Good Hiring Guide
What can you do to make hiring a freelancer as frictionless as possible?
Using freelancers to extend your team is a smart business move: an experienced service provider or consultant can be worth their weight in gold.
However, the hiring process is a little different to that of a permanent employee. Here are some thoughts to get your hiring journey get off to the best possible start.
The brief #
Whether it’s a formal document, an email or something else, all projects start with a brief of some sort. At a minimum, this should include:
- Description of the job
- Expected completion date
- Indication of budget
The initial contact, whether it’s direct or through a jobs board, will determine how likely you are to get the attention of the sort of freelancer you want. Experienced freelancers may pass on opportunities that are too brief or too detailed, so it’s important to get the balance right.
The brief should concisely describe the problem/project expectations, with some background where needed. If you’ve had thoughts on a solution or have already tried other options, it’s good to mention these.
Whatever you write, freelancers will almost certainly have further questions.
Including a timeframe is useful and it’s good to indicate whether there’s flexibility here. The same is true of the budget: a ballpark is absolutely fine, but it’s important to declare something, even if you’re not sure what this service normally costs.
If any of these are relevant, it’s also useful to include:
- Whether an NDA is required (and at what stage)
- Expected format of response
- Deadline for applications
On NDAs #
Freelancers may be cautious about signing a non-discloure agreement (NDA) before discussing a project. NDAs are common, but almost all projects can be discussed in some manner before signing one.
If an NDA is required, check that it:
- Doesn’t include a generic non-compete (this can put freelancers out of business)
- Is limited to a specific and short time period
- Is limited to the work involved
Assessing the options #
Once you start to receive applications, what’s the best way to decide on who to hire?
Trial tasks #
On the surface, a trial task seems like a good idea, but they’re problematic for a number of reasons. In short, it’s difficult to create an unpaid trial that isn’t exploitative in some way.
Most experienced freelancers will see trial tasks as a red flag and pass on the opportunity. Trial tasks are only a viable option for
freelancers who have time to complete them, which makes them inherently exclusive.
Use their portfolio instead #
A freelancer’s website is a great starting point. Aside from their work, it may contain testimonials and these might feature on Google, too.
It’s difficult for freelancers to let potential clients speak to previous clients. Aside from the GDPR implications, doing this on a regular basis puts an unreasonable burden on those clients.
Portfolios may be incomplete (thanks to non-disclosure agreements) or be out-of-date (because they’re in-demand). If it’s not clear from the site, ask for more examples.
If the work and testimonials don’t tell you what you need to know, but you think they might be a good fit, it could be the time to set up a call.
A call is a perfect opportunity to dig deeper into the type of work they’ve done previously and whether they might be a good fit for your project. If their portfolio doesn’t contain work that’s close to what you need or they don’t have relevant testimonials, ask them to tell you about a previous project: what the problem/objective was and how did they solve it?
Their answer will give you a much better indication of their experience than any portfolio piece.
Don’t want to talk? #
There are plenty of legitimate reasons that a freelancer might prefer not to speak on the phone:
- Family/caring responsibilities
- Background noise
- Confidence on a call
If they would prefer to stay on email, this is an opportunity to assess how they communicate through email. Email – or writing – will be the go-to communication method in most project scenarios, after all.
Still not sure? #
At this point, you’re likely to have narrowed your options at least a little. If you’re struggling to decide who to hire, this could be a good time to ask the freelancer to complete a smaller, related, paid task.
Many freelancers would be happy to suggest and quote for a smaller task. It’s a great opportunity to find out what it would be like to work with them on a larger project.
Questions to ask #
However you’re communicating, make sure you ask all the questions you have at this stage. Whether that’s drilling down into what the process will be or finding out what’s in or out of scope, now is the time to do it.
Here are some questions to get you started:
- Do you have a preferred communication method?
- What are your working hours/days?
- When should we expect each stage of the work to be completed?
- What sort of availability do you need from me?
- Apart from the project rate, are there any other fees (third-party or otherwise) I should be aware of?
Experienced freelancers will lead you through this and raise common queries/concerns. Once a project and budget are agreed, changes to the brief may not be included in the original quote, so ask all the questions you need to.
Some freelancers package their services up. This is common for retainer-based work, but others will offer it for larger services, too.
Occasionally, these packages will include some sort of discount. For instance, it might be cheaper to book ten hours in advance, rather than ten hours individually.
It’s not uncommon for freelancers to offer two or three options during a proposal, too. That might look like:
- Option A costs £1,000 and includes, A, B and C
- Option B costs £1,500 and includes A, B, C and D
- Option C costs £2,000 and includes A, B, C, D and your favourite car.
This is an effective method to maximise what they can offer in a way that’s sensitive to different budgets.
Outside of these situations, it’s rare for freelancers to offer discounts on services.
For that reason, it’s crucial to be upfront about budget ranges as early in the process as possible. That way, they can make the most appropriate suggestions for your budget and it reduces the chances of an awkward conversation further down the line.
Money, money, money #
It’s critically important to pay freelancers promptly, especially if you want to continue working with them. In many cases, the freelancer’s business is just them and late payments can cause all sorts of personal finance issues.
Many freelancers will specify payment terms in their contracts, so check this carefully. Payment issues can be a source of friction for both sides, so let the freelance know:
- If your finance department has strict payment terms
- Exactly what they need to include on the invoice
If you don’t have this information, it might be easier to put the freelancer in touch with the finance department early on. That way they can get all the information they need ASAP.
Late payment fees #
Many freelancers will have clauses about late payments in their contracts, but did you know that there are statutory late fees? These are owed whether or not the freelancer has their own terms.
Payments are deemed ‘late’ the day after the agreed payment terms, 30 days after the invoice is issued or the goods/services are delivered—whichever is later.
At the time of writing, the statutory interest rate is 8% plus the Bank of England base rate for business-to-business transactions. There is also a debt recovery fee: £40–£100 depending on the amount owed.
Good luck #
Each freelancer’s process will vary, but these points should help get the discussions off to a positive start.
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