Get ahead by hiring freelancers

Freelancers with various skills have been the backbone of the service and vocational trades industries for years, but the internet has opened a whole new avenue for companies to hire them.

Freelancers work in almost every industry from casual staff in cafes and retail stores, to contract labourers and tradies, as well as professional services such as writers, graphic artists, animators and the like.

Independent freelancers are the fastest growing sector of work, with an estimated one third of the US workforce now regarded as a freelancer of some sort. But working with a freelancer requires unique considerations distinct from typical employees or vendors. There are certain considerations employers need to maintain when working with a freelance professional, from finding, vetting, and hiring to maintaining clear expectations and having processes for conflict resolution. There’s also the issue of on-time payment, as freelancers don’t have a regular pay cheque.

Freelancers offer a readily accessible skill at short notice without the overhead costs of a full-time employee. Freelance hourly rates are usually more than employees because of the project nature of the work and the skill associated with the job. Online freelance services can give you access to people in countries with low wages, so you can potentially save money using such freelancers. Before you use these services, you should check them out, including their history and their policies, to satisfy yourself that you are comfortable to deal with them.

Online services include sites such as upwork.com, freelancer.com.au, guru.com, outsource.com, and others. Your trusty Google search will find plenty for you. Be careful of some of the discount freelance sites that only charge a few dollars for quick jobs. If you’re looking for a designer, for example, the one you are supplied can probably be found on the second page of a Google image search, so you’re not paying for original work and may risk a copyright breach.

When choosing a freelancer, the obvious starting point is to view their portfolio of work – the quality, brands and testimonials. While the digital world lets you connect with people, you’ll build a better relationship if you can talk with your freelancer. Use tools like Skype to call or video call your freelancer as you’ll develop a stronger relationship, which will help for long term associations.

To start, give your freelancer a small project and gradually scale the amount of work you offer once you’re satisfied you can work with them. Be clear from the beginning about your expectations. Use a written brief to reduce potential problems caused by interpretation. Judge the work you receive against your brief, not on whether or not you “like it”.

If you’re contracting a freelancer to work at your physical place of work, rather than remotely, get them involved in staff events. It will make them feel more like part of the team, help them understand your culture, and motivate them to do the best they can for you.

Always remember to give constructive feedback, both positive and negative, so you help the freelancer develop their skills too. If you’re happy with the freelancer’s work be prepared to give a testimonial as these are the major currency used by freelancers to gain ongoing work.