How to hire a freelancer: 10 steps to finding the best freelance talent 

A freelancer working remotely from home

Hiring a freelancer can be a daunting task – particularly if you’ve not hired one before or you’re concerned about liability and security. We work with a wide range of clients helping source the best digital freelance talent in the world – here are our top tips to help you find a quality, vetted freelancer or freelancers to help you achieve your business goals. 

The world of work is always changing – and in recent years that change has happened in leaps and bounds. We’ve written about what the freelance revolution means for your business (link) – and how the perception of freelance by both employers and employees has shifted dramatically (link).  

But how do you hire a freelancer to join your team and help you achieve your goals? And how to decide which roles would work best in a contract capacity?  

This comprehensive guide will take you through every step of the process – and you can always contact our team to help work through the steps with the added benefit of global job market insights and best practice experience. 

Short on time and resource? Source outstanding freelance talent with our end-to-end hiring solution managed by recruitment experts

Why you might hire a freelancer 

Here’s a quick recap of the main benefits of hiring a freelancer or team of freelancers for employers and hiring managers in companies of all sizes. 

  • Managing workload between hires.
    Many employees are leaving their roles – either to work for themselves (link) or to find a role that better suits them (link) – and in a tight job market it can be difficult to quickly fill a vacancy. Finding a freelancer is faster than hiring and onboarding a new employee, and they come with an expert level of skill. 
  • Managing the skills shortage.
    The skills and talent shortage has reached a 16 year high (link to skills-based hiring) – freelancers are experienced in their fields and can bring new skillsets and perspective to your team. You can benefit from specialist knowledge when you need it, without paying for it permanently in-house. 
  • Broadening your talent pool.
    Hiring a freelancer can also mean choosing from a much broader talent pool, as more and more employees choose to work for themselves rather than a specific employer. 
  • Managing cost.
    Freelancers can be a less expensive choice – as they are accountable for their own holidays and sick pay – and do not have access to the same employee benefits. While they can be more costly per day or per hour, this is a significant way to balance the cost. You also can opt for a payment model that suits your organization and needs. 
  • Maintaining flexibility and managing risk.
    Freelancers are paid per agreement, either for hours logged or on a project by project basis, which means you maintain flexibility and can manage the relationship based on the needs you have as they evolve. They can also work unusual hours in crisis situations or as the need arises, if this is negotiated with them, which is not the case for employees who work contractual hours. 
  • Building lasting relationships.
    Freelancers depend of good relationships with their clients for repeat work and recommendations – while it’s important to vet candidates, once in post a freelancer will be dedicated to achieving your goal and a good result for your project. 

Read more about why more and more employers are turning to freelance and contract workers in the current job market!

There are also some disadvantages to freelance or contract workers. However, these downsides can easily be managed with the right process and preparation.  

To make the most use of the expense you need to brief freelancers on exactly what work you’d like them to complete. They’re external and normally remote, so need to be onboarded – internal processes and job titles should be explained ahead of time. They can’t pick up business as usual tasks in the same way an employee with prior internal knowledge can. It’s also possible they have multiple projects at once, so it’s important to set timelines and book their resource in advance.  

Follow our 10 steps below – or talk to our contract team for more tailored advice about how freelancers can help meet your talent needs. 

  1. Scope the project and write a freelancer brief   
  1. Write a freelance job description 
  1. Define a budget 
  1. Source interested freelancers  
  1. Shortlist the best freelance talent for the role 
  1. Assess your shortlist of freelancers 
  1. Hire the right freelancer for you 
  1. Write, agree on and sign a contract 
  1. Onboard the freelancer 
  1. Learn from the experience 

To outsource or not to outsource?
How to decide what freelance support you need 

Before following our 10 steps and starting the process of hiring a freelancer or freelancers – you first need to identify your needs. 

Make a list of all the projects your current team lacks the resource or skillset to achieve. It can help to do this with your team members – either in a team meeting or by sharing a survey or a way of collecting anonymous feedback to get a sense of what bottlenecks and barriers you might be experiencing. If you track your time or the projects the team complete, this can be a telling insight into where you might need more support. 

Prioritize these projects and skills based on what your overall goals and strategy are. What are you trying to achieve and what’s stopping you getting there now?  Again, it can help to have your team, or even internal stakeholders, weigh in. 

