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6 steps to finding and hiring freelancers for your business

Freelancers can help you get more done in your business without having to work more. You can hire freelancers in just 6 steps.

July 17, 2020 by Cyn Meyer

Even with your time-saving tools and prioritizing your tasks more efficiently, you’re still feeling spread thin.

You’re tired and weary all of the time, and sometimes, you even question whether or not you can continue on as a solopreneur.

But wait -- hold up.

Before you decide to throw in the towel or bring on an employee you may not be ready for, consider this: you can hire freelancers.

Hiring freelancers lets you:

  • Bring in experts to tackle business tasks
  • Get business tasks done more quickly and efficiently than doing them solo 
  • Save costs and time over hiring an official employee

And the cherry on top is that hiring freelancers isn’t complicated. 

Today, we bring you six straightforward steps to follow when hiring a freelancer, plus why working with freelancers isn’t just good for your business -- it’s a game changer.

Ready? Then let’s delve into the nuts and bolts of hiring freelancers. 

6 steps to hiring freelancers for your online business 

Step #1: Determine what you need freelancers to do 

Your first step is to outline the tasks you need to offload to your freelancers.

These days, there are plenty of benefits to relying on freelancers to keep your business running smoothly. 

Susan Guillory, a small business owner and president of Egg Marketing, claims that working with freelance designers, editors, and writers over the years helped her grow her business more quickly than if she had done everything herself. 

What’s more, 24% and 18% of small businesses say they outsource tasks to increase their business’ efficiency and increase the available expertise on their team, respectively. 

And if you’re worried about hiring independent workers, don’t be. It’s become a major trend. In fact, 64% of freelancers said top performers in their industry are increasingly choosing to work independently. 

But before reclaiming your time and productivity, let’s first clarify what you want to complete yourself and which business tasks you can outsource

To do this, start by jotting down everything you need to complete in your business, from the urgent and high return to the minor but necessary. 

Write down each task in exacting detail, so you can find the freelancer whose skills best match those tasks. 

By clearly communicating the breadth of your tasks from the get-go, it’ll save you from having to pay extra for work that you and the freelancer aren’t clear on. It also prevents you from having to hire an additional freelancer last minute for any incomplete work. 

After outlining your workload, sort each task into one of two categories: tasks you (or an employee) can do and those a freelancer should do. 

If you’re wondering where to start, consider delegating your administrative tasks.

After all, 24% of small business owners list administrative tasks as a challenge in their daily operations. 

For those reasons and more, it’s usually best to give freelancer tasks that are:

  • Outside of your realm of expertise, and/or
  • Take up too much of your time 

For example, you can hire an accountant to manage your business’ finances if you’ve never been a numbers person. 

Don’t have much of a silver tongue? Then a copywriter can help you write better sales emails or a sales page that converts

You can also hire a virtual assistant (VA) to help with tasks like organizing your inbox or managing your social media accounts.

The main takeaway is to first clarify what you can do in-house and what is best reserved for outside talent before hiring a freelancer. It’s best to outsource tasks you don’t excel at or items that you can’t complete quickly. 

Once you have your tasks clearly defined, it’s time to rearrange your budget. 

Step #2: Determine the budget for your project

Your second step is to assess and rebalance your budget, so you can afford outside help. 

If you’re wondering how much to budget for additional hands on deck, hiring a freelancer is likely to be closer to $19 per hour than $35 per hour, which is the rate for an employee.  

Private industry businesses spent an average of $34.72 per hour on employees in December of 2019, which includes costs for both employee salaries and benefits. 

Conversely, research by Payoneer found the average freelance rate from 170 countries was $19 per hour

Still, that doesn’t mean that hiring freelancers will always cost less than hiring an employee, and it definitely doesn’t mean charging $19 per hour is always appropriate. 

Freelancer rates run the gamut from single-digit hourly rates to three figures and above. These rates are affected by a freelancer’s field, skill set, level of experience, and availability, to name just a few factors. 

For example, one study of 400 UpWork freelancers found that freelance web designers typically charged $26.32 per hour, with the highest hourly price going up to $80 per hour. 

If you’re hiring SEO services, there’s a similarly wide price range. 

In fact, Backlinko found that while just over half of American small businesses spend less than $1,000 per year on SEO, the average small business spent $497.16 monthly on SEO services.

Plus, those that spent over $500 per month were 53.3% more likely to be “extremely satisfied” with the service they received over those who spent less than $500. So, if you want to be extremely satisfied, prepare to pay more for SEO specialists.

Looking to hire a freelance writer? 

A survey of 1,400 freelance writers found that nearly a third charged less than $20 per hour

As you can see, there’s a huge variance in freelance costs within and across fields. 

