Thriving in the Gig Economy

How to Hire a Freelancer | Tips & Best Practices from the Experts

A small business owner looking to hire a freelancer is shaking hands with a potential employee.

So, you’re ready to hire a freelancer. Expanding employees, operations, and clientele can seem daunting in any economic climate. In today’s market, it may feel downright nerve-wracking. So, we’ve collected some of the best advice for knowing when and how to hire a freelancer.  

Let’s start with three clear signs it is time to bring on a freelance resource.

3 Signs It's Time to Hire a Freelancer

Below we’ll outline three signs it’s time to hire a freelancer. While any one of these can be an indication it’s time to bring on an additional resource, if you’re experiencing two or even all three, it’s time to start looking for freelance talent to outsource some of the burden.

#1. Administrative Tasks Overwhelm Real Work.

When administrative tasks are beginning to fill the majority of a business owner’s time, that’s a definite sign it’s time to hire a freelancer to assist.

“Even the most successful businesses will begin to falter if the owners are spending more time in the minutia of the backend of the business than on the front-lines,” said Elizabeth Eiss, CEO and Founder of ResultsResourcing. “That simply isn’t what they do best. It’s a waste of their time.”

“Entrepreneurs go into business for themselves because they want to spend their time focused on what they’re passionate about,” she explained. “And that’s when they’re most successful —  doing the things that only they can do, like serving their clients, growing their offerings and expanding their audience. If they find they no longer have time to focus on the mission of their business, on that which got them into business in the first place, then their priorities are likely not in the right place and they need some support. A best practice is to start looking for that support as soon as feasible.”    

#2. Growth Feels Overwhelming.

Gradual growth is the general expectation for business owners. However, when that growth occurs rapidly instead (as it did in 2020 for small seed companies, grocery stores, and the hand sanitizer and toilet paper industries), it can threaten to overwhelm operations. Eiss advises business owners to take that feeling of overwhelm for what it is — an unmistakable sign it’s time to hire help.  

“Even when growth happens steadily, business owners can feel themselves getting caught up in the non-core areas of their business,” explained Eiss. “If they can recognize the earlier signs of growth and then come to us to start discussing plans for expanding and hiring, we have the flexibility to get crystal clear on their needs and expectations to find the ideal support person or team. More importantly, we have the time to get support in place well before the owner’s feeling of being overwhelmed starts to threaten their business.”

“Sometimes, however, early hiring discussions simply aren’t possible,” she added. “Whether that’s because of a novel circumstance like the COVID-19 pandemic creating unprecedented and rapid growth or because growth occurred so gradually it didn’t become overwhelming until the business was already in the midst of it. In either case, the task becomes efficiently finding quality support in the shortest time possible. A partnership with a freelance recruiting platform and do-it-for you service like ResultsResourcing enables business owners to hire quickly — without adding the additional time-consuming task of finding that help to an already overloaded plate.”

#3. Expansion Is a Must, but Money Is Tight.

Hiring a freelancer is the best option when businesses must expand to meet growing demand but are dealing with challenges such as money is tight, or growth is uncertain (such as in times of recession).

“Freelancers carry less overhead than employees, so they enable businesses to scale up or down as needed, without a large upfront investment or long-term financial commitment,” said Eiss. “In fact, as long as expectations are clear, it doesn’t hurt to hire a freelancer well before expansion happens and things get overwhelmingly busy. While most freelancers are ready to jump into action from day one, creating a trusting work relationship is key. So, starting out by working together even just a few hours a week enables both the business owner and the freelancer to familiarize themselves with working together. That way, when things really ramp up, the business owner can feel comfortable handing work to someone they already know and trust.”

What to Look for When Hiring a Freelancer

Once you’ve determined it’s the right time to hire a freelancer, the search can begin.

If you decide to find a freelancer or contract talent yourself, develop a thorough approach to vetting credentials. We recommend thinking through these points and questions as a starting point.

