A Complete Guide to Hiring Freelancers
TL;DR: Considering hiring freelancers? Wondering what outsourcing talent will mean for your organisation? Well, you’re not alone. More companies are beginning to wake up to the wonderful world of the gig economy and its many benefits. In fact, a recent study suggested that 80% of large organisations plan to significantly increase their use of freelancers in the coming years.
From offering fresh perspectives to empowering workforces and bringing much-needed flexibility – today you’ll be hard-pressed to find a company that isn’t hiring freelancers in some sort of capacity. So, if you are considering using freelancers and wondering where to begin, we’ve got you covered.
Let’s jump into it!
First things first, we think a great place to start is – what even is a freelancer? According to Indeed, a freelancer (also known as self-employed workers or gig workers) can be defined as; “a form of self-employment in which a person offers their services or goods to others, usually on a contractual basis. Freelancers can work with companies or individuals and can have several contracts at the same time.”
The emphasis here is that, unlike full-time employees, freelancers aren’t bound to a specific employer. Instead, they will often work on several projects with different clients at once. They also maintain control over their schedule and agree on expectations such as timelines, scope, and deliverables ahead of a project starting.
The skills and services freelancers can offer
A common misconception about freelancers is that the majority of them only provide creative services, such as graphic design or copywriting. This, however, is far from the truth. And as the gig economy has exploded in the last few years, so too has the number of services freelancers can offer.
You can now find freelancers able to provide services in a huge number of different areas and fields. From project management, data analysis, community management, experience design and much more. Nowadays, chances are that whatever your requirement might be – there’s a skilled freelancer out there with the expertise you need providing that service.
Pros & cons of hiring freelancers
As we said, there are now more organisations utilising freelancers to support a range of different projects and requirements. And obviously, engaging with gig workers has a whole heap of benefits. But, just like with permanent employees, there are both pros and cons to hiring freelancers.
So, making sure you take into account both the benefits and disadvantages before you start working with freelancers will help lead to the very best results.
1. Gain access to a whole new talent pool
Working with freelancers means you have a much wider pool of talent to choose from. Plus, freelancers can essentially work from anywhere in the world. So, by no longer limiting your hiring process to only considering permanent employees, you can reach a whole new world of global talent with the expertise you’re looking for. Which just seems like good business sense to us!
2. Freelancers are experts in their chosen field
Another big pro of hiring freelancers is that you get to actually work with the pros! Freelancers are specialists within their field and many have been doing what they do for a long time. Their entire business relies on them getting the job done right, as well as doing it on time. This, therefore, means you can expect them to provide you with top-quality work.
3. They can bring in new perspectives
By using freelancers within your business, you can benefit from the experience they have from working with others. Chances are, they have already helped organisations solve similar issues to the ones you are facing. They know the solutions that work, as well as the ones that don’t. As a result, they can bring a fresh perspective and inject new ideas which you may not have previously considered.
1. They aren’t always available
Freelancers are very busy people. More than likely, they’re working on multiple projects with different clients. Which means that they might not always be available. This can be a real bummer when you’ve found a freelancer with who you’ve really clicked. So, planning ahead where possible and booking in their time in advance can help avoid disappointment by ensuring they’re free when you have new projects lined up.
2. They can be a costly long-term solution
Hiring freelancers is often cheaper compared to hiring full-time employees because you only pay for the work they do. However, if you are utilising a freelancer over a long period, these costs can rack up. Making sure you work with gig workers on a project-by-project basis, alongside your core internal team, is a great way to keep these costs down and get the best bang for your buck.
3. You will need to train freelancers up on your brand
Like any full-time member of your team, you will need to onboard freelancers when they start working for your company. Getting team members up-to-speed on all the different elements and nuances of your organisation is no mean feat. And this is especially true when training up freelancers who are only present part of the time. Putting a process in place for new freelancers can help with this, making sure they have everything they need to hit the ground running.
