• Jeannette Fackler

What You Need to Know About Hiring Freelancers

If you’ve ever thought about subcontracting some of your work, you may wonder what the risks are. Maybe you’ve heard awful stories and wonder why in tarnation anyone would do it. Or maybe you realize you could save time and money, but want to be prepared for the pitfalls. It can be a nerve-wracking prospect. Will you get a quality product? Can you count on them to deliver? These are legitimate concerns, but there’s also plenty of upside. Here are four pros and cons to consider before hiring a freelancer, plus how to guard against the scammers.

The Pros

There are some real advantages to hiring freelancers. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably thought of a few because you’re already considering it.

1. Saves You Time: Whether hiring employees or freelancers, the point is to take work off your plate. Ideally, this work would be in areas that aren’t your expertise, so you don’t waste time training yourself in secondary subjects. For instance, people often hire freelancers for website development, outbound sales, and marketing content (hint, hint).

2. Saves you money: With a freelancer, there are no HR needs, no benefits or retirement packages, no overhead for desks or computers, and no training. Best of all, you can hire freelancers on a per-project basis, which means no salary to worry about when you’re in between jobs.

3. Specialized Skill Sets: Freelancers aren’t jacks-of-all-trades (yes, that’s grammatically correct). They work in one field, unlike small business employees who have to balance a wide variety of. Freelancers focus on their specific service and are skilled at it. And since you’re paying them per project, it’ll cost you less than hiring an equally skilled employee.

4. Ease & Speed: With free platforms like Upwork and Contently, you can find tons of qualified freelancers within minutes. Many can provide a quick turnaround; and their rates, work history, and reviews are listed right there on their profile. You can even hire, track progress, and pay through these platforms. *Keep in mind that many qualified freelancers shy away from these platforms. But that’s another post.*

The Cons

Well! All that sounds downright idyllic, doesn’t it? If you’ve lived long enough, you realize there are downsides to everything. Hiring freelancers is no exception.

1. Unpredictable Quality: In the age of fake news, how can you be sure a freelancer–even one with stellar reviews—will deliver the quality you need? It’s not unheard of for people to pay for positive reviews. You won’t know for sure until you receive the finished product, and by then it may be too late to meet a project deadline. Fixing shoddy work can be a headache, since the freelancer may object and you may have to scramble to do it yourself.

2. No Oversight: How can you be sure your freelancer is reporting an accurate number of hours? They could fudge the numbers. Without being in their presence, you can’t tell if they’re hard at work for you. And you can’t know ahead of time if they’ll miss your due dates because they’ve overcommitted themselves.

3. Availability: The freelancer you want may not be available when you need them. Unlike an employee, you can’t just re-prioritize their workload. Some freelancers will offer a “rush fee,” which means they’re completing your work in their free time, but do you really want that? Quality could suffer if they’re tackling your job in overtime.

4. No Personal Investment: Freelancers work for themselves, so their loyalty is to their own company. They’ll want to contribute to your success, but they’re not personally affected by it. This could result in a touch of laissez-faire about your goals and deadlines.

How to Avoid the Scheisters

There are things you can do to improve your chances of working with a legitimate, reliable freelancer.

1. Be Specific: Provide a detailed project scope, goals, audience, and due dates. For example, if you want a blog post, are you trying to sell a product, improve SEO, or position yourself as an authority? What topics and keywords do you want to cover? Are you trying to attract twenty-something men or parents of small children? Spell out your expectations for skill set, skill level, experience, and communication.

2. Protect Yourself: ALWAYS use a contract. You may need to provide proprietary information (intellectual property, or “IP”) to your freelancer so they can do their job. A contract with a confidentiality clause will spell out consequences for unethical use of this information, reducing the likelihood of it happening. Depending on how sensitive this information is, you may also ask your freelancer to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).

3. Pay for a Sample: The best freelancers will have portfolios, so they can send samples, but they probably won’t do “spec work” (a free, custom piece written just for you to demonstrate their abilities). So if you have an important project and want to make sure you can rely on your candidate to deliver what you need, when you need it, hire them for a small paid project first.

4. Do Your Homework: You’d be surprised how many people just hire freelancers without an interview. They just need the job done, and quickly. Take the time to talk to your candidate, get an idea of their character and whether you’ll work well together. Review their portfolio closely—actually read it. Ask for references, and contact them. And don’t forget: if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.

So, those are some things to consider when deciding if it’s time to pay someone else to handle portions of your work. A little nervousness is understandable, but many freelancers are honest self-starters who want to provide quality service. Carefully weighing the pros and cons, following these tips, and applying a little logic will help you decide what’s best for your business.

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