clients can view a freelancer’s feedback history and contracts to gain insight into their work quality and how well they work with others.
4. Freelancers should exhibit excellent communication skills.
Communication is essential when working with freelancers, according to Michael Hammelburger, CEO of The Bottom Line Group.
“Leaders should evaluate the freelancer’s communication skills and availability to ensure that they can collaborate effectively and provide regular updates on the project’s progress,” Hammelburger noted. “To avoid potential problems in the future … establish clear communication channels, response times, and meeting or discussion availability in advance.”
When negotiating with freelancers on price, set a clear budget and work scope, and strive to pay your on-demand workers what they’re worth.
5. Freelancers should seek to understand your company.
When a freelancer comes to an interview and expresses a genuine interest in your company — by asking questions, demonstrating prior knowledge of your offerings, and so on — they show their willingness to learn, do their homework, and participate in workplace teamwork.
6. Freelancers should provide recent references.
A good candidate should have no problem providing up-to-date job references, typically within the last six months to a year. If the candidate provides outdated referrals, it could indicate they’ve been out of commission for a while or are cherry-picking references to omit unhappy clients.
7. Freelancers should be trustworthy.
Tyler Seeger, managing director of Retirement Being, believes trust is crucial because businesses take on financial and reputational risks when hiring freelancers. Hiring trusted individuals can protect your brand reputation and allow more open communication.
“If a freelancer doesn’t pull their weight … it can reflect poorly on your business and damage your relationships with customers and clients,” Seeger warned. “[Prioritizing] trust … ensure[s] that you’re working with someone who … will deliver quality work that meets your expectations.”
There are pros and cons to hiring freelancers. While hiring freelancers can save money and bring in specific expertise, you may face a lack of commitment and security risks.
8. Freelancers should have experience with collaborative tools.
Ideally, a freelancer should have ample experience working with commonly used collaborative tools, including Slack, Google Docs and Trello, to ensure they can produce good work and communicate with team members effectively.
However, it’s OK if a potential freelancer is unfamiliar with your tools of choice if they’re a quick learner who demonstrates aptitude. Part of a successful onboarding process for your freelancers will likely include training with the collaborative tools your business uses.
9. Freelancers should be motivated individuals.
Since freelancers work their own schedules, self-motivation is crucial. They must be driven to produce quality work and meet deadlines without cutting corners.
You can create a happy and motivated workplace that includes freelancers, full-time workers and part-time employees. The key is recognition and assurances that your team’s work is meaningful.
10. Freelancers should have high quality standards.
While speedy work may be desirable, high-quality work is essential. Before you hire potential candidates, review sample assignments to understand their quality standards and ensure they align with your company’s expectations.
11. Freelancers should be willing to sign a contract.
Like employment contracts, freelance contracts are advisable. To minimize the possibility of mistakes during onboarding, ensure freelance contracts are in place, advised Dustin Ray, co-CEO and chief growth officer at Incfile.
“Contracts … set the terms of [the] partnership, clarify what needs to be done, and [explain] the consequences of not meeting the terms,” Ray explained.
12. Freelancers should be passionate about the project.
Being passionate about a project is just as essential as skills and experience in the freelancing world. Without enthusiastic participation, the freelancer likely won’t produce top-quality work. Instead, they’ll do the bare minimum to fulfill their obligations.
In contrast, if a freelancer is passionate, it will shine through in their work and strengthen your company’s reputation.
13. Freelancers should provide a project completion deadline (or meet yours).
If you’re hiring a candidate for a specific project, they should have no problem providing an accurate and fair completion date. If you provide the deadline, they should forecast whether they can realistically meet it.
14. Freelancers should be available for the long term.
Look for freelancers willing to build a relationship with your company instead of someone seeking a short-term side gig. Establishing a relationship with a freelancer allows them to learn how your company operates over time and produce consistent work in line with your company’s vision.
Freelancers should provide professional invoices with detailed contact information, sent dates and due dates, invoice numbers and a breakdown of the services provided.
15. Freelancers’ work style should align with yours.
While there’s no right way to produce quality work, some freelancers work differently than employees, according to Kelsey Kloss, the founder of Kloss Creatives.
“Some freelancers prefer to run with nearly total autonomy, while others will ask for more guidance, so it’s key to have clear communication and determine if your expectations are aligned before you hire,” Kloss advised.
16. Freelancers should follow directions.
Freelancers will work independently for the most part, so they must take direction well to ensure they stay on track and complete the project as requested.
As part of your freelance hiring process, set up sample assignments to gauge how well they follow instructions.
17. Freelancers’ work should help you meet your business goals.
Ensure the freelancer can meet your business goals by focusing on why you’re hiring them, advised Brent Osborn, Off Square One LLC’s principal consultant and strategist.
“Businesses often neglect to articulate their blind spots in a way that illuminates them as opportunities. Narrowing in on the ‘why’ will help you … select the ‘right’ freelance person or agency that supports the heart of the task,” Osborn explained.
Where to find freelancers
As your business searches for freelance talent, crafting a detailed job description is essential if you want to attract the right candidates. This is just as important as it would be when hiring full-time and part-time employees, noted Alexandra N. Cohen, founder of ANC Consult.
“This sets expectations for project execution, as well as for standards for communication, time commitment, and information about the company itself to give the freelancer background and ensure alignment with company practices and values,” Cohen added.
Once you have a detailed job description, here are a few recommendations for where to post it to find the talent you need.
1. Seek freelancers on freelance work platforms.
The best sites for freelance services include Toptal, Upwork, Fiverr, Behance and Freelancer. These platforms are excellent recruitment tools that can help small business owners find high-quality candidates.
Different platforms will suit the needs of different businesses. For example, Toptal is great for financial consulting and interim management, while Fiverr is best suited for digital marketing and web development freelancers.
The platform usually issues payment directly, though these services generally charge commission.
2. Post freelance job opportunities on a remote job board.
Since freelancers are usually remote workers, job boards that focus on remote work can be an excellent resource for business owners to find interested candidates worldwide with fresh and innovative ideas.
Many remote job sites suit specific business needs. For example, Hubstaff Talent is a free platform for finding remote talent. In contrast, Working Nomads, NoDesk, and We Work Remotely charge per post, and FlexJobs charges a monthly fee.
3. Post freelancing opportunities on an industry-specific job site.
Depending on your industry, you may have more luck posting on job boards that share opportunities with freelancers in your specific field. For example, freelance writers scour job boards that exclusively share writing opportunities.
If you post on sites dedicated to your industry, you can narrow your options and find freelancers well-suited for your specific project while saving your company time and resources.