This is where prioritizing comes in handy. Revisit your to-do list and hire for the highest-priority and highest-return freelance projects first. 

As for how much you should set aside in your budget, of course, as much as possible is ideal. However, $100 to $200 is a good start for creators starting off with slim budgets. 

A small study of 22 bloggers found that 50% spent less than $500 per month on freelancers, so it is possible to work with freelancers on a shoestring budget. 

While price-grabbing is an attractive route to take, don't always select the least expensive freelancer, but rather, pick the most skilled freelancer you can afford. 

Jackie Wilson, a freelance writer, claims they’ve been hired many times to redo writing projects for clients who previously hired a cheaper contractor, so it’s worth avoiding the (more expensive) backfire. 

Basically:

Since freelance rates can wildly range from ultra low to uber high, prioritize your tasks and decide which ones are worth paying for first. 

OK. Once you have some money earmarked in your budget, you’re ready to start searching and comparing freelance talent. 

Step #3: Peruse freelance marketplaces and individual sites

Your next step is to comb through online databases for your ideal freelancers.

Marketplaces are a great first place to look for freelance talent. 

So much so that 24% of full-time independent workers said in 2019 that they had used online talent platforms to find work in the past 12 months, and 29% said they planned on using talent platforms to find work in the next 12 months, too. 

Some popular freelance marketplaces to check out are:

It’s also a good idea to check out individual freelancers’ social media profiles and websites since not all freelancers list themselves on talent platforms. 

For starting points, LinkedIn can be an ideal place to find freelancers in virtually any field. 

Instagram, on the other hand, could be better for finding freelancers who do visually intensive work like graphic design or photography. 

For example, Angela Mckay, an illustrator and textile designer, uses Instagram to show samples of her work. 

And some freelancers use YouTube to showcase their skills. 

Take Philip VanDusen, who offers coaching and brand consulting through his business, Verhaal Brand Design. Philip publishes videos about marketing and entrepreneurship on his YouTube channel to show off his expertise.

Once you’ve searched through marketplaces and social sites, it’s time to make sure your freelance candidates are a good fit.

You can do so by paying attention to their niche(s) to confirm whether they’d have the skills and desire to work on your project. 

Some freelancers state their niche explicitly on their website, like Sway Copy does by listing on his homepage some clients he’s worked with, including HubSpot and Hotjar

He also includes a “See if we’re a fit in 30 seconds” CTA right below his listed clients, so prospective clients can quickly see if he’s an ideal customer to work with. 

Once you click on Sway Copy’s CTA, it brings you to a spot on his homepage that outlines his ideal client, making the matchmaking process a cinch.

In other instances, you may need to check out a freelancer’s portfolio to see the types of businesses and projects they typically work on. Taking a look at a freelancer’s portfolio should also give you further insight into the freelancer’s skill level. 

If you’re checking out individual freelancer sites, most freelancers will have a standalone portfolio page, such as Paola Kassa’s design portfolio below. 

And if you’re combing through marketplaces, some freelance platforms will have a portfolio section. 

For instance, this photographer and digital media artist shared her portfolio on her PeoplePerHour profile. 

As you’re checking out portfolios, look for customer testimonials or reviews, too.

Whereas portfolio pieces can demonstrate the freelancer’s skill, reviews and case studies show how that skill translated into real results for a client. 

Platforms like UpWork feature customer testimonials on freelancers’ profile pages, like on this page for a mobile app developer. 

Many freelancers feature testimonials and case studies throughout their individual sites, as well. 

Check out how conversion copywriter Lianna Patch features a case study at the top of her homepage. This format makes it quick and easy for potential clients to see how her work helps others. 

Lianna takes it a step further and even complements her case study with a review from Joanna Wiebe, a conversion copywriting superstar.

Wayfare Accounting is another example of a freelancer who follows a similar approach and includes two detailed reviews from customers on his homepage.  

So, comb through the marketplaces, dig into freelancers’ sample work or portfolios, and then check out their testimonials. Repeat this process until you’ve found at least five freelancers who may be a good fit, and then slate them up for the next step.

It’s the most exciting part yet.

Step #4: Contact freelancers 

The fourth step to hiring a freelancer for your online business is to reach out to your shortlist of ideal freelance candidates.

When reaching out to a freelancer for the first time, include details like: 

  • A brief explanation of who you are and what your business does
  • The scope of your project -- everything the freelancer must do to complete your project
  • When you need the project to be completed, when you need certain milestones of the project to be completed, and/or if you’re looking for help on a recurring basis
  • How frequently you want to meet or hear from the freelancer for progress updates 

A solid freelancer-client relationship is two-sided, so you should also ask the freelancer:

  • If they’re willing to take on your project
  • When they’re available to take on your task (some freelancers might have a waitlist) 
  • What questions they have about your tasks

If you’ve got a few freelancers you’d like to work with and need to trim your options further, you can offer a paid test project. 

