Hiring is an art form. Large corporations often implement complex processes with the sole aim of weeding out candidates.
If you’re a small business or startup, things are even trickier. You don’t have a massive infrastructure to guide your hiring decisions. You don’t get to delegate that responsibility to an internal team of experts.
And, most ominously, you have much less room for error! A poor hire can destroy a 5-person operation, whereas they can barely make a dent in a 10,000-person conglomerate.
I’ve been a freelancer for over a decade, and during this time I’ve hired over 30 other freelancers for my clients and for my personal projects.
In this article, I will answer the most common questions — and misconceptions — people have about hiring freelancers.
Why hire freelancers?
Hiring freelancers has two principal advantages:
- Controlling your downside. If you’re a solo founder or new startup, it’s difficult to make financial plans. You don’t know at what rate you will grow, whether that new round of investments will come through, and how the market will treat you. That’s why hiring full-time employees, with long-term contracts, is troublesome — you are tying yourself to long-term expenses without any guarantee of long-term profits. With freelancers, you can pay per project, manage expenses short-term, and lower the volume of work if the finances aren’t working out. For example, if you occasionally need marketing material or design changes, having a full-time employee is costly and cumbersome. Hiring a freelancer on an as-needed basis is much more manageable.
- Freeing up your time. As a founder, you want to spend your time doing the most impactful tasks. This means outsourcing as much as possible and hiring people who can self-manage to a great extent. Freelancers tick both boxes. Great freelancers are used to working alone and you don’t normally have to spend much time managing them. They produce results while reducing your overhead.
What’s different about hiring freelancers?
Hiring freelancers is somewhat different from hiring 9-to-5 employees.
The reason most people go freelance is to gain more control over their life. Therefore, to attract the best freelancers, you must first embrace flexibility in your business.
Some things that freelancers universally appreciate:
- Flexible working hours.
- 100% remote work.
- Relaxed company culture.
- Short and efficient meetings.
If you don’t offer the above (and project it in your interview style) you won’t get the best freelance talent.
Where to find freelancers?
Platforms like Upwork are the easiest place to find freelancers because it’s easy to check out the freelancer’s work history, reviews from previous clients, and portfolio.
If they have none of the above, hire them at your own risk.
You can also find freelancers through the content they create. Freelancers (such as myself) write and record educational content for others and showcase their knowledge that way. Follow some on social media (or here on Medium) and you will soon have a good set of contacts when new projects come up.
How to choose the best freelancers?
The interview process for freelancers usually comprises a technical interview and a soft/culture interview.
With freelancers, look for relevant previous experience, then talk to them about how it translates to your project. Be specific. Even if you don’t understand the technical nitty-gritty, it will give you an idea of how the freelancer approaches work.
You want someone who is focused on quality, can self-manage, and is a prompt and accurate communicator.
When in doubt, outsource
Even when you follow the principles above, picking the best candidates can be tricky. This is especially true if you’re hiring for a technical position — hiring a junior web developer is a task for a senior web developer, hiring a designer is a task for a master designer, and so on.
But you can’t be an expert at everything. So how can you make sure the candidate has all the required technical knowledge?
You can outsource the technical portion of the interview to a professional. In this arrangement, you will make the final decision but leave the technical details to a trusted expert.
I’ve interviewed candidates for my software development clients before and my technical best pick rarely matched the client’s intuitive best pick.
And don’t forget to smile
Freelancers have escaped the 9-to-5 for a reason. They don’t want a rigorous manager looking over their shoulder and they don’t need to be prodded to get work done.
Always treat them as equals and watch your professional relationship blossom.