Find, Test, and Work with Top-Notch Freelancers

Freelancers abound in the business world of 2017.  Why?  Because they are very much needed.
Companies depend upon capable freelance writers, graphic designers, photographers, and travel writers to enhance their marketing both online and in print.
A good copywriter can explode sales, increase customer loyalty, attract new customers, and extend a company’s reach exponentially.
Web writers help create positive environments for visitors, improve customer relations, accelerate social media platforms, and expand click-through and conversion rates.
Photographers help companies get visual, and also share the world around the net, showing the grand, the spectacular, the haunting, and the mundane.  Travel writers provide first-hand reviews and accounts of their travels, both positive and negative.
But there are also a lot of phonies out there.


You need a freelancer…how do you know you have a good one?

Here are some simple and top-flight tips for making sure you have found a good freelancer before you hire them.
  1. Does he have a website?

Most writers, designers, and photographers (although not all) will have at least a basic website they can direct potential clients to.  Generally these will include a few pictures, an outline of their services and niche market.  Some provide samples of their writing, others use testimonials and lists of past clients.
  1. Does she act like a professional?

This can vary depending upon personality, and upon your own definition of professional.  Generally, however, a professional freelancer will have good communication.
Answering emails on a regular and predictable schedule, being available by phone appointment if preferred, or via social media – are all good indicators that they are reliable in other areas as well.
Good grammar and spelling is also a fair indicator of professional courtesy as well as actual ability.
  1. Is he honest?

No freelancer is going to have all the answers, or be able to do everything.  But a good freelancer will be straight-forward and honest, always.
For instance, if you are in the middle of negotiations for new web copy, and a copywriter admits that he doesn’t understand a particular term you are using – don’t take this as a sign of stupidity or inability.
Instead take a second and be grateful that you have found someone who will openly admit that they aren’t perfect.
Some freelancers will work best under pressure, and actually prefer to be on a learning curve.  Others will probably give you a rundown of exactly what they do, and will let you know if you ask them for something they don’t do.
Again, be grateful.  Whether the deal works out or not, you’ve found an honest potential business partner.
  1. What are their recommendations?

New freelancers enter the market each year, most with very little experience.  This doesn’t, however, mean that they aren’t professional.
Some of these will have been well trained by experts or mentors.  Others will have a great deal of experience in their niche market.  Nurses and doctors frequently set themselves down in the health writing market, for example.
Newbies also mean lower prices, which can be of great benefit to a tight budget!
Most good freelancers, new or not, will have some record of their ability.  They might have project samples that they created for their own use, or testimonials.
Photography tends to speak for itself, and if you take the time to look, so will writing.  Was the query email you received well written and respectful?  Is a freelancer’s website full of spot-on, excellently written material?
You should be able to expect the exact same results for yourself.
Testimonials, in particular, can tell you a lot about a person.  Even if these testimonials aren’t from big and important people, or heavyweight companies, don’t dismiss them out of hand.  Does what they do have speak to their intelligence, their passion, or their reliability?
If your budget suggests a lower price tag – newbie freelancers with excellent personal recommendations are probably your best bet.
  1. What are his prices?

No good freelancer, even if it’s their very first time out of the gate, is going to work for free.  Reliable and experienced copywriters will charge tens of thousands of dollars for their services.
Even total newbies will charge you base market prices.  Don’t be surprised at a price tag of $2,000 or more for a homepage.
Determine the experience level for a freelancer, then look at his prices.  If his prices are too low, you might should take another look at his resume and samples.  Does he live up to his talk?


You have a choice between several good freelancers…now what?

If you are willing to pay decent wages for whatever level of experience you want, your problem might not be in finding a freelancer at all.
Finding good, reliable clients who give the least amount of hassle for the best pay is the height of every freelancer’s career.  And competition is not unheard of.
This can actually work out quite well for you.  Encouraging new freelancers to find you and try for your projects is a great way to generate excellent copy or design without doing most of the legwork yourself.
  1. Set up spec assignments:

If you really want to be sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, this is the way to go.
A speculation assignment is where you outline a project needed, and set it up for competition.  Freelancers will send in their best efforts, and you have the luxury of reviewing them.  This is also a great way to find a good freelancer without looking at all their material.
For minimal pay you can also usually test the different versions of the assignment you received by promising roll-out royalties or a contract to the winner.
Spec assignments are a win-win, because they give freelancers terrific samples (even if they get rejected) and they give you great value.
  1. Take a closer look at their schedules:

