Whether it’s a one-off job, or an ongoing project, choosing to hire a freelancer rather than hiring a permanent employee can save you time and money. They have a much lower cost for training and onboarding. As a complimentary resource, they can help you complete projects faster. They can inject fresh ideas into your processes and introduce new angles. So, how do you hire the best freelancers for the project at hand?

These days, you can find freelancers on all kinds of platforms, but finding a good freelancer? That can be a bit more difficult.

In the US alone, over 59 million people reported they were doing freelance work in 2020. That means there’s a huge pool of talent to work with, which is a plus – but can also be a curse. From writing to logo design, there are likely thousands of freelancers online who can help get a specific job done.

Getting Started on the Right Foot

Before you commit to hiring a freelancer, and certainly before you start working together, there are a few basic areas you must address to avoid setting yourself up for failure.

1. Set a Realistic Budget

One of the biggest reasons businesses are disappointed with the quality of work they get from a freelancer is simply that their budget is insufficient. One business owner learned this the hard way and went viral on TikTok when he realized the designer simply used Microsoft Word for his logo design project.


I’m still in shock. Did he not think I’d notice? #wtf #confused

♬ Stan Mariano – Sterling Silver

Part of the problem? You get what you pay for.

He had a budget of $250 for a logo. Yes, you can go on platforms like Fiverr and get a better logo at that price. Well, just barely. But if you want a logo that can really capture your brand, and that builds on your identity, it can run a business anywhere from $1,000-2,000 for the work of a branding expert. Well worth the expense – especially since you’ll hopefully be using the logo for years to come.

Experienced freelancers know their worth and charge a lot more because they’re in serious demand. To make it easier to attract experienced talent, ensure you’re looking at the different rates for a similar job to set your own budget.

If your budget is in the lower range – expect the creative quality to match.

2. Write a Detailed Project Description

Another key step actually involves helping freelancers vet themselves when they see your job. When you’re creating a job posting, be as precise and detailed as possible.

Oftentimes, businesses will post vague descriptions without realizing they are alienating people. They might post something like “We need a writer hired ASAP. Serious inquires only.” And that obviously doesn’t provide any insight as to what they need written.

Instead, make sure your job contains all the information, such as:

  • A quick intro to your company
  • Project scope & context
  • Key project goals and objectives
  • Your target audience
  • Inspiration or examples
  • Deliverables
  • Budgets
  • Desired profile (optional) and skills that are not negotiable

Just adding slightly more context saves you and the applicants time as only more qualified candidates will apply. By being clear with expectations and proposed rates, you’ll attract the right (and serious) candidates from the start.
hire the best freelancers

3. Read Their Reviews

Once you start receiving applications, make sure potential freelancers have testimonials on their profiles or website. If the freelancer has no social proof or testimonials, it can be a red flag. While they might be new to freelancing, they should still have some means to prove that they can do the job.

Even if you do see a large volume of raving reviews, try to suss out if they are genuine.

No amount of reviews though can replace a first-hand portfolio review – which is why the next point is crucial.

4. Ask for Their Portfolio

Most freelancers can provide you with a portfolio. A sample can give you an idea of how experienced they are at what they do.

Some freelancers, especially when ghostwriting, might have signed a non-disclosure agreement and cannot share previous projects. And in other situations, ghostwriters won’t own the byline. Both situations can be expected when you are looking at hiring more junior talent.

Either way, you always want to see a freelancer’s work before committing to a project.

5. Hide a Small Test

Hide a small test in your freelance gig advert if it’s on a platform like Upwork or Indeed where you’ll get a lot of applicants. Some freelancers bulk apply to jobs even though they might not be a good fit or qualified at all (let alone read the job description).

Write something like “Catch 3 typos in the job posting” or “Use the words ‘This job looks awesome!’ in your headline.”  Then, when you’re weeding through applicants you can easily see who read the job posting and followed the instructions.

6. Run a Small Test

Depending on the project and contract size, you can ask for a sample test project to get an idea of who you are working with. It’s not just about quality, but to help you judge:

  • How they communicate
  • If they meet deadlines reliably
  • If the writing matches their samples in quality
  • Whether they can adapt to the voice and tone of your brand

For a first assignment or project, you might consider just a shorter version of a blog if you’re hiring a content writer.