After creating your list, consider your budget. It’s likely you won’t have budget to fix everything at once, which is where the prioritization comes in! Remember, you can continue to iterate and build on your progress in the next financial year.  

Once you have a brief or project in mind, you can follow our 10 steps to hiring the right freelance talent for your team and organization. 

If you’re struggling to identify the needs of your team, or prioritize what you need now and, in the future, our expert recruitment consultants can help! We have specialist experts across permanent, contract and multi-hire recruitment available across the world – get hiring with Salt’s experts today!

10 steps to hire the right freelancer for the job 

1. Scope the project and write a freelancer brief  

A freelancer brief details your requirements and expectations of a freelancer based on the project or skillset you’re hiring for.  

The first and foremost step involved in hiring freelancers is determining the scope of work for the project. Since freelancers aren’t immersed in your business the same way employees are, it’s important to give them as much information as possible up front. This will give your freelance hire the best chance of success. 

It also helps maintain focus and direction when it comes to assessing and shortlisting candidates that apply as it clarifies what you need and why you need it.  

Freelancers, contractors and independent professionals want to do well – it’s how they secure business in future, either from repeat clients or through recommendation. Your brief is key to them deciding whether or not this is somewhere they can add value and perform well, which is vital to their own business development and portfolio. 

Here’s what to include in your freelancer brief: 

  • The needs of your project – what is the work and why are you doing it? 
  • The objective and goals – what skills and experience are needed to achieve them? What does success look like? 
  • What are the deliverables – detail these so the freelancer has clear expectations. 
  • What tools and platforms will the freelancer be working on – and could the knowledge of how to use these be transferable? For example – if an SEO specialist is used to working on one platform, they can easily adapt to using another with the same purpose. 
  • What timeframe do you need the work done by? 
  • What constraints and barriers might impact that timeframe? This could be software limitations or budget or working with a number of stakeholders. 
  • What are you willing to pay? What are the terms and conditions of payment? Will reaching certain milestones trigger payment or is it a lump sum upon completion of the project? Will they be on retainer or is this a one-off brief? See step 3 for more information about budget and pay. 

It can also help your brief standout to talented freelancers and contractors by including your vision, values and personality. It’s an opportunity to showcase who you are as an organization and what it will be like working with you.  

2. Write a freelance job description 

With the brief and the scope of the work in mind, write a job description to advertise this work to the freelance and contract community.  

Keep in mind that this is as much about convincing them to apply as it is qualifying the skills and expertise of the candidates. You need to stand out from the competition as a well reputed, skilled freelancer will likely be choosing between candidates! 

If you’re working with an agency like Salt, your expert consultant will write this for you based on the market conditions and skills you’re hiring for, and will already be connected to vetted candidates and talent capable of adding real value to your team or project. Find out more.

Here’s what to include in your freelancer job description: 

  • Introduce your company and the role. 
  • Outline the responsibilities and requirements. 
  • Qualifications required, try to include alternatives to keep talent pool broad and inclusive. 
  • Experience within the industry or with specific tasks or tools. 
  • Certifications for specific software or tools, although keep transferable skillsets in mind. 
  • Detail any relevant logistics such as the hours per week, project duration, and pay range. 
  • End with an invitation to apply and instructions – asking for any additional evidence they need to supply you with to help you make your decision, like a portfolio. 

3. Define a budget

Defining a budget is a key step in this process – and you’ll need to list pay and payment model (if you have a preference or required model set by your company) in the job description and freelancer brief.

However, we’ve placed this as the third step in the process because you need to fully scope what you’re looking for before you can reasonably and accurately allocate budget and advertise pay. 

Once you’ve determined the skillset and deliverables – take a look at some job listing websites, freelance job posts or freelance marketplaces to get an idea of the average or industry standard rate for the kind of work you’re hiring for.

What is a fair price for all the work you’re expecting them to complete? You could contact a few people on marketplace websites with your brief and see what offers you get back in terms of price for the work.  

You also need to set a realistic budget for the work based on your overall budget. Most freelancers are independent business owners paying their own tax, insurance and overhead costs, so they’re hourly rates may be higher than your employees’. 

Bear in mind that rates will differ depending on market and country – which is the benefit of working with a global recruiter like Salt that have worldwide job market benchmarks to draw on to find you the best talent for your needs. Find out more about our contract recruitment service.

