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How to Find the Right Freelancers for Your Small Business

How to Find the Right Freelancers for Your Small Business

By Alan Margulis

If your business is due for a website redesign or marketing collateral revisions, you will need to source quality freelancers to take on your creative projects. Freelancers are professional designers, web developers, copywriters, or other creative talents that work solo or collaboratively. Working with freelancers offers several advantages over hiring full-time creative personnel:

  • Cost efficiency: You pay for the successful completion of a project, not for employee benefits, training, and unproductive days. You also have payment flexibility; freelancers can bid on a project with a set budget, or you can pay by the task or the hour.

  • Fresh perspectives: Creative execution usually takes fresh minds that haven’t been over-exposed to your products and services. The work of in-house teams tends to get stale. This is why many larger businesses often work with a different agency each year.

  • Specialized skills: If you want to revitalize your website or put together a content calendar, you need someone with mastery of these specific skills, not a jack-of-all-trades. Freelancers are experts in providing specific creative services.

How can you find the best available talent to work to your specifications, on time and on budget? And where should you look? Online, you can source freelancers who offer specialized skills and competitive quoting. Locally, you can find creatives who will be available to talk or meet with your team in person, understand your business, and be attentive to your needs on a daily basis. Your needs for each project will determine the best approach. Understanding the pros and cons of the available resources will help you to make the most of your options.

Online Resources

If you have begun to research online sources of creative talent, no doubt you have come across Upwork, the industry behemoth. A merger of the two largest creative marketplaces, Elance and Odesk, Upwork puts you in touch with web developers, mobile developers, designers, and writers. It’s a terrific resource when you need to hire specialized talent at a competitive rate. Specializations among designers include Photoshop, Flash, logos, UI, UX, animation, HTML, web design, video, and 3D modeling and rendering. Among writers, you can find screenwriters, creative writers, web content writers, ghostwriters, screenwriters, and technical writers.

Freelancers around the world work with Upwork, which verifies their talents through online skills tests and displays each freelancer’s overall score and feedback on past projects. However, talent and experience levels vary widely, and you should expect to get what you pay for with candidates that provide the lowest bids. Since it is a large global pool, many freelancers on the site are located in other countries and may not be fluent in English. The site provides tools to send and receive files, share feedback in real time, and interact on mobile devices, but these do not fully account for time zone differences. Consider the overhead of longer time frames and potential delays on projects, and add them to the freelancer’s charges in order to determine your real costs. If you need someone to be able to answer calls and work collaboratively with your team, Upwork is not ideal.

Gun.io and Authenticjobs are two job board/freelancer sourcing sites that offer a stronger pool of creative talent with better vetting. You can expect to pay more per project with the professionals that you find on these sites than Upwork, but the talent and experience levels justify the increased cost. They also allow for offline communications and collaborating once an agreement is in place. If you have complex projects, need consultation and expertise, and you want attentive freelancers, these are more ideal online resources for you.

Local Resources

For projects requiring consultation, collaboration, or ongoing availability and attentiveness to your needs, nothing compares to working with local freelancers. You can find them in business networking groups on Meetup.com and LinkedIn by searching on keywords including “freelance,” “marketing association,” and “web developer.” If you don’t mind doing the legwork, you can also source local freelance talent through the recommendations of your local chamber of commerce and groups that provide support to entrepreneurs.

If you are a member of any local business associations in your industry, you may be able to network with people who have hired freelancers for similar projects. Attend local business functions and you should find plenty of contacts who can put you in touch with local talent, directly or indirectly. Many business owners find freelancers by researching their local competition or even non-competing businesses that have impressive websites, content, and collateral, and finding out who they use.

Picking the Right Talent

Once you have chosen your freelance resources and identified prospective candidates, the next step is to evaluate their work. Look at their online portfolios, check their ratings (if applicable), and see what clients they have worked for repeatedly. Talk with your candidates over the phone, in person, or by Skype and make assessments based on their work and your interviews. Whatever you do, know that it is disrespectful of creatives’ time to have them do speculative (audition) work. If you want to compare freelancers on a prospective assignment, offer to pay them for their time.

With so many resources available to you, you will inevitably refine your process for selecting freelancers with experience. Though finding the right talent takes time, there have never been so many valuable resources at your disposal as there are today.

Alan Margulis

About the author

Alan is an accomplished copywriter with two decades of experience in content marketing, nurture stream, and direct response writing. He has done extensive work in a wide range of industries, from software and academia to staffing and entrepreneurial.

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