The founder of Starter Story gives potential contractors a detailed test project, as you can see in the proposal email. The purpose of their project is to assess the freelancers’ English language proficiency and how detail-oriented they are. 

Don’t want to dig in that far? 

Between portfolio samples, customer reviews, and case studies, your gut reaction should guide you in the right direction in 90% of cases. The last 10% is what the paid test project covers.

So if you’re really excited about a candidate -- or if you have reservations about someone -- and you don’t have the time to go through a full test project with them, defer to your gut.

Just make sure that whoever you choose, you both decide on a price and agree to it in writing. 

Discussing pricing can be uncomfortable, but agreeing on a number in advance prevents you from having to pay surprise bills later on. It helps the freelancer, too, by safeguarding against unexpectedly smaller invoices and giving them a heads-up for when they’ll be paid.

It may seem like a small detail, but getting paid on time is a staggering problem for freelancers -- according to 54% of them in a survey of over 1,400 freelancers, anyway -- so going this extra step ahead of time will keep everyone happier in the long run.

Now, with those details sorted out and your freelancer on board, it’s time for the final step in the hiring process: the onboarding call.

Step #5: Clearly communicate your project’s scope and timeline in an onboarding call

To get the most out of your professional relationship, schedule a video call to clarify and expand on what you agreed upon through email. 

You can start by reiterating what your project entails and its deadlines. It’s also helpful to explain how and how frequently you want to communicate (such as email or video calls) and when the other party can expect a response. 

You should also ask about the freelancer’s communication and work preferences. They may have a system that works well for them and won’t be an inconvenience to you.

And, as with every relationship, it’s a two-way street. You don’t just need a freelancer you want to work with: you need a freelancer who wants to work with you, too. 

Working around their preferences and finding common ground is as necessary with a freelancer as it is with a regular employee.

For example, this freelancer who runs Tara Fitness fired a client because the client frequently undermined her decisions, changed their minds about projects, and was impolite. 

Similarly, Fraim CPA, an accounting firm, fires customers that are demanding, dismissive, or rude to their staff. 

To avoid situations like these, share your professional preferences and boundaries so neither of you will feel disrespected or unappreciated. 

The gist here is short and sweet:

Hash out your project’s scope and deliverables before the freelancer begins working, so everyone’s on the same page.

After that, it’s all about managing the workflow. 

Step #6: Regularly check in to discuss progress and goals 

Managing your freelancer’s work requires the same steps as managing an employee’s work: you need regular one-on-one meetings to make sure your projects stay on track. 

Use these meetings to discuss your project’s progress and address any questions you or the freelancer may have. It’s also a great opportunity to boost your communication and collaboration level.

Again, it may seem like a small detail, but if you do schedule regular check-ins, you’ll be ahead of the curve.

20% of remote workers, including self-employed individuals, listed “communication” and “collaboration” as their biggest struggle in working remotely. 

As time goes on, you may be able to meet less frequently once you and the freelancer have a clearer idea of how the other one works, but regular communication is especially important at the beginning stages. 

Freelance financial writer, Miranda Marquit, for instance, said that she hadn’t had lengthy communications with certain clients “in ages”. Basically, “They set the parameters or send briefs. I do the work. They make a couple of comments. I send an invoice and they pay it.”

So a no-stress and low-contact relationship with your freelancer is definitely doable, but in the beginning, over-communicate as much as you can so no avoidable obstacles derail your project. 

Then, once you and your freelancer get to know each other better, you can set your work relationship on autopilot if you’re both comfortable with it.

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Use these 6 steps to hire freelancers for your online business 

Small and large businesses both use freelancers to increase their business’ productivity and output. If you’re struggling to catch a breath and have too much to do, you should jump on the bandwagon with them and take on a freelancer or two.

You can find, hire, and manage freelancers for your business in six simple steps: 

  • Step #1. Determine what you need a freelancer to complete versus what you can do on your own.
  • Step #2. Decide how much you’re willing and able to spend on each freelancer and prioritize your tasks.
  • Step #3. Compare your options on freelancer marketplaces, business websites, and social media
  • Step #4. Reach out to freelancers with whom you’d like to work. 
  • Step #5. Agree on your tasks’ breadth, timeline, and price to ensure you and your freelancer are on the same page.
  • Step #6. Regularly follow up, collaborate with, and communicate with your freelancers about your project’s status.

Here’s to hiring the right freelancer to help streamline your business. 

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