According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 40% of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2020.
This is great news for individuals that have the audacity to remove the chains of perceived security of full-time employment and the discipline to work independently. On the other hand, it presents challenges for the staff responsible for recruiting and hiring these independent workers.
There are two things considerations prior to scouting for freelancers: 1) the must have qualifications of the candidate, and 2) knowing exactly what you need the person to do.
The other challenge is that sometimes, the person responsible for recruiting and hiring may not have the skills or expertise to do so. This leads to bad hires and high turnover.
Determine Your Freelancing Needs
When a project need arises, you should first specify the details of your project. This means looking at the tasks involved in completing the project; determining the qualities of the ideal freelancer; developing a budget; and setting a realistic deadline.
- What tasks are involved in completing the project?
Write down every task you need the freelancer to perform. These can be general or specific.
For example, you need a food photographer for a two-week assignment. You will then jot down every task they may perform, i.e take photos, schedule photo sessions and edit photos.
The task list will become the foundation of a job description and job posting. Being specific will make your search much easier.
Your job ad will look like this:
Upscale restaurant seeking a freelance photographer to schedule photo sessions and photograph elegant dishes for magazine and social media ads. Must have experience with photo editing software and a high level of creativity.
This process is necessary for three reasons:
- To clearly define and communicate the services you need;
- To increase the probability of hiring the ideal freelancer in the minimum amount of time; and
- To hire a long-term partner.
- What intangible and intangible qualities should the freelancer have? Following are a few suggestions
- Ability to work independently or on a team
- Attention to details
- Deadline driven
The person doesn’t have to have all of these qualities, but they should possess those that are most relevant for your project.
- What’s Your Budget?
Be honest about how much money you have to spend on the project. Also, understand that “freelance” doesn’t mean free labor, and this is how independent workers earn their living.
When replying to people who respond to your ad, give them an idea of the budget upfront. You can include this information in the ad or reply via email. This saves you both time. You can offer a flat fee rate or hourly. You also want to specify how soon they will get paid after the assignment is completed.
- What’s Your Deadline?
Ask your candidate if they have time to complete your assignment. Documenting a goal date will ensure that the freelancer can complete your project on time.
After clarifying the details of the project, you are now ready to find, qualify and hire independent workers.
Following are a few places to look:
- LinkedIn Pro
- Social networks
- Groups on social networks
- Professional associations and organizations
- Educational and social events targeting specific professionals
- Freelance marketplaces like Upwork
After finding them, you have to qualify them.
Qualifying a freelancer means determining if they possess the knowledge, skills and ability to successfully complete your project. The only way to know this is to conduct research and check references. Following are five ways to do so.
- Visit their website or blog
Visiting their site or blog will tell you about their skills and experience; topics and industries they’re interested in; and their portfolio.
If they don’t have a website, don’t eliminate them from the running. Check their LinkedIn profile; ask them to email samples of their work; or request testimonials.
- View their portfolio
When viewing a freelancer’s portfolio, pay attention to the following things:
- What types of projects have they created?
- What is the quality of their work?
- Can they produce what you need them to?
- Who have they done work for previously?
- What other skills do they possess that can lend to your project (i.e. researching, editing, graphic design, photography and marketing)?
- Request References
Ideally, testimonials would be on their site. If they’re not, contact the freelancer and request a list of small business references and ask to speak to them.
- Check out their social networks
You are doing this to see how they present and promote themselves, not to judge them. People that promote themselves and their work may be able to help promote yours, too (for an additional fee, of course).
- Have a conversation
This conversation is an informal mini-interview that should take place over the phone or Skype. Prior to calling, make a list of three to five questions that you want answered that speaks to their skills; their interest in your project; and their commitment to your projects.
Speaking to the person establishes a personal connection. You get a feel for their personality; see if you click or clash; and assess their commitment to their craft. Full-timer professionals will respond differently from part-timer freelancers and hobbyists.
Hiring the Freelancer
If you feel good about the person, give him or her a test project to find out if there is a fit. It can be an aspect of a larger project or a completely different project. Pay for the work performed.
Afterward, evaluate the person based on the quality of work; the ability to meet deadlines; and your overall satisfaction with final output. Also, consider how well you worked as a team.
The process of finding, qualifying and hiring freelancers can be time-consuming. However, strategic planning can save you time and money in the long run.
Marcie Hill, M.S., is a writer, blogger, author, and trainer who helps professionals, small business owners and organizations increase their credibility and visibility through compelling content.