When it comes to budgeting for freelance work, consider whether: 

  • You’ll pay hourly, daily or on a task-by-task basis. 
  • You’ll pay a fixed amount at the end of the project – or segment payment as they reach certain milestones.  
  • You’d be willing to pay more for higher quality results or quicker delivery? 
  • You’d be willing to negotiate on fee or payment model. 

4. Source interested freelancers

Next consider where you’ll source freelance candidates – which will shape your recruitment process and talent acquisition strategy.

If you’re working with a recruiter like Salt, they should present options and build a strategy that sees results on your behalf, with your approval and partnership. Submit a brief with us to get tailored advice on sourcing digital talent.

If you’re recruiting a freelancer yourself or in-house, candidates can be sourced from referrals, job listing sites and freelance marketplaces. You can also reach out to people seeking a full time job on job boards as they may be interested in temporary work to break up their job search for a permanent role. 

You could ask for recommendations from your network or contacts list. The benefit here is that anyone they recommend is someone they had a good experience with and who they trust to deliver good results.  

You can also post job ads on your own website and social media channels – and encourage your staff to share your post with their networks to increase reach. 

Make sure your ads highlight terms such as ‘freelance,’ ‘contract,’ and ‘temporary’ clearly alongside the job title and throughout the job description to clearly signpost you’re seeking a freelancer to both potential candidates and search engines.  

5. Shortlist the best freelance talent for the role 

Once you’ve posted your job and brief, you’ll receive applicants. You’ll need to determine which of those who’ve applied you’ll invite to interview or assessment. Shortlists usually filter applicants down to 3-5 finalists. 

How you generate that shortlist depends on the work you’re hiring for – so reflect on the needs, requirements and expectations you outlined in the brief and description to create a checklist of attributes the finalists should have.  

Consider how to vet the specific skills you’re looking for – such as specific certifications or reviewing an online portfolio of previous work. 

If you’re working with an agency like Salt they will vet the shortlist of candidates for you so you’re only considering a qualified list based on your specifications. Find out more here.

For more substantial job opportunities or work with a high level of expertise required, consider attaching a sample test to the job listing to assess each applicant’s technical skills. 

6. Assess your shortlist of freelancers 

Once you have decided on your shortlist, you’ll need to invite those candidates to interview for the position, to narrow down who you’d like to offer the brief to. 

If the freelancer is remote and unable to interview face to face, phone interviews can work! For many hiring managers however video interviews are a better way to assess candidates and build more of a rapport with them throughout the recruitment process. 

Here’s what to check for when interviewing candidates: 

  • Timeliness and ability to meet deadlines.
    Can they complete the work on time? Ask how they’d approach a delay or juggle other client work? Ask for references and work history to demonstrate their ability to manage time and resource across the duration of a project.  
  • Understanding and expertise.
    Do they have the knowledge and skillset to complete the work to the standard you need? Are they equipped to deal with obstacles that might be unforeseen? Have they worked in a similar sized project? Are they familiar with the industry? 
  • Communication and collaboration.
    Do they have the soft skills needed to work effectively with you, your team and any internal or external stakeholders this project might involve? 

Struggling to choose someone from the shortlist? It’s always a benefit to have a few talented, reliable freelancers you’d like to work with in your contacts list. You could consider offering a small, paid project to each to evaluate what they’re like on job and how they integrate with your team before committing to a more substantial contract or brief.  

Questions to ask freelance candidates at the interview stage: 

  • What time zone will you be working in and is this liable to change?  
  • How long do you think you’ll need to complete the project?  
  • Is there any limitation on your resource – such as other projects you have now or that you have booked during the same timeframe? 
  • What relevant previous experience do you have? 
  • What are your rates and what’s your preferred payment model (per hour, per day, per project)? 
  • What is your availability? When can you start work on this project? 
  • How do you keep track of progress and log hours whilst working? 
  • How do you prefer to keep in touch? 
  • When are you available to be contacted? Do you have specific working hours you keep to? 
  • How do you work with clients usually? Do you have a maximum number of revisions? 

There’s a high demand for skilled freelancers, especially in a competitive job market, so be sure to shortlist candidates and invite them to interview quickly to secure them before someone else does.

The more detail you cover during the interview, the more information you’ll have to help you make the right decision quickly, without further assessments or interviews.  