  • Can the freelancer back up claims of accomplishments and skills with actual jobs and references?
  • Are they willing to provide work samples or participate in a small test assignment to verify skills?
  • Ask the freelancer to be clear about fees and any possible extra charges. In turn, state your budget and make sure they are comfortable with those parameters.
  • Confirm their availability. The best freelancers typically have a number of jobs underway, and a full slate of clients. Find out how much time they really have available to dedicate to your job.
  • Is the freelancer punctual and do they meet deadlines? Finally, do they keep lines of communication open? Do they respond to urgent queries promptly, or are there long delays in communication?
  • Plan on how to integrate the freelancer into the core team. Treat them as a valued team member who is augmenting core team skills, experience and bringing outside perspective.

How to Hire the Right Freelancer

If that seems daunting, there’s no need to worry. There are resources available to help with the freelancer search.

Elizabeth Eiss, CEO and Founder of ResultsResourcing, points out that many business owners really aren’t prepared for the process of finding and recruiting the right freelance help. “They don't know how to hire the right freelancer. It’s all new to them,” she says. “Going through the process of finding and vetting freelancer workers can be really disheartening.”

For this reason, an increasing number of companies have turned to ResultsResourcing for its curated freelance staffing model.  

The value is simple: ResultsResourcing helps clients determine what they need and then handles the sourcing, vetting and interviewing for the role. After the ResultsResourcing team determines that a freelancer has the right skills and traits for a particular job, they conduct a live virtual interview. ResultsResourcing narrows the choices down to a Talent Pool of 3 recommended candidates. Then the client conducts their own interview to make the final selection—knowing they’re selecting from only the best freelance professionals available for their job.

“We really want to get to know the candidates, to understand their personalities and their work styles,” explains Eiss. “We ask them behavioral work questions. It’s an in-depth interview, to make sure their background, experience, skills, and personality are all the right fit.”

“It’s really fulfilling when we get an email back from the client, saying this is the perfect person for their job.” she says.

For many clients new to hiring freelance talent, the biggest obstacle is the reluctance to hire someone working virtually. By opening up to remote work arrangements, clients discover a larger pool of potential freelance talent available across the country and are more likely to find someone with the specific skills and experience required.

Cost savings can also increase by leveraging a remote talent pool. A virtual assistant in a major city, for example, could command $50 or more an hour for their services, Eiss points out. Someone in a different town, with lower overhead, could bring the same skills for a lower price point.

Hire a Freelancer: Challenges and Best Practices

One common challenge in hiring freelancer workers occurs when business owners try to find the one person who can do everything. Rather than attempting to find a single freelancer to handle all their requirements, a business owner is better off prioritizing their needs and breaking down jobs down into smaller, more digestible parts. They can then find talent that specialize in the different areas or roles.

Eiss adds: “It’s not realistic to think one person can be great at everything. You might have a family doctor, but for a heart problem you still need to go to a heart specialist.  Helping people to break down the job to see what those smaller skillsets look like is super important. We work on this with our clients a lot.”

It’s also more cost effective!  The rate for a generalist may be lower but the time to do the work could be longer because the level of specialized expertise in a specific area is missing.  You get more for your dollar by breaking the job down to assign lower cost pieces to a generalist, and the specialized pieces to the expert who may cost more but gets the work done better and in less time.  

When it comes to simplifying the process, Eiss recommends 3 best practices to help you find the right freelancer.

  • Be clear about your needs and expectations when finding freelancers.
  • Establish an interview process for hiring freelance talent. Take your time, be thorough, and don't deviate from your process.
  • Strong communication is key when hiring freelance workers. Establish your communication requirements and preferences in the beginning to ensure a positive, collaborative partnership.

Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Freelancer

Finally, we want to point out three common mistakes companies make when hiring freelancers. Avoid these to ensure your small business remains agile and scalable in this ever-evolving market.

