If you’re a small business owner trying to expand on a shoestring budget, outsourcing work to a freelancer or independent contractor might be a good option for you. Outsourcing is something many businesses are doing to find flexible workers with specific skill sets, and it offers benefits that extend beyond saving on staffing costs.
The online marketplace is crowded, so you may be wondering how you can narrow the field and find the best freelancer for your project. This post will take you through the process of determining your company’s needs, listing your job description, and picking the right consultant.
Step 1: Define Your Needs
Determine where you need support. Whether you’ve been running your business independently or with a skeleton staff, you recognize it’s time for some extra help.
Do you need a marketing strategy, or do you need help with administrative tasks? Consider where you have the least knowledge in operating a business, and where your startup could use some support.
Small businesses commonly hire freelancers for jobs such as:
- Graphic design
- Content writing
- Social media marketing
- Web development
Establish the timeline of the project. The nature of the project will determine how long you’ll be using freelance services. For example, a project to design and develop your company’s website will take a designer far longer than creating a logo for your business.
Alternatively, you may be looking for ongoing services, such as a virtual assistant to manage emails and bookkeeping, or a writer to post a blog on your site every week.
Work out your budget. Like many startups, you’re probably looking to save wherever possible. Once you begin your search, you’ll find that freelancers charge a wide range of prices, typically based on experience.
Before you begin your search, calculate how much you can set aside in your budget. Knowing this number will allow you to find a freelancer within your price range and determine how long you’ll be able to keep them on.
Are two better than one? You may consider hiring two consultants if you have room in your budget or if your project needs to be completed in a timely manner. For example, contracting two web developers could get your website up and running in half the time.
Step 2: Post an Effective Job Description
Do your research. There are many online platforms you can use to find freelance services, including some that cater to specific industries, such as writing and graphic design. The choice is up to you, but some things to consider when choosing a website are pricing, user friendliness, and number of active freelancers on the site.
To help you write your job listing, read some posts for projects similar to yours. How detailed are the descriptions? How much are companies offering to pay, and what is the typical pay structure? Lastly, what is the estimated length of the project?
Knowing the industry standards will give you a better idea of what to ask for in your post.
Write a job description. You can use the job listings you’ve read as a guide to writing your own. Keep in mind that a more detailed project description usually attracts better proposals.
In your listing, be sure to include:
- Project details: describe your business, what you need done, the desired results, and any criteria you have, including specific skills or a Non-Disclosure Agreement
- Duration: provide an approximate timeline (e.g. one week, six months, ongoing) and the expected number of hours of work
- Budget: set a fixed or hourly rate (you may also have the option to customize your budget)
Start your search. Once you have a project description, you can list it publicly and wait for bids, or reach out to select individuals and request a quote.
The field of qualified freelance workers continues to grow, so you may find yourself overwhelmed with proposals or bids. To that end, the next step is to find the right candidate.
Step 3: Narrow the Field
Decide what you value most. You should have an idea of what you’re looking for before you start sifting through your bids.
First, what do you value in a worker, and what does this project need? Many freelancers juggle several jobs at once, so you’ll likely want someone with a talent for multitasking. Other qualities valued in the industry include experience, an attitude of professionalism, time management skills, and effective communication.
Depending on the project, you’ll also want to consider specific skills and aptitudes, such as knowledge of a certain programming language or expertise in search engine optimization.
Read through your bids. A bid is similar to a cover letter. In their proposal, a freelancer will typically describe their skills and experience, set their price, and explain why they are the right person for the job. They may also include work samples and a link to their profile or website.
Look for an indication that they have read your job listing, as most experienced freelancers will research your business and cater their proposal to you.
If a bid piques your interest, take a look at their reviews and ratings, work samples, and rate. Of course, a cheap rate shouldn’t be the basis of your decision—even if you’re on a budget, consider paying a bit more to ensure you get quality work.
Set up an interview. Once you’ve narrowed down the field, set up phone or video calls with the best candidates. Get to know them a little bit, and find out more about their skills, industry experience, and communication style. You can even ask a consultant about their perspective on your business and how they’ll help to improve it to assess if they’re a match for your goals.
In the interview, be clear about your expectations around pay, adherence to timelines, standards, and frequency of communication. Consultants often have the freedom to dictate their working standards, so it’s a good idea to discuss whether your expectations align with their working style.
Ask for a tailored sample. If you want to get a real sense of their skills, you can have your candidate complete a small project, such as a website banner or copywriting sample, to assess whether they’ll be a good fit for the job.
Make your pick. If all goes well, you’ll find a great candidate for your project.
Before they begin to work for you, make sure you have an Independent Contractor Agreement in place so that you’re both clear about:
- The services being provided
- The length of the project
- Payment details, including payment schedule
- Intellectual property
- Confidentiality and other provisions
Once you’ve both signed the contract, you can look forward to a lightened workload and a new contributor to your team.
Choosing to Outsource
There comes a point when business owners can no longer do it all themselves. Hiring independent contractors is an increasingly common practice, particularly for startups and businesses on a budget. Having access to an array of talent will allow you to find the best freelancer for your project and help to grow your business while keeping your budget in check.
How can you pick the best freelancer for your project?