Blended L&D teams
When thinking about hiring freelancers, another important question to consider is – how should you go about integrating them within your business?
There are many options for how to utilise freelancers within your company. This can range from bringing in an individual freelancer occasionally when low on capacity, all the way to completely outsourcing your L&D function. However, as flexibility, agility and adaptability increasingly become the name of the game in today’s working world, the most innovative companies are utilising the talent economy to their benefit to meet their growing needs.
What is the talent economy?
A talent marketplace approach turns on its head long-held ideas of how organisations should be structured and run. It takes a more flexible and innovative approach to talent management by shifting the emphasis away from set roles and pre-determined teams, to focus instead on skills, experiences and opportunities. This is accomplished by combining two distinct marketplaces, the internal and external, and blending them to create a formidable business solution.
The internal marketplace
The internal marketplace, as helpfully defined by Gloat, is a system that “allows managers throughout the entire organization to post opportunities for open positions, temporary assignments, short- and long-term part-time projects, mentorships, and any other initiative that talent within the organization is needed for.”
The external marketplace
The external talent marketplace complements the internal marketplace. It connects teams with highly-skilled talent with specialised knowledge and experience from outside their organisation to support particular projects and skills.
Building the perfect blended team by hiring freelancers
This idea of utilising both marketplaces and supplementing a permanent core team with highly-skilled freelancers has been growing in popularity in recent years.
By building these unique project teams composed of the exact skills they need, businesses can get the most out of their permanent employees, while simultaneously reaping the benefits of hiring specialist freelance talent. Meaning the right person is always in the right job – regardless of whether they’re a full-time employee or not. The best of both worlds, if you ask us.
But when might you consider utilising the external talent marketplace to complement your internal team? There are numerous situations when you might benefit from this approach, including;
You have an upcoming project which requires expertise outside of your team’s skillset.
For example, let’s say you have an anti-money laundering eLearning course in the works. While you have a project manager and eLearning developer internally who are available to work on the project, you still need an SME. You can then plug this gap by tapping into the gig economy and hiring a freelancer with the knowledge you need to create your ultimate, unique blended team.
You have unsteady or sporadic workloads.
For most businesses, there are usually fluctuations between busy and less busy periods throughout the year. Hiring freelancers during these peak times, or when in a time-crunch, to help bolster your existing team is a great way to ensure you hit deadlines and deliver fantastic eLearning outputs.
You’re on a tight budget.
Hiring freelancers is often a much more cost-effective option than hiring full-time employees. And with the Great Resignation in full-swing, L&D teams are being asked to do more with less. Utilising a hybrid approach allows you to gain access to skilled experts, all while keeping head-counts lows and providing a huge-cost saving benefits. Keeping you, your team, your boss and, most importantly, your learners happy!
Managing freelance talent
Just like with your full-time employees, it’s important you form a good working relationship with the freelancers you collaborate with. To make sure that you get the most out of your freelancer relationships, here are some of our top tips:
Project management tips for working with freelancers
One of the reasons freelancers choose what they do is because they want autonomy. They’re the experts in self-discipline and know how to manage their time effectively. And this means there is no need to constantly look over their shoulder to check they’re getting their work done.
However, with that being said, establishing good project management practices is still vital to ensure everything stays on track. And having the right project management tools in place will help you achieve this. This is because it promotes a collaborative environment and allows everyone to see who is responsible for what.
Our Project Management Tool Recommendations
For a full breakdown, dpm has a fantastic list of the best project management tools on the market. However, some of our personal favourites include;
- monday.com provides a fully customisable experience to fit around you and your team. It offers tonnes of great project management systems, styles, and different integrations. Plus, it comes with a reporting dashboard that collates data from multiple boards to track progress all in one place.
- Asana is a popular choice due to the number of integrations its offers. It also makes it easy to automate processes, tasks and workflows that cross over into other business tools.
- Hive is a great option for hybrid teams due to its focus on collaboration and messaging. It streamlines work into one centralised platform and its time tracking capabilities allow for transparency over team members’ work and upcoming projects.
