You need an extra hand with running your business. You’ve even received multiple pitches from freelancers and don’t know how to vet them.
Hiring the right freelancer for your business is not easy. Still, you don’t have to waste time in trial and error to find the best fit.
Before I show you six important things to look out for when you hire a freelancer, here’s a short pre-game checklist to set things in motion.
Do these before you hire a freelancer
1. Write out your expectations
You didn’t think the hiring process would start with you, did you? Well, it does.
Your expectations outline should include:
- your budget,
- the duration of the project,
- the skills or certifications the freelancer should have, and
- a list of deliverables and deadlines (what you want and when you want it).
If this sounds like a job description, it’s because it is. The more detailed your outline (or JD) is, the more streamlined your hiring process will be. This outline will filter only the most qualified freelancers and serve as a guideline for the prospective hire.
2. Outline a screening process
Make a detailed list of things to look out for. Decide how you would assess the candidate’s skills, write out the interview questions (including the ones you want to be asked and the answers you want to hear), list specific experiences to review and create an onboarding process.
Here are some common questions I’ve been asked in freelancer interviews:
- Do you have experience with this project?
- How do you handle feedback and client revisions?
- What skills make you the right candidate for this project?
- Can you provide examples of similar projects you have worked on?
- What tools, CMS, or software do you use to work and communicate?
- Have you previously worked in an agency setting or as part of a team?
- Where do you get industry news from? What experts do you follow or listen to?
- What challenges did you face while working on a similar project? How did you navigate them?
A quick tip: If you plan to request sample assignments as part of skill assessment, compensate fairly. Don’t suggest unpaid tests. You’re not outsmarting freelancers by asking them to work for free. Only freelancers who value their time and skills will ultimately deliver professional results.
Things to look out for when hiring a freelancer
Delegation is one of the best things you can do for your business. You want to make sure you get it right.
Here are the must-haves to consider when hiring an independent contractor.
1. A website or a portfolio
A freelancer with a website demonstrates that they are invested in their branding or online presence. Their landing page should give you a heads-up of what to expect while working with them.
Only some freelancers may invest in a website, but a freelancer without a portfolio is a red flag. Freelancers put their best foot forward in their portfolios so you can see their range and skills before committing to them, especially if paid tests are outside your screening process.
You risk hiring the wrong hands if you struggle to assess whether their expertise matches your requirements. Ask for a sample if you don’t find a close project match in their portfolio. They might have been too busy to update it anyway. If you want a more custom sample, offer a paid test instead.
2. Great communication skills
Before hiring a freelancer, observe how they communicate. Check their social media if you missed it in their emails, website copy, or portfolio samples. Tweets and captions say much more when checking for personality, grammar, syntax or native language proficiency.
An excellent communicator will ask excellent questions. If the freelancer makes it to the interview stage, look out for the quality of questions they ask, their honesty in admitting their strengths, weaknesses and availability, and how well they listen and articulate their ideas.
3. Competitive Pricing
If their starting rates are not listed on their websites, an ideal freelancer should have a project-based rate card that outlines deliverables and associated costs.
Beware of generic pricing structures. A pricing breakdown should show you the scope of services a freelancer offers. Aside from checking for budget compatibility, you can see if the freelancer knows their onions or not.
Make sure the breakdown is quantifiable so there are no surprises in your contract or invoice.
Even with exceptional samples, it’s tough to vet reliability if the freelancer doesn’t come from a referral network. That’s where testimonials come in.
Of course, anyone can whip up good testimonials to boost social proof. Talented freelancers typically collect and host their endorsements on their website, LinkedIn or a testimonial aggregator.
No matter the length, a credible testimonial should contain a name, a role, and a company.
Look for recurring qualities. Those are usually the freelancer’s strongest ones.
I noticed a trend when I asked my clients for feedback. They would either express gratitude that I was not another writer they had to micromanage or appreciate me as a self-starter. It’s now a no-brainer for potential clients who value proactiveness and skill to consider me for their projects.
Here’s another tip: One-off clients are great, but long-term or repeat clients indicate that the freelancer is good at their job and has a good reputation.
Check their LinkedIn or public profiles to see where and how long they worked there. If you’re in doubt, ask in the interview stage.
5. Written agreements or contracts
A contract is a legal industry-standard document that helps manage expectations on your and the freelancer’s side. A trail of emails can serve as an unspoken agreement, but it is professional practice to sign a contract or written agreement first.
Now, a freelancer without a legal agreement process doesn’t mean they’re terrible at their job. And as a freelancer, I understand the apprehension.
Contracts often contain damning clauses hidden in legalese, particularly when the client drafts the agreement. However, if a freelancer outrightly refuses to provide or sign a contract that clearly states expectations in the fine print, it could be a red flag.
Contracts also reference deliverables, project milestones, payment terms, and turnaround times. Contracts may include or exclude confidentiality clauses, as freelancers typically request bylines/credits or permission to use your work in their portfolio. Document these expectations explicitly for accountability purposes.
They say numbers don’t lie. If your project is heavily KPI-dependent, look for quantifiable results when hiring a freelancer.
If the freelancer has no case studies to show the direct impact of their work on the success of their previous clients’ companies, add these questions to your screening outline:
- Have you measured outcomes on a project similar to mine?
- How do you track your progress and measure work success?
- Can you describe a situation where you delivered results that impacted a company?
In a competitive pool of talented freelancers, the answers to these questions help the best stand out. However, not all freelancers may have worked in environments where individual impact can be directly attributed to measurable outcomes.
For example, I worked as a content writer and strategist at a new company last year. My SEO, strategy, and writing efforts directly achieved first-page rankings on Google for article clusters. I was responsible for the entire content process, from ideation to distribution.
On the other hand, when I contribute to sites with high domain authority, credit for achieving first-page SERP ranking would be shared among the content team and website structure rather than solely attributed to my one article.
Don’t dismiss a freelancer’s ability without assessing their role in achieving collective goals.
Don’t dismiss a freelancer’s ability without assessing their role in achieving collective goals
Bonus point: Prefers retainers to one-off gigs
Freelancers can show they are committed to your long-term success if they prefer repeat projects over one-off gigs. If you have invested much time into sourcing the best hands, you wouldn’t want to end up with someone focused on quick financial gains.
Retainers provide mutual benefits—a consistent flow of work for the freelancer, and for you, someone to grow familiar with your brand voice and audience, refining the quality of your deliverables over an extended period.
Why Should I Hire A Freelancer For My Business?
Hire a freelancer if:
- you want to prevent burnout
- you need specialised expertise
- you need to scale your business
- your in-house team needs extra hands
- you want to tap into a pool of global talent
- you want to reduce hiring and overhead costs
- you’re spending too much time training employees
- you want to improve the quality of your deliverables
If you need to seamlessly hire a freelance SEO content writer or strategist to kick off or oversee your content marketing efforts, send me a message, and I’ll be in touch.