Research shows that more and more SMEs are turning to freelancers to fill skills gaps and perform short-term, one off or infrequent tasks. This makes sense; they’re saving themselves the bother and expense of employing someone they may not have regular work for.

But how do you hire the right freelancer?

Our seven essential tips can help.

Read Recommendations and Testimonials

Someone you know may be able to recommend a freelancer, but if not, do all you can to find out about your potential freelancers’ track records. Read any recommendations and testimonials you can find and check out their portfolios.

If you’re using an online marketplace, their grading system may help, but be wary of any fees you may incur – and aware that if the freelancer has to pay high fees to the platform, they’ll be forced to charge you more.

PeoplePerHour, for example, now take 24% (inc VAT) of a freelancer’s first £500 a month and 6% of everything else. Ouch.

Look for Relevant Experience

You need to ensure that the freelancer has experience and expertise in the tasks you need them to work on.

Your ideal freelancer is a good communicator who knows when to ask questions and when to use their own initiative. They should respond positively to feedback (providing you give it respectfully and fairly!) and adapt their work accordingly. The very best may even add something to your business with their own ideas and improvements.

Beware False Economy

It can be tempting to hire the freelancer with the cheapest rate or quote, but this can be more expensive in the long run. If they do the job poorly or take twice as long to complete it as you envisaged (and twice as long as a better freelancer would), then you’ve cost yourself more money – not less. As with most things in life, you tend to get what you pay for.

Freelancers charging higher rates may turn work round more quickly, interpret your requirements more accurately, produce work of a higher standard, require less management and bring their experience to bear on your business, making suggestions for improvement or extension.

Communicate Clearly

You should ensure your freelancer is a good communicator who isn’t afraid to ask questions to clarify things. But you also need to communicate clearly. Make your expectations clear and your brief thorough.

Ensure your freelancer knows when and how to contact you, and if you can, meet them face-to-face – even if it’s only when you hire them.

For more complex communications, it can be useful to talk on the telephone or book a video call. We humans do much of our communication through tone of voice, body language and facial expression. Some of the subtleties are lost when we communicate by email, instant message or text, and we risk misunderstandings.

Establish milestones and what you expect in terms of communication throughout the project. Detail exactly how and when the work should be delivered, whom they answer to and exactly what they are responsible for. All these points should be put down in writing when you…

Draw Up a Contract

It’s essential to put those expectations in writing, including the consequences of non-delivery and delay. This protects you and your freelancer. If you have an issue with your freelancer or the work they’ve done, a contract is an essential reference tool when a respectful chat can’t resolve the problem.

Start Small

It won’t always be possible, but it’s a great idea to initially hire a new freelancer for a smaller, or less urgent task. This gives you a chance to evaluate their abilities. However, this isn’t always possible, so if you’re hiring a freelancer for a long period of time or a large task, consider including a probation period in the contract.

This protects both parties in the event that either of them decides it’s not working.

Be Friendly (But Professional) With Your Freelancer

If your freelancer is working for you remotely, it can be hard to get to know them – and you may worry they won’t ‘get’ what your company’s about or feel any loyalty towards it.
The relationship you have with them will also depend on how long you hire them for, what you hire them for, and the extent and frequency of contact.

It may be that wishing them a good weekend on a Friday email or dropping in the odd friendly comment is all that’s feasible or required.

However, if they’re an important part of your business and live close enough for it to be feasible, why not ask them into the office every so often for a meeting, or include them in a Christmas drinks invite?

Whether it’s giving them a chance to have their say in a meeting or inviting them out for a team lunch, it will provide an opportunity to put names to faces and foster the feeling that you’re working together towards the same goals.
Happy recruiting!