- Clickup has some fab task management tools and features, including task checklists, subtasks, and task templates. It also has filter, search for and sort functions, which comes in super handy when managing a team with diverse workstyles, as users can view tasks in the manner most convenient for them.
Communication tips for working with freelancers
Set out clear guidelines
Like with most things in life, great communication is paramount to obtaining success when working with freelance talent. It will ensure everyone is on the same page and build the foundations for an effective, high-functioning, blended team.
At the beginning of a freelancer’s contract, set out clear communication guidelines and what your expectations are in terms of check-ins and updates. But as well as this, ensure they know you’re open to discussing the project requirements with them. Facilitating regular communication between your freelancers and permanent employees will help stop anyone working in silos.
Develop relationships with your freelancers
When hiring freelancers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of a purely transactional, business relationship. However, just because they enjoy the flexibility of freelance work, it doesn’t mean they don’t want to feel like part of the team.
So, getting to know the freelancers you hire will help lead to the best possible outcomes. By building positive relationships with them, they’ll be invested in producing great results for you. Plus, it also means they’ll probably want to work for you again if you need their services in the future. Which is what we want, right?
Finding the best talent
Create a detailed project brief
One of the most important things you can do when hiring freelancers is to be super clear about your expectations from the outset. And, the best way to do this is by creating a detailed project brief with all the information they need to know.
We know… sitting down to create a brief can sometimes feel like a bit of a chore. Especially when you’re super busy and short on time. That’s one of the reasons you want to hire a freelancer in the first place, right? But, taking the time to outline what exactly you want them to do means the project will run smoothly without any hiccups. It will ensure both parties are on the same page – which will be a huge time-saving win down the line, we promise!
The project brief you give to potential candidates should summarise all the key information including deliverables, milestones and costs. Here are some questions you can ask yourself during the process to ensure your brief is water-tight:
- What’s the purpose of the project?
- Which skills and what level of expertise do you want from potential candidates?
- What is the desired outcome and how will success be measured?
- What will the deliverables be for the project?
- When does the project need to be delivered?
Start sourcing freelancers
When you’ve got your project brief sorted, you’re now ready to begin finding the freelancer who’s the best person for the job.
Knowing where to start when finding and hiring freelancers can sometimes feel a bit daunting. But, once you take the leap, it’s actually nowhere near as complicated as you might think (we promise!). You can begin your search in several different places;
Leveraging your business’s social media channels can be a great and easy way to find the right freelancers. Posting on social, as well as utilising different groups and community pages, can help to gather a pool of applicants interested in your freelance project.
Word of mouth recommendations
Another option is to see if anyone within your professional network knows someone who would fit the bill. More than likely, someone will know a freelancer with who they’ve had a great experience. And by getting recommendations from your connections, it helps ensure you get some fantastic outputs from the freelancer you select.
Using freelancer marketplaces and job sites is arguably the fastest route to find a freelancer. General freelancing sites, such as Upwork, have large freelancer databases. However, there are also lots of industry-specific sites you can utilise too.
For example, at Jam Pan, we specialise in the world of digital learning and have a whole range of freelance L&D experts. Also quite often these specialist sites, including our own, vet all their talent – guaranteeing you only the highest calibre of freelancers. Which means you’re in safe hands and can get a freelancer onboarded quickly and hassle-free!
Interview potential candidates
Once you have a pool of freelancers who are interested in your project, you can start reviewing the applicants to decide who’s the best fit. There are a range of different things you can use to assess their suitably, such as their experience, their portfolio and reviews from other clients.
If you have a few candidates, conducting an interview with each can help whittle down your options. This interview doesn’t have to be anything too formal but can really build a better understanding of whether their skills and experience are appropriate for your project.
Consider a paid trial
Sometimes, the best way to find out if someone can actually do the job is to just work with them! If you think you’ve found a freelancer who fits the deal, but you want to be 100% sure, why not ask them to complete a pilot project on a trial basis.
