September 3, 2020

Hiring a Freelancer: The Ultimate Guide

A major shift is happening in the way we work. Businesses have cottoned on to the fact that having a full office for 40 hours a week does not equal productivity and high-quality output.

More and more companies are turning to freelancers to get the best outcome for their project. Working with freelancers is low risk and high reward. You choose a person with specialised skills for each particular task and only pay them for the work they do.

If you've never worked with a freelancer before, but you want to start, we've put together everything you need to know to have a successful collaboration. 

Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam on Unsplash

What is a freelancer?

A freelancer is a self-employed person. They manage their own time, location, and usually work with many clients on many projects simultaneously. 

Working with freelancers allows you to use the very best person for the job you have. A freelancer can provide you with a specialized skill set to address a particular need. 

For example, you might hire a freelance branding expert. That person's primary focus will be building and developing beautiful brands and nothing else. You'll end up with a much better result than if you used a general design all-rounder.

Even better—more people are working as freelancers than ever before. This means it's even easier to find the exact unicorn (no pun intended) you need.

If you have one-off projects or are not sure if a full-time employee would make sense for you, hiring a freelancer could be the answer.

Finding the perfect freelancer.

How do you find the perfect freelancer for your project? 

One of the easiest ways to find a freelancer is through a job board on a site like Unicorn Factory. You can usually find freelancers directly through sites like these, too, if there's someone you'd particularly like to work with.

But before you start your search and share your job, it's essential to clarify exactly what your goals are. Think about the responsibilities you need the freelancer to fill, what the deadline is, and how much you're willing to pay. 

When you post your job, you'll be sharing the job "brief." The clearer you can be in your brief, the better a response you'll get. 

What makes a great brief?

A clear brief will attract better freelancers. You'll also actually save money when you pick someone as they won't have to spend as much time researching the scope of your project.

Here's a checklist of things you should include in your brief:

  • Goals of your project
  • Key deliverables
  • Deadline
  • References
  • Expectations
  • Word count (if applicable)
  • Whether it's in-house or remote
  • Is it a one-off job or likely to lead to ongoing work
  • Budget indicator: Give a range of what you're expecting to pay. High-quality freelancers aren't interested if the budget is too low.

A brief that lacks detail is a big red flag for many freelancers. Most freelancers have several clients on the go at once and may decide not to work with you based on your brief alone. If it seems like they'll have to spend hours chasing up information, they may decide it's not worth the hassle.

If you post your job and get little to no response, it's a good sign that your brief wasn't clear enough, or your goals/expectations/budget is unreasonable.

Check out their profile and website.

If you've found someone you're interested in working with, check out their website or portfolio to make sure their style is in line with what you're after.

Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Just because they're an experienced designer/developer/copywriter doesn't mean they're the right fit for your project.

For example, if you need a corporate rebrand but this designer usually works with punk bands, they're probably not the right person for the job. 

Similarly, avoid Jack of all trades. Start by finding freelancers that specialise in exactly what you're looking for.

Most freelancers will have reviews and testimonials from former clients who can vouch for their standard of work. This can give you added peace of mind. 

If you're keen to learn more about a freelancer and make a direct enquiry, a good freelancer will usually take the reins on the consultation process. They'll take your hand and guide you to the best outcome for both of you.

This usually involves a face-to-face or virtual meeting where you'll discuss the project's scope in-depth. This is a chance for you to ask any questions you might have about the process, clarify any details, and figure out if you would be a good fit. 

If you're hesitant to commit to any long-term projects right away, start with a small, one-off job. This gives you a chance to see how you like their work and if you're happy working with a freelancer. 

You get what you pay for.

Paying freelancers is not the same as paying employees, so you can expect to pay a much higher hourly rate. Self-employed freelancers are business owners, and they have their taxes and overheads to cover.

Freelancers charge either hourly or by project. Hourly rates can vary from $30-$300 an hour depending on skill, experience, and how in-demand they are. 

If you're looking to work with a highly experienced, seasoned pro with many years' experience, that's going to take a decent investment. 

Don't try to pay with "exposure" or "opportunities." Freelancers have bills to pay just like you and need to be paid with actual money.Don't get sucked into finding the cheapest possible freelancer you can. You might think you're saving money, but in reality, the time you'll spend fixing up and refining whatever cheap result they give you becomes more of a headache than if you'd just paid to have it done correctly.