Mistake #1: Paying too much (or too little!)

Knowing what a company can afford to spend is one thing, but knowing what a freelancer’s service is worth is another. Few business owners have a solid understanding of the latter, and even fewer know when and why to pay more or less than the going rate. But glossing over cost/value comparisons can create big losses for businesses, whether that’s from missing out on a valuable partnership by underestimating an expert freelancer’s worth or squandering resources on unskilled contractors with a low rate who seem like a bargain.

The Solution

  • A virtual recruiter can help business owners understand the freelance market and objectively evaluate a freelancer’s value thereby creating a financially stable partnership for both.
  • “Helping our clients understand the value of the skill set they’re seeking is vital to our success in getting the right fit for the right money,” said Eiss.
  • “We do that by understanding exactly what skill is needed and communicating (to the client) what that skill should cost in a freelancer. Everybody loves a bargain, but we remind our clients that a highly skilled freelancer who is a bit more expensive likely won’t need as many hours to get the same work done as someone with a lesser skill set. That equates to great value – both money and time.”

Mistake #2: Hiring freelancers without the right qualifications

Strapped for resources and time, small business owners tend to make hiring decisions after cursorily reviewing only a handful of candidates. This often means taking a candidate’s word that his/her skills are as extensive as presented. Unfortunately, this frequently results in costly arrangements that don’t meet the business’ — or its clients’ — needs.

The Solution

  • Again, a virtual recruiter can help. Unlike the vast majority of small business owners, virtual recruiters have the time, resources, and skills to thoroughly and purposefully evaluate a large pool of candidates. The best virtual recruiters will then curate that talent and share their top picks with the business owner, thereby ensuring that only the most well-matched, qualified, and carefully considered candidate is hired. Take ResultsResourcing for example.
  • “When we curate freelance talent for our small business owners, we compare hundreds of candidates,” explained Eiss. “This enables us to see the full range of skill levels available so we can pinpoint what candidate experiences best align with client needs. And our virtual recruiters don’t just take a candidate’s skill listing at face value, either. Instead, they speak directly with the candidates to get details and specific examples of their related work.”

Mistake #3: Not setting clear expectations when hiring a freelancer

“Clear communication is essential for any good partnership,” said Eiss. “Freelancers want to know exactly how to help their clients, but they can’t meet expectations that they don’t know about. And when those unexpressed expectations aren’t met, business owners sometimes feel that they’ve hired the wrong person.”

The Solution

  • “When business owners can’t present clear expectations to others, it’s usually because they aren’t clear on what they need,” said Eiss. “That’s when a talent curation and online recruiting platform like ResultsResourcing can really help.”
  • We know what questions to ask up front to hone in on what a client really needs and address any gaps in the client’s job description,” she explained. “We also know what questions freelancers will ask and what information they need to be sure they are a fit for the job. So, we help check those boxes and ensure all expectations and needs are clearly communicated from day one.”
  • It’s that early, solid partnership between virtual recruiter and small business owner that can make a genuine difference in the success of the later partnership between business owner and freelancer.
  • “Many of our clients come to us after having tried to hire freelancers on their own and having run into problems,” said Eiss. “It’s often due to the mistakes we’ve already discussed but it’s also because businesses simply don’t have access to the same resources and top freelancers that we do. Business owners who enter into a virtual recruiting partnership with ResultsResourcing reap the greatest — and quickest — benefits that come from hiring freelance talent.”
  • Hiring the right talent is an essential component of scaling a business, but there’s more to a successful business growth strategy.

ResultsResourcing is Ready to Find the Right Freelancer for You

ResultsResourcing specializes in providing freelance and contract talent to small and medium-sized businesses. Our process is designed to simplify and solve the hiring process so organizations can hire and work with the best freelance talent available. If you’re ready to get matched with quality freelance resources, schedule a free consultation and we'll help you get started by determining your needs.

ResultsResourcing blog

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