How to Find and Work with Awesome Freelance Help

No one can be great at everything.

I really tried to be, once, when I was building my first business. I did everything from working directly with clients to trying to design my own website and marketing materials. I was pretty good with clients, but I really just don’t have “the eye” for anything design related. Eventually I realized I had this blind spot (pun intended), but for a while I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it because the company wasn’t anywhere near being able to hire a graphic designer. Eventually a friend introduced me to Upwork (back when it was still oDesk) and suddenly I realized the power of getting freelance help. With freelancers you have access to any help you need, on an as-needed basis, which makes it affordable for someone who’s building a business. Still though, I had to learn how to do it right, and I made a few mistakes along the way that cost time and money. Now that I’ve been hiring freelancers using online platforms for nearly 10 years, I’ve got a few tips and tricks to share that will help you do it successfully out of the gate.

5 Tips and Tricks for Successful Freelance Hiring

Online platforms have greatly simplified the process of hiring freelancers. But don’t let the simplicity fool you. While hiring a freelancer can be done with just a few clicks, hiring a great one is another matter. Here are 5 things I learned over the years that will help you get a great freelancer.

  1. Don’t send the jobs to everyone unless you need to.

When I first started using online hiring platforms, they always encouraged me to make the jobs public and allow anyone to apply. This got me an inbox full of unqualified applicants that took a lot of time to go through. If you’re hiring for a job that’s really hard to fill, even with freelancers, you may want to go this route. Otherwise, I recommend going invite only. This way you prefilter applicants by having a look at their profile first and seeing if they’ve got the experience you’d expect, a portfolio you like, and solid reviews.

  1. Start with small jobs to avoid big mistakes.

One of the big mistakes I made when I first started hiring freelancers was making the jobs too big and open ended. When you’re first working with a new freelancer, break the job into its smallest pieces. For example, if you’re having them do design work, such as a new home page for your website or a promotional flyer, have them do a quick sketch first. The idea is to invest the smallest amount of time and money possible to make sure the person really has the skills you need and that you’re both on the same page. Don’t spend lots of money and several weeks only to find out that you hired the wrong person, or that they misunderstood the job.

Via iStock

  1. Set up a contest to get the best talent.

If you really want to get the best possible talent, create a small task and invite several different freelancers that look promising to do it, then compare the results. You’ll need to pay all of them for their work, so you’ll want to make sure the job is fairly small and can be completed quickly. Asking them to produce a preliminary sketch of something is a good test. Compare the results from each test, and you’ll have a solid, fair way to gauge which one you should hire.

  1. Write clear instructions.

Several times when I first got started working with freelancers I wrote what I thought were really clear instructions for a job, only to find out that I’d left a lot more room for interpretation than I’d realized. Read each job you post carefully, trying to imagine you’re someone who knows nothing about it other than what you’re reading. Once you’ve made a hire, walk through your instructions and ask them questions about how they envision the final product to be sure that they’ve understood everything. Finally, don’t assume that misunderstandings about job descriptions are just something that happen because of cultural or language differences. I’ve posted jobs on Craigslist to hire local freelancers that I thought were well written, and had similar problems.

  1. Build a good reputation.

When you choose a freelancer, you’re probably going to be looking at their star ratings and their reviews to help you make a decision, as you should be. One thing to know is that most of these sites allow the freelancers to review you as well. If you get a bad reputation, the best freelancers won’t take a chance with you. Be sure to communicate well, and respond to their questions. Also, if you make a mistake or a change in plans that slows the work down or causes other problems, be honest about it. Finally, when a job is finished be prompt about closing it and giving feedback. Part of Upwork’s ratings are for the percentage of jobs the person has completed, so handling this quick will make freelancers love you.

Ok, that should get you started and help you get some freelance help. Whether you yourself are a freelancer, or own a small company, you’ll find that for some tasks it pays to have someone that’s really good at it give you a hand.

They’ll do a great job and let you focus on what you do best.

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