How To Hire A Freelancer: Everything You Need To Know

If your business is looking to fill a short-term job vacancy, you may want to avoid formally hiring an employee, given that ongoing work will not be required. Hiring an employee on a fixed-term or casual basis can be a costly exercise, even for ongoing work arrangements. Many employers now choose to hire a freelancer for a range of projects. This allows employers to enjoy a flexible, fast hiring process with minimal overheads and compliance restrictions.

Hiring freelancers is an effective means of saving money on lost wages, taxes, and employee benefits. The hiring process can be performed quickly and compliantly, with companies able to source from a worldwide market of experienced professionals.

Today, companies across all industry verticals work with freelancers for short-term and long-term projects. The following industries are especially noted for providing freelance opportunities:

  • Computer programming and IT – including web developers and designers
  • Marketing – including content writers, copywriters, and journalists
  • Sales
  • Retail and eCommerce
  • Accounting and finance
  • Customer service

Here are some helpful tips that allow you to connect with the best freelancer for the job. Additionally, we’ve compiled strategies that ensure the work partnership is beneficial for both you and the freelancer.

Your ideal freelancer

Tip 1: Search online for your ideal freelancer

Did you know that in the US, there are currently more than 50 million people working in the gig economy? When you add to this the millions of freelancers from other countries, employers have an almost infinite pool of candidates to search from. In fact, it’s never been easier for companies to connect with experienced talent and commence an employment arrangement.

One of the most appealing aspects of hiring a freelancer is that, in many cases, work can be performed from anywhere in the world. This means that employers are not restricted by their location when it comes to sourcing the very best talent.

If you’re ready to connect with a freelancer for an upcoming project, the online marketplace represents incredible value. Simply jump online and explore major sites like Upwork, Guru, and Fiverr. These platforms are user-friendly and allow you to browse freelancer profiles and connect with suitable candidates. You’re able to start a conversation with people that meet your requirements and quickly execute a hire.

When you post a job vacancy on these (and many other) online platforms, you’re likely to gain a swift response from a host of qualified candidates. In many cases, you can execute a hire in less than 24 hours.

Tip 2: Utilize your professional connections

One of the most effective ways of connecting with freelancers is to tap into your network of professional connections. You’ll be amazed at how many people within your network have previously used freelancers. And best of all, these people can provide recommendations that help you identify suitable freelancers.

Similar to traditional modes of employment, word of mouth is a powerful means of connecting with high-quality candidates. A reference is already verified, which gives you reliable insight into the freelancer’s skills and experience.

Tip 3: Be clear about the nature of the project

When hiring a freelancer, it is essential you avoid any confusion around your expectations and the key project deliverables. Make sure that before any work is completed, you establish a project brief that removes any possible ambiguity.

When confirming project specifics with a freelancer, it is imperative that you implement a clear ‘to-do’ list. This needs to include completion dates, milestones, and review deadlines.

Tip 4: Match your project needs with the right freelancer

Any freelancer that you hire should ideally have an experience that aligns with your project. The more closely you can match a freelancer’s experience to your project, the better.

If candidates have a portfolio of work, utilize it as a means of verifying their skills. If they do not have a portfolio, make sure that you ask to see previous examples of their work.

Tip 5: Cheaper doesn’t mean better

No matter what your budget is, it can be tempting to hire the cheapest freelancer. However, this is likely to lead to a poor outcome that you end up regretting.

With a global marketplace of freelancers to choose from, there is always going to be a significant variance in costs. Freelancers from certain countries will have low overheads and living expenses. As a result, these freelancers can charge considerably less than those living in more developed parts of the world.

Whilst there are skilled freelancers (who provide outstanding work) living in all parts of the world, you need to remember the saying, ‘you get what you pay for’.

If a freelancer is willing to work for next to nothing – no matter where they’re from – their work is unlikely to be very good. This can lead to a situation where work is rushed, does not meet your standards, and ends up costing you money in the long run.

Tip 6: Agree to terms before any work is completed

Before any work is undertaken, it is essential that you and the freelancer agree to terms. Employers are advised to draft a legally written document that states the terms of employment.

When drafting a document, it is imperative you highlight that all completed work is the property of you – and not the freelancer. Documents should also include references to compensation, employee responsibilities, and key deliverables. Both you and the freelancer should sign this document.