7. Hire the right freelancer for you 

Choosing the right person for the job and to work with your team is an important decision, but competition for talent is high, so once you’ve found a candidate you’d like to make an offer to, don’t wait too long! They’ll be fielding offers from other companies as well. 

Be prepared to negotiate payment and logistics before they accept your formal offer, from rate to start date to working process.

Focus on each deliverable and when you need it by, rather than the freelancer’s working preferences. Unlike an employee, freelancers are flexible and choose to work the way they deliver results, so while you can’t stipulate the ‘how’, you can ask for certain deadlines and standards to be met. 

Payment is important to discuss ahead of time, including amount, frequency and method.

If you’re paying online, use a trusted system like a digital wallet or a bank transfer. This means the freelancer can access the funds more quickly and helps you to build a reputation as a reliable employer amongst the freelance community.  

Send over the required documentation as quickly as possible to secure their time and resource, such as their contract, non-disclosure agreement and non-compete agreement (if required). Read on to see what to include. 

8. Write, agree on and sign a contract 

Once you’ve negotiated and agreed the offer with your chosen freelancer, make it official with a contract. 

A contract should be both detailed and concise, and it’s important to be clear on all requirements, expectations and cover to protect both yourself and the freelancer in future. 

Depending on where you are and what the role is, contracts will differ.

However, you’ll likely need to include essential information such as: 

  • Names, contact information, date 
  • Role responsibilities 
  • Agreed deliverables (statement of work or SOW) 
  • Payment terms  
  • Deadlines (service level agreement or SLA) 
  • Ownership of the work (intellectual property should be agreed in advance) 
  • Confidential information clause (to protect private and confidential information) 
  • Independent contractor terms 
  • Limitation of liability 
  • Termination clause 
  • Indemnity clause 
  • Health and safety if the freelancer is working on premises 

9. Onboard the freelancer and build a work relationship  

After receiving the signed contract, set up an onboarding meeting. Use the meeting to make sure the freelancer has the instructions, training, and resources they need to get started. 

You pay by the hour or day for a freelancer, so it’s important to set everything up to make the most use of your expense.  

Once the contract is signed, set up an onboarding meeting with the freelancer as soon as possible to ensure they have the instructions, knowledge and resources they’ll need to start. If they’ll require access to internal systems or company devices, get this ready and signed off in advance so they can start right away. 

Having a good working relationship with any freelancer you’re working with to ensure the best results for everyone. It also means that they’ll want to work with you again in future. 

Here are some top tips to working well with freelance talent: 

  • Communicate well.
    Whether it’s just checking in on progress or managing issues when they arise, communication is key to managing expectations and achieving results.  
  • Refer back to the brief.
    You can only expect what you asked for in the freelancer brief, as this is what was agreed beforehand. Additional work due to delays or edits might require additional cost if not agreed ahead of time.  
  • Pay on time, as agreed.
    Make sure you pay in the way agreed ahead of starting the work, as this is important for the freelancer to manage costs and payments of their own.  
  • Offer to review or recommend them. 
    A big source of business for any freelancer, much like any business owner, is referrals. Offer feedback or reviews of their work to build a positive, lasting relationship with them. 

If you’re working with an agency like Salt that specializes in freelance and contract talent, they’ll manage the onboarding process for you and help you maintain a good working relationship with the freelancer throughout the duration of the project. If you’re short on time or working with a freelancer who has a skillset you’re not very familiar with, having an expert manage that relationship can help you ensure quality while managing your own time better. Find out more about our process and how we help.

10. Learn from the experience 

Hiring a freelancer for the first time can feel like a daunting task – but it gets easier as you become more experienced with hiring and working with freelancers!

In time you’ll learn what specifics are needed to ensure a seamless integration with your company and team, and what pitfalls to avoid. 

Whether you choose to be supported by an agency like Salt or manage the recruitment and onboarding process yourself, we’d recommend reflecting on the project work soon after it’s completion while it’s still fresh, so you can learn what works best in future.

Hiring freelancers or contractors?

Whether you’re looking to expand your team or improve your work life balance, hiring freelancers or contractors can help to achieve your goals. Your freelance talent hire could be a mere (virtual) handshake away!

Salt is committed to diversity and inclusion. Our expert consultants can help you build a team that delivers results now and in the future. We can help you find the right freelance talent for your needs.

You can also keep in the loop by following us on LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.

Read more expert hiring advice from Salt

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