A guide to hiring freelancers for non-HR people

guide to hiring freelancer

To get the best freelancers and secure an excellent ROI, you need to understand how to choose, hire and retain quality staff.

Ever since the days of Elance, oDesk and the 4-hour workweek, business owners have had the inkling that they could be getting more affordable help using the power of wage arbitrage (paying someone for services in a country with a low cost-of-living).

The barriers to entry for hiring offshore staff seems small but to forge ongoing relationships, get the best freelancers and secure an excellent ROI, you need to understand how to choose, hire and retain quality staff.

    Firstly, let’s look at the main types of marketplaces:

  • Task Request marketplace – in this model, you submit your job details and have freelancers bid to complete the work. The most popular marketplace for freelancers is Upwork.
  • Task Purchase marketplace – in this model, you purchase a task to be completed from a library of task choices (custom work can be arranged). The most popular marketplace for tasks is Fiverr.
  • Agency direct – in this model, you approach agencies directly and hire freelancers for a set-rate per hour, varying per occupation.
  • Freelancer direct – in this model, you approach freelancers directly and arrange to work for a set cost per hour, per week or per month.

For the purposes of this post, we’ll look at how to use Upwork and get the maximum benefit from your time & money.

    Our top tips for Upwork success are:

  • BE CLEAR. Learn to write clear job descriptions and task requirements. One of the top reasons that freelancer relationships don’t work is that instructions are poor, rushed and assume that the freelancer knows more about your business than you’ve told them. Creating clear templates for common jobs will ensure that your freelancer isn’t charging you more for research time or asking you additional questions.
  • PRICE WELL. Decide between fixed price or hourly contracts. You can choose to submit your task request on an ongoing cost-per-hour basis or on a fixed-price basis. Avoid the pitfall of choosing a very low-priced freelancer who takes much longer than expected to complete tasks. We’d recommend having clear expectations about how long tasks will take if hiring per-hour, otherwise set a fixed price for the task to reduce the risk of overpaying.
  • PREPARE FOR APPLICANTS. Prepare yourself for 50+ applicants to popular job postings. Some very niche jobs may have under 5 applicants but common listings like WordPress website work, VA work and admin tasks will often have 50+ applicants for you to screen. Always keep your eye on the ROI of outsourcing, factoring in the time to screen and speak to candidates. Some businesses even hire freelancers to hire their freelancers!
  • USE SCREENING QUESTIONS. Many applicants do copy and paste responses to your job post so businesses often post wording like “include your favourite colour or use the word FUN at the top of the listing to show you’ve read the whole description”. Try to avoid using the default Upwork questions and instead ask questions that require short, thoughtful responses. If you’re posting in a popular category, ask for portfolios, videos or thoughtful answers to reduce the number of half-interested candidates.
  • PLANNING TO WORK TOGETHER. You’ve now hired someone and are ready to work together. You can use the Upwork platform for job conversations but most businesses will invite their freelancer to a specific area of their project management software to work on tasks that are assigned to them. Again, ensure your instructions are clear, that privacy is maintained and that you give video instructions on how your team uses the software. We’d recommend using common tools like Trello or Asana for project management and using tools like Loom or Screenflow for video training.
  • ON PLATFORM VS OFF PLATFORM. You may be tempted to take work off the Upwork platform during your relationship. The main reasons cited for working outside the platform are common invoicing practices and cost-saving (around 3% for the business and 20% for the freelancer). We’d recommend that you stay on-platform for tasks as it safeguards you & other businesses. Being able to have funds held in escrow, have tax forms completed and being able to leave appropriate reviews all empower businesses to succeed.

To sum up, start small, be clear, treat people well, be careful around hiring based on price alone and find the jobs that can be outsourced for the best ROI, taking into account your money and your time. Happy outsourcing!

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Stuart Reynolds is the founder of Fullstack Advisory, an award-winning accounting firm for businesses leading the future. He is a 3rd generation accountant who specialises in tech & online companies.

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