In some cases, a freelancer may request a portion of their fees to be paid upfront. Whilst this isn’t standard practice, more experienced freelancers will often ask for some form of immediate payment. If a freelancer requests any payment upfront, you should never pay more than 30% of the project’s total fee.

Finally, you should always set realistic project milestones. You can choose to release payments after milestones have been fulfilled, or at set intervals that have been agreed upon – such as weekly or fortnightly.

Tip 7: Provide regular feedback

Project milestones not only give freelancers an opportunity to submit work, they also provide you with a chance to offer your feedback. This feedback is crucial because there may be circumstances where a piece of work requires changes or is below acceptable standards.

When reviewing or critiquing work, your feedback needs to be both honest and constructive. And remember, by identifying any issues sooner rather than later, you stand a much better chance of rectifying them.

Tip 8: Know your obligations

Whilst freelancers are not employed in the same manner as your other team members, it is important that during any work partnership, they are legally recognized as a freelancer.

Too many businesses make the mistake of trying to manage their freelancers exactly the same as their regular employees. However, the simple fact remains that a freelancer is not like other employees.

A freelancer should invoice your company for work completed and you should then pay them. If the arrangement starts to look too much like you’re paying your freelancer a salary, this can blur the lines of employment. You may then encounter issues around tax compliance. If the need arises, freelancers can always create a pay stub as a means of proving any taxes.

Tip 9: You are not a freelancer’s boss

If you are not happy with any aspect of a freelancer’s work, this needs to be discussed professionally. Before you go reprimanding a freelancer, always keep in mind that you are not their boss. And to most freelancers, you will not be their sole client.

Because freelancers often have multiple clients, this means they can be juggling work and deadlines concurrently. So, next time you don’t receive a reply straight away, consider that a freelancer is likely managing a host of projects.

Tip 10: Verify credentials and check previous clients’ feedback

Depending on the type of work that is being performed, you may wish to view a freelancer’s credentials before commissioning any work. If the work is of a technical nature, e.g., you wish to hire a Laravel Developer or contract a Node.js developer, it is strongly advised that you verify a freelancer’s credentials. Most freelancers will expect this and there shouldn’t be any push-back after you request verification. 

freelancer upwork
Reviews of a Freelancer on Upwork

As well asking to see a freelancer’s certifications, platforms like LinkedIn will often highlight professional recommendations that a freelancer has received. Additionally, you can a freelancer’s social media accounts and check if they post content related to their niche. If they do, there is likely to be feedback from clients or professional contacts. Many freelancers will also have a website that contains samples of their work, as well as client testimonials. 

When checking references, ensure they are from legitimate businesses. If a freelancer provides a previous client’s email address, it should always be a professional email (not something like [email protected]). 

If you’re hiring through a platform like Upwork, you should check reviews from current and past clients. When checking reviews, you need to consider the types of jobs the freelancer has completed. Are these jobs similar to your project? 

With Upwork, you’re able to see whether a freelancer has completed small or large jobs; and whether there are many jobs in progress for the same client. If a freelancer has ongoing work in progress, you can see what they have earned so far. If it shows their earnings tallying up, this is a good indicator the client is satisfied with the freelancer.

How a Global PEO can help

A Global Professional Employer Organization (PEO) assists businesses to hire, onboard, and pay employees remotely. A Global PEO like Horizons acts as your employees’ Employer of Record, absorbing all local employer responsibilities like benefits administration and tax compliance.

If you have been working with a freelancer over an extended period, a Global PEO can employ the freelancer on your behalf, in a part-time and full-time capacity. Whilst the Global PEO will be the freelancer’s employer for legal purposes, you will retain full control – as you would in a standard employer/employee relationship. This allows you to benefit from the ongoing services of your freelancer, whilst staying remote.


Hire your freelancer or make them an employee
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Video: CNBC on what companies look for when hiring freelancers

Hire a freelancer today

Are you looking to hire a freelancer? If you are, there’s never been a better time to take advantage of a truly global marketplace. By following the strategies outlined in this article, you can quickly connect with qualified freelancers that enable you to grow your business. And remember, once you find a freelancer that meets your requirements and provides exceptional work, you can feel confident using them for future projects.

Best wishes in your search!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Yes. Hiring a freelancer is ideal for short-term or project-based work. Note, however, that it is usually inappropriate to hire a freelancer fulltime. The tax authorities may consider this 'employee misclassification', and you may be subject to backtaxes and penalties. 

When hiring internationally, it is common to search for freelancers on global freelancing platforms such as Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal and Guru. 

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