Finding a Great Freelancer

Tips The entire point of hiring a freelancer is to free you up. To free your time. Free your energy. And, to save you from having to bring-on a full-time employee. Isn’t that the whole idea behind outsourcing? Well, too many times, outsourcing can feel anything but freeing. You end up having to babysit your freelancer throughout the entire process. Or, worse, you wish you had been babysitting the entire time because the finished product is unacceptable by your standards and now it’s too late to start over. Here are four tips to help you successfully execute a project using a freelancer.

Four Tips to Effective Freelancer Hiring

Know your project Before you begin looking for a freelancer, it is imperative that you have a solid grip on the entire project.

While you are indeed outsourcing this work, you still need to be the expert on the subject matter.

You need to read-up on this kind of work. You need to know what’s trending, if you will, in these circles. Run some quick searches. Ask around. Find out what’s working best and what is considered outdated.

Being the expert on your project will enable you to manage this process in a clean and efficient manner. Taking the reins will allow you to set reasonable expectations and ensure that this project is successfully completed.

One way to make the project run smoothly is to make a list challenges that you think might arise. Then, consider possible solutions to those challenges and any technology that might be needed to overcome those challenges. Try to find popular technologies, not unproven, unsupported discount solutions. This is no time to be experimenting or trying to save a nickle.

As you set out to find a freelancer, make sure you have your ducks lined-up. Don’t take a ready, shoot, aim approach. Get in front of the situation by taking the time to prepare.

You’ll be glad you did.

Know your freelancer

You can’t judge a book by its cover. And you can’t judge a freelancer by his resume. You need to vette them significantly on the front-end, to avoid headaches down the road.

Make certain to be looking for a freelancer who is not only familiar with these technologies, but who has actually used them and successfully demonstrated an ability to apply them. Ask them for specific instances when they utilized these technologies and what the outcome was.

Be sure to confirm the role that they played in previous projects to ensure that they, indeed, have personal experience with similar tasks.

Like in a real job interview, feel free to ask for references. If they want the job bad enough, they won’t mind. If they refuse, you’ve probably just dodged a bullet.

Of course you can do your own homework on this person, too. Check with a few folks who have worked with them in the past, but bear in mind that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Hey, you gotta get this right. Pull out all the stops.

It is also a good idea to ask your prospective freelancer to explain his entire vision to you. You need to be certain that this individual has a plan that makes sense, including their ideas for troubleshooting along the way.

Know your expectations


Everyone hates confusion. You and your freelancer need to understand each other and you need to be on the same page. The biggest problems in collaboration are typically related to expectations.

You are paying this person good money and you expect honest work. You need results. That’s not to say that your freelancer can’t and won’t make mistakes. They can and will. How you work through them is the issue. You need effective communication along the way - no surprises, thank you.

You are looking for a freelancer who is detail-oriented. Someone who desires accuracy at every step. No cutting corners. Look at design documents or code to see if this freelancer is a person of precision. Try to identify what methodology they use to keep things organized and on pace.

Make sure that your contract is clear and covers all the key information - job details and expectations, due dates, payment schedules, expenses, dispute resolution and all the pertinent legal jargon (be sure to double-check with your boss). Don’t just blindly sign their contract without completing due-diligence on your end. The devil is in the details.

When you give your freelancer clearly defined expectations, you save yourself from a world of misery.

Know how to manage your freelancer

Selecting and hiring your freelancer is just the beginning. Although you are outsourcing this project, you are not closing your eyes and crossing your fingers. You need to stay involved to ensure its success.

At the onset, you need to be in agreement about the budget, including what-ifs that may present. Make sure that you both understand the projected time and resources that this assignment will require. In some cases, a fixed number may be appropriate. In others, such as with software and research, an hourly approach might prove more effective.

One smart way to manage your freelance project is to use a phased approach. Set milestones that are either based on time or stages. Either way, make sure that you have an outline that can be adhered to.

At the conclusion of each milestone, both company and freelancer should evaluate the fit. Make sure there are deliverables that can be taken up by someone else should the relationship not work or is terminated for any reason.

As always, the key to this outsourcing relationship is communication. Be sure to use tools that make communication easy, fast and accessible. Some good examples are Trello, Basecamp and slack. These project management tools are designed to promote effective and efficient messaging and accountability. Avoid emailing at all costs.

Once, again, and this cannot be stressed enough… you need to communicate, communicate, communicate. Don’t assume things are on time. Don’t assume things are under budget. Don’t assume anything. Instead, build a healthy relationship with your freelancer and keep them happy.

The more you communicate with your freelancer, the more seriously they will take the job. The opposite is also true.

Lastly, don’t be cheap. You get exactly what you pay for. If you want the work done well and in a reliable manner, pay your freelancer well. Better than fair market value. Paying well will motivate them to prioritize your project.

Photos by rachaelvoorhees and Ron Mader