Biggest mistakes to avoid when hiring freelancers for your small business (infographic)

Now that more and more small businesses are turning to freelance staff, Headway Capital decided to create a handy guide to finding the best freelance talent. It shows you where to look, how much to pay, and how to manage mutually beneficial working relationships.

Finding reliable freelance talent isn't easy. The most popular freelance websites, like Upwork, have over 12 million active accounts. In other words, searching for people that always deliver on time can feel like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

But there are things that can help narrow down the list of suitable candidates. Start with the project proposal. How does it sound? Is it a bit too robotic? Are there lots of stock phrases that don't really say anything? If so, the proposal you're reading was probably sent out to hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of other companies. And while you can't blame freelancers for casting a wide net in such a competitive space, these cut and paste applications suggest a candidate who hasn't researched your company.

Instead, look out for the personalized applications that provide real-world examples of how this person can solve your business problems. For example, you don't want a "great coder with excellent programming skills." Stuff like that should be standard. What you really want is the person who writes something like this: "I have three years experience writing Python script and have designed several bespoke software applications for tech start-ups, many of which now have millions of daily users."

Knowing how to read a freelancer profile will also help you find the best talent. Great freelancers aren't shy. They're always happy to show off their work, positive reviews, and customer testimonials. An experienced freelancer will have all of these clearly displayed on their profile. And if you're looking for a content writer or editor, read their profiles or intro emails extra carefully. You can even run them through writing apps like Grammarly or Hemingway Editor. No mistakes are a good sign that you've found a strong writer with meticulous attention to detail.

Many small companies make the same errors when hiring freelancers for the first time, especially when it comes to cost and pricing. The majority of fledgling companies and start-ups operate on a tight budget. But it doesn't mean that the cheapest option is the best option. Think in terms of efficient allocation of resources instead. Because paying a little extra for quality work the first time around will often save you money in the long-term. Plenty of small business owners have wasted precious time and limited money hiring a second freelancer to tidy up or maintain shoddy work done on the cheap.

And don't try to push the price down as low as possible. Low pay disincentivizes freelancers. A fair rate has the opposite effect. If a freelancer feels valued, they'll produce better work, deliver on time, and respond quickly to your emails. They're also more willing to take on ad-hoc duties or go that extra mile to meet your expectations.

Some freelancers looking to boost their CVs will offer services for free. But taking on interns or volunteers can backfire. Firstly, people who are really good at something will rarely do it for free. Secondly, interns are far more likely to walk away if things get tough. And they'll have few qualms about leaving you with a half-finished project if a paid role comes along.

Hiring freelancers is about optimizing your time and resources. You shouldn't have to micromanage them or get caught up in long email exchanges. But you still need clear lines of communication and a place where freelancers can collect briefs, review feedback, and deliver completed work.

Email is ok for this kind of stuff. But it's easy to miss an important, time-sensitive message in a work inbox flooded with marketing emails and other digital junk. That's why it's best to use project management tools like Slack and Trello. They let you attach files, set deadlines, approve work, and contact freelancers without emails or phone calls. This is really useful if you're managing a team of freelancers.

Most project management tools have a free package, but the features will be restricted. Standard and premium packages are reasonably priced and include add-ons that make subscription services a sound investment. Extra features include conference calls, free apps for IOS and Android, and saved archives with unlimited messages.

Finally, there are legal considerations. Freelance work is still a little bit of a grey area. But drawing up an agreement before starting any project can help avoid future disputes. A solid agreement should outline the scope of the project, pricing, cost of revisions, and any copyright or ownership issues.

Hiring freelance can add real value to your business. Just make sure you use these useful tips in your search for the right talent.

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