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Running a small business or a startup involves many different responsibilities. Often, you have limited resources and a limited budget to accomplish every task internally and hire full-time employees.
Hiring freelancers and virtual assistants is a great way to get extra hands for your business without having to commit full-time. You can use freelancers whenever there is a need for their services, so you pay as you go. According to research, freelancers make up 36% of the total U.S. workforce. In 2021 alone, they contributed $1.3 trillion to the economy, up $100 million from 2020.
Despite the growing prevalence of freelancing activities, many entrepreneurs still struggle to find skilled freelancers to help them. While it’s relatively easy to recruit for entry-level jobs like data-entry or customer service roles, where there is an abundance of applicants willing to accept extremely low rates, the same cannot be said for experienced freelancers with niche expert skills, as it is more difficult to attract this category.
In this article, I’ll share a few tips that helped me attract the most skilled of the bunch through online freelance platforms like Upwork, Fiverr and PeoplePerHour.
Build a great client profile
One thing I’ve found as I search for freelancers is that freelancers also research client profiles to see if they would like to work with them. If you want to attract quality freelancers, leave 5-star reviews for freelancers you’ve worked with in the past. These positive reviews will tell other candidates that you’re not difficult to work with. If your profile is laden with negative comments and poor star ratings, most freelancers worth their stuff will avoid your jobs. No one would feel comfortable working for a client who has a history of issues with other freelancers. And if things don’t work out with a freelancer, it’s best to not leave any feedback at all rather than ruin your own profile.
Simplify your hiring process
Some freelancers avoid certain clients because of their hiring processes. They require extensive tests and interviews, or they put out job ads weeks before they plan to start interviewing. So, freelancers apply for the jobs and have to wait a long, indefinite amount of time before they can get an update on their applications. Bear in mind that great freelancers, especially those with certain specialist skills, most likely have clients lined up already. They won’t be bothered to go through a lengthy application process or participate in any tests.
Freelancers are not available forever, either. The fact that they are available now does not mean they’ll have time to work on your project later. Therefore, only post jobs when you are ready to hire. Upwork reports that, on average, it takes clients three days to hire a freelancer. This “hire-in-three-days” standard is what you should target if you want to be taken seriously.
Get real with the job scope
Be sure to narrow down the scope of the job details and what you require the freelancer to deliver when you post the job ad. Be realistic and think about whether the job can actually be accomplished by one candidate on a part-time basis. Once, a startup client of mine was looking for a freelance digital marketing manager, and her job post read, “a digital marketing specialist with at least 8 years of experience in social media marketing, Google ads, SEO, content marketing and PR.” Excuse me, but this position requires an entire department! The job is set up to fail, because it’s just not reasonable to expect someone to have all these skills and then perform all these tasks on a freelance basis that would yield excellent outcomes across all areas.
In these cases, it’s best to recruit several freelancers with each focused on a different expert area instead.
Avoid dictating the “how”
When you hire a freelance expert in a particular field, try not to dictate how you want them to do their work. Instead, let them know what your business is struggling with and what your expectations are in terms of outcome. Be open to their ideas, and give them room to do their work, especially if you have zero expertise in the subject matter yourself. An experienced talent would know how to take you from A to B by reviewing a few parameters.
Make up your mind
Following through with terms and agreements will ensure that freelancers give the job their best shot. Once a contract is in place for the job, try to stick with the terms agreed upon. If it becomes necessary to modify the job specifications, ask the freelancer first, or suggest adjusting the rates as compensation for the breach of contract. Freelancers will appreciate this, and it will encourage them to continue working for you long-term.
Hiring expert freelancers is a level playing field. While it may seem like you’re the one choosing whom to hire, the best freelance talents actually have the last say. So, if you are a small business owner on a budget and struggling to find top talents, you should take a moment to self-reflect. Ask yourself “Would I work for myself as a freelancer?” If you cannot immediately answer “yes” to this question, it’s probably time to make the necessary changes.