If you can't afford to pay a freelancer properly for their work, you probably shouldn't be working with freelancers.

What to expect when you start a project together.

If you're ready to move forward and commit to a project, remember that communication is key.

To ensure everyone is on the same page, most freelancers will get you to sign a contract or agree to their terms and conditions. This usually outlines expectations, scope, and payment terms. You also may be required to pay a deposit of up to 50% before any work can begin.

The next thing is to make sure you hand over all resources and relevant information to the freelancer that they'll need to get started. The quicker you can set them up, the quicker they can begin. The less time they need to spend researching, the more money you'll save.

Try to respond quickly if they get in touch and need something from you or send something through for review. Any delays can push out the deadline for your project. This could lead to a change in scope and, thus, a change in price for you.

Lack of communication can put a freelancer off working with you again. If you're inefficient in how you communicate, that can read as disrespecting their time. If they need to juggle their schedule around to suit you and your slow response, that also affects their work with other clients.

Once the final version is handed over, make sure you pay within the payment terms to keep everyone happy. 

Things to avoid doing when you hire a freelancer.

When you work with a freelancer, you're working alongside them, not above them. They aren't your employees. There is no hierarchy, so treat them with the same respect you'd treat an equal.

With that in mind, there are a few things to avoid doing or saying when working with a freelancer. 

(Especially if you hope to maintain an ongoing relationship.)

  • Don't ask a freelancer to work for you for free or for a discounted rate. 

This is an insult to their time, skill, and energy. Prices are set like any other business, so if you don't like it, find someone who does fit within your budget.

  • Don't change the scope of work after the freelancer has spent hours working on the project. 

It's demoralizing to slave away, creating something beautiful for your client, only to have them change their mind and go in a different direction. This is why you must be crystal clear on your brief before you engage a freelancer. 

  • Don't expect a redo due to a change of scope to be "free."

A new scope equals a new contract and new payment terms. 

  • Don't continually move the goalposts with endless rounds of revisions. 

If you're not happy after 2-3 rounds of revisions, despite the freelancer doing their very best to accommodate your feedback, you need to reassess if what you're asking for is possible. Either your brief isn't clear enough or what you're wanting is not achievable. 

  • Don't undervalue the work they do. 

Freelancers are highly specialised in their field, so hearing things like "I'd do it myself, but I just don't have time," when you're not qualified to do the job. Saying things like "we've asked everyone in the company for their opinion, and Bob from accounts doesn't like X," when Bob is also not qualified to do the job, is disrespectful to their work. 

  • Don't fail to pay on time.

Freelancers are business owners and rely on payment being made on time. This is one of the reasons most freelancers need a deposit paid upfront before any work can start.

How to be a dream client.

Freelancers love working with clients who have patience, eagerness to keep the project moving, and understand the value of what they do. Freelancers do their best work when collaborating with clients who respect their time and skills and give them all the tools they need. 

  • Start with a clear brief.

To get the most out of your experience, approach a freelancer with a very clear brief. Include clear expectations of them, yourself, the budget, the length of time, the outcomes you seek, and what the key milestones and KPIs might look like. That way, the freelancer understands precisely what's required or can pass your project onto someone more suited for the job. 

  • Stay in your lane.

Remember why you hired a freelancer. They are experts in their field, so give them the space they need to do their job. Provide all the tools and resources they need, be communicative when they need you, and don't pretend to know more than they do about their job. 

  • Understand that good things take time.

Depending on the project, you may not see results right away. For example, marketing campaigns like Search Engine Optimisation can take months to pay off. Understand that good things take time and working with a freelancer is an investment in your business. 

  • See the job through to the end.

A lot of longer projects start with a hiss and a roar but tend to slow down about halfway through when the client loses interest. If it's a big project, be sure to keep up momentum the whole way through. 

  • Show your freelancer some love.

Freelancers rely on doing great work for their business to survive. So if you enjoy the results you get from working together, be sure to show your appreciation. Give a testimonial, leave a Google review, and even give a shoutout on social media.

Jenny Eastwood is a Freelance Copywriter based in Auckland. Get in touch with her today to discuss your project.

Jenny Eastwood



View Profile
Available for hire

Check out some popular projects

View Showcase