By asking them to complete a smaller piece of work first, you’ll be able to assess the quality of the work they produce, as well as how smooth the process of working with them is.
Make the hire!
The final step is to hire your chosen candidate. If you decide to use a platform like Jam Pan, they’ll normally take care of the paperwork. This includes a Statement of Work, which contains all the necessary information like the deliverables and payment details.
Ultimately, the right person will depend on you and your project, and it may take a bit of searching before you find someone who’s a good fit.
Speaking of payment, how much should you be compensating your freelancers? Knowing how much you should be paying freelancers can be tricky, especially when their fees can vary so much.
Here are some of the things to consider it comes to paying self-employed workers;
Research freelancer rates
Gig workers decide and set their own rates. And how much they charge will depend on several factors, such as their experience and the level of work required. The type of service they offer will also influence this, with some types of skills needing a higher level of expertise or being more in demand compared to others. For example, a learning business partner will have a higher rate compared to a learning coordinator.
If you’re unsure what the going rate is, try asking others in your network about their experience when hiring freelancers. Outsourced providers and freelance platforms can also help to advise what the typical rates are for different roles.
Be realistic about your budget
When hiring freelancers for a new project, assessing what exactly your budget is will help determine what to pay. Then, by deciding this, you can then exclude any freelancers who charge over a certain amount.
However, it is worth keeping in mind you do normally get what you pay for. As a general rule, freelancer fees generally tend to increase with their experience and the quality of their work. So if you’re only willing to pay the lowest rates, you’re likely to have someone with less experience. Being realistic is the best way to set yourself up for success. It will mean you’re clear on what your budget can deliver and won’t end up hiring a freelancer who promises over the odds.
Decide on the payment method
There are a variety of different methods you can use to make payment to freelancers. The method you choose to use might be based on different factors, such as the freelancer’s personal preference of the timescale of the project. However, some of the most common options are;
- Milestone projects. This splits the payment up during the time-period a freelancer is working and is based upon the completion of pre-agreed milestones. This may include certain events or tasks, such as the delivery of an alpha version of a learning course. Or it could instead be set invoicing dates, such as 50% upfront and 50% upon project completion.
- Monthly billing projects. This is when you pay a freelancer monthly during the project for the amount of work they have undertaken. This option is great if you need a degree of flexibility and won’t require a freelancer’s support at the same level throughout a project. However, we do recommend agreeing upon beforehand a maximum number of days they can spend on the project. It can always be amended later down the line but will ensure you don’t go over budget!
- Retainers. This is an agreement of a regular, set payment. Retainers are usually best utilised when a freelancer is providing their services over an ongoing period of time.
Pay on time!
When it comes to paying freelancers, the right option will depend on what’s best for you, your project and what you’re looking for, as well as the preferences of the freelancer you are working with. However, our main tip (and we can’t emphasise this enough) is to make sure you pay on time. For example, if you agree to 30-day payment terms – make sure you stick to it!
This may seem really basic, but for a freelancer, it really can be make or break when they get paid. Plus, it can be hugely beneficial to build a good relationship with your freelancers – so making sure you pay on time is definitely within your best interests, as well as theirs. Providing a good experience in all areas, including payment, will ensure freelancers will want to keep working with you time and time again.
Getting started with hiring freelancers
Hiring freelancers and outsourcing work can bring some huge benefits to your business. Not only can it save you tonnes of time, money and resource, but it can also ensure that you’re able to tap into the best-of-breed expertise you need for your projects. Not to mention, with the world of gig work growing exponentially, now has really never been a better time to start adopting a more flexible approach to talent by hiring freelancers.
Here at Jam Pan, we truly believe that freelancers are the future of engaging and impactful digital learning. We work with a whole host of super-talented freelancers and agencies with years of experience in their chosen field. If you want to learn more about how Jam Pan can help you start working with and hiring freelancers – get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.
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