With other types of freelance jobs, it’s harder to test out their skills. For example, you can’t ask someone to build you a sample website or mockup a sample logo. In those situations, figure out a way to start with a small project or a phased approach to gauge fit.

Pro Tip: Run writing samples through a free plagiarism check like Duplichecker to make sure it wasn’t stolen from somewhere.
hire the best freelancers

Where to Find the Best Freelancers

When it comes to finding expert-level freelancers, knowing where to look is half the battle. There are many places to search, with some being more tailored to specific industries and projects.  Depending on the task at hand, here’s a list of resources to help you be sure you’re in the right space for your particular project.

1. Word of Mouth and Referrals

To find the best freelancers, the best place to start is in your own backyard.

Referrals are the most common way for freelancers to land new work. Of the top 4 sources for new work, previous client referrals, friends and family, and professional contacts are where the majority of work comes from (the other kind of referral is social media).

Word of mouth referrals are a preferred method for good reason – they come with the peace of mind of social proof. Whether that translates into bottom-line results will remain to be seen, but at the very least you aren’t starting a relationship blindly.

So, ask around, message your colleagues who have expertise in the field, or attend some relevant meetups.

social media use hire the best freelancers

Sources used by freelancers to find work in the United States in 2020

2. Social Media

Social media is another top source for connecting clients and freelancers, with 42% of freelancers having used social media to find clients in 2020. By posting on multiple social media channels you can boost your reach and get your gig in front of freelancers.

But if you’re not sure where to look, think about the type of job and what platform relevant freelancers might hang out on. Graphic designers and artists tend to use visual-based apps, like Instagram. Meanwhile, you’re more likely to find marketing specialists and SEO advisors on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Developers and tech-savvy freelancers can be found more easily on Reddit forums. There are also hundreds of Facebook Groups for specific types of freelancers where you can post a gig.

Slack channels are another great place to look. And every industry has niche channels that nearly always have job boards.

3. Freelance Marketplaces

Virtual marketplaces are a great place for freelancers and clients to connect. Certain platforms are designed to cater to a broad range of freelancers while some specialize in particular types of jobs, industries, and other vetting criteria.

  • Upwork: Great for a variety of different jobs, but expect to encounter a very wide range in freelancer quality. You can find a huge quantity of candidates but that can make it challenging to sift through and find a quality candidate. Ratings, filters, and reviews all make it easier, but it can still take time to find a good fit.
  • Fiverr: Good for a wide range of skill sets for small, short-term jobs. However, like Upwork, there is a low barrier to entry so you have to sift through a lot of freelancers to find your diamonds.
  • Twine: A platform for all kinds of projects, Twine curates only the highest caliber of freelancers, with a focus on graphic design, illustration, and animation.
  • PeoplePerHour: Here you can find a range of freelance job roles, with the platform specifically catering to small business owners.
  • 99Designs: This site is specifically for hiring freelance designers. The platform makes it easy to find someone who can whip up the perfect logo or custom t-shirts for your brand.
  • Toptal: Lastly, Toptal is used to connect business owners with freelance software developers, project managers, and other roles. Toptal functions more as an agency than a network though, invoicing, collecting, and taking a cut on behalf of the contractor. They also claim to hire the “top 3%” of freelance talent.

While these are a few of the most prominent players, there are hundreds of alternatives to look at. Reddit can be a great place to discover which tool to use, for reviews of these platforms, or “alternatives to…”.
hire the best freelancers

4. Job Boards

It may seem old school, but you can still find freelancers by posting on job boards. If you have a lot of ongoing and regular work,  this can definitely work well for connecting with pros and establishing a long-term working relationship.

Some common job websites frequented by niche freelancers include FlexJobs, Indeed, Remote.co, Jooble, and in some circumstances, Linkedin.

5. Newsletters

Many popular newsletters out there are dedicated to freelancers.

Hire the Best Freelancers… The First Time

With the above tips, you can hire a freelancer for your creative project quickly and efficiently. Whether you’re hiring the best freelancer for graphic design, translation, copywriting, social media management, or web development, the most important thing to remember is to be thorough in your screening process and look in more than one place.

Hiring a great freelancer can be a boon to your business. Take your time, hire the best and you’ll be reaping the benefits for years to come.

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