Both small and large businesses can significantly benefit from the flexibility of hiring a freelancer. Whether it’s an IT consultant, graphic designer, or proposal writer, a freelancer can take on short-term and long-term projects with less supervision and commitment. A freelancer might also save you money because they only charge for working hours. You often won’t have to pay them for on-the-job learning or for the weeks where there’s not enough work to fill 40-hours.
This article details how to best approach hiring and maintaining a freelancer. It includes how to find freelancers, the consultation or interview process, test projects, and the establishment of a long-term relationship.
Finding a freelancer
Finding freelance help is similar to finding an employee. You might start with a job board. This would require a detailed job description that emphasizes terms such as “freelance,” “part-time,” or “contract.” Freelancers are always on the lookout for opportunities like these.
Another option is websites such as Fiverr or Upwork. These platforms connect businesses with the freelance help they need. You can use these platforms for a single job or build a long-term relationship with a freelancer you like.
Depending on the type of service you’re looking for, you could use social media sites such as LinkedIn or Instagram too. For example, if you’re looking for a photographer to do product shots, Instagram might be a good bet. In contrast, a freelance writer for SEO-optimized blog posts may be easier to find on LinkedIn. Often, searching these social media sites for terms like “product photographer” or “content writer” can yield your desired results.
Lastly, reach out to your network. As a business, you likely have friends or acquaintances who also run businesses. They might have worked with a terrific freelancer before that they’re more than happy to recommend.
The initial consultation/interview
You shouldn’t think of your initial meeting with a freelancer the same way you think of an employee interview. Sometimes, there isn’t even an initial meeting, and a business jumps right into a test project.
Your initial meeting should provide the freelancer with the project’s details and information about your company. They’ll likely have various questions, as well. During this meeting, you may also discuss timelines and budgets. While discussing salaries in a regular interview is taboo, payment is usually at the forefront of the initial consultation with a freelancer.
The focus of the meeting shouldn’t be to determine if the individual is a cultural fit or to introduce them to your team. The goal is the gauge whether they can competently complete the project within your timeline and budget.
The test or pilot project
Depending on the type of service you’re looking for, there might be a test project involved. This usually consists of the freelancer completing a task, such as a blog post or graphic, to see whether your business will continue to work with them. If the deliverable is up to par, then you would pay the invoice and continue the relationship. Otherwise, it might be better to part ways.
However, if you’re hiring a freelancer for a larger project — for example, a public relations campaign — it might be harder to set up a test project. The alternative is to hire them and determine whether they meet the project targets within the first 30 days.
These tests are ultimately to determine whether their work is as good as their portfolio says it is.
Establish the relationship for the long-term
If the test project or first 30-days go well, you have yourself a keeper. Your business’ relationship with freelancers isn’t the same as employees, however — freelancer relationships are less personal. You likely won’t ask how their weekend was every Monday or celebrate their birthday at the office. But grabbing the occasional drinks or coffee can build a personal relationship and generate more ideas.
By building this connection, your freelancer may be more inclined to prioritize your work, keep rate hikes to a minimum, and be open to help with other tasks.
Hiring a freelancer is a great way to execute a project without hiring more employees. It can bring a unique skill set to your team while cutting out unneeded costs. However, your business relationship with its freelance partners must be different than relationships with its employees. You can’t treat them as one and the same.