Freelancers all come from different places.  Some are vastly experienced, and booked up.  Others are very good, and free to start immediately.
If you really want to work with one freelancer, but see that he won’t be able to work with you for a month or two, you might consider reserving another assignment for him, and go with the available freelancer for the time being.
  1. Expand your budget:
Specialist freelancers – for instance, copywriters who only write long-form print letters for the financial industry, or web writers who work only with social media – are a little bit more expensive.
They are probably also more knowledgeable about their craft.  Some freelancers try to stick to their guns – but will blur boundaries and provide more than one service for a good client.  Others are hardliners and simply won’t (and probably don’t have to).
If you feel that your business is really in need of attention, your best marketing bet may be to bite the bullet and hire more than one freelancer.  One copywriter to write your web content and another to manage your social media platforms, for example.


You love your freelancer…but she’s ready to move on

The problem with good freelancers is that they’re always getting better.
That may sound like a strange thing to say, but as far as the companies they work with are concerned, it is a problem.
The longer you work with a freelancer, the more you probably value their work.  They understand you, and your preferred method of communication.  They are familiar with your past, your projects, and your goals.
And the more they learn from you, the more confident that freelancer is going to be.  He’ll be ready to strike out for new markets, and better clients.  If he can manage a mid-size company with fifty employees in his sleep, he might be eyeing a company with two-hundred employees and twice the budget next.
You don’t really want to go to all the trouble of finding another new freelancer, and you’re not looking forward to the learning process all over again.


How do you keep your favorite freelancer?

  1. Pay more:

Freelancers go where there is rewarding work and good pay.  Period.
They don’t have to stay, and they won’t starve if they leave you behind.  Most good freelancers will go through their client list once or twice a year and cut “dead-weight” clients as a matter of course.
Your freelancer has also provided a great deal of value to you.  He’s put in hours of work, turned out reams of exemplary copy or design.  He’s been polite, professional, punctual…
BUT – here’s a little trade secret.  Freelancers hate marketing themselves.  It’s a nuisance, and probably a little embarrassing.
It takes up time and effort when they’d rather be doing other things.  And it can be hard, getting out in the spotlight, shouting for attention.
If you keep paying them what they feel they deserve, you’re much more likely to be able to keep a freelancer…if for no other reason than that they don’t have to market to you.
  1. Be accommodating:

Frustration can be the same kind of killer as poor pay.  If you are hard to reach, hard to talk to, hard to deal with – no freelancer worth her salt will stick around for long.
Beyond expecting a certain amount of professionalism from your freelancer, you also need to accommodate the “human factor.”
People get sick, their kids have a big day, or an old family member passes away.  Life happens – and it happens to freelancers to.
As long as a freelancer consistently turns in excellent work in a timely manner, letting one or two problems slip won’t hurt anything.  Making allowances for a sick day, or gently pointing out the fact that a piece of writing is not quite perfect (instead of calling them on the carpet), will make up a lot of your value in his mind.
Being personally available and friendly will create a sense and atmosphere of loyalty.  A friend is much less likely to kick you to the curb until his career finally evolves to point where he is simply no longer able to stay with your company.
  1. Provide testimonials and recommendations:

Freelancers live much more by word-of-mouth than other businesses.  Their entire business is themselves, and they’d much rather have their clients praise them than have to do all the shouting.
A good freelancer will usually ask for a testimonial.  Some will ask for a review after every project; partly so they can tweak results, and partly so they have a new testimonial.
Never be grudging with these.  Much the same as being understanding of their faults and lives, giving them testimonials and recommendations costs you nothing but a few minutes – and it means the world to them.
  1. Ask for their recommendations:

If you’re about to lose a good freelancer because it’s time for her to move on, then you need to be ready to let go with grace.  Bid her goodbye and wish her well.  Make sure you’re connected on LinkedIn, and invite her to message you at any time.
Goodbyes are hard on everyone, and she may not really want to go – she just has to.  She may come back.
Before she goes, ask her for a recommendation for her replacement.
Professional freelancers talk to each other.  They join social media groups and interact via email and phone.  They go to conferences just to meet each other.  Sometimes they team up.
More experienced freelancers will often mentor newbies, providing them with tips, encouragement, and recommendations.
So odds are that your freelancer knows someone who would just love to take her place.  A complete newbie isn’t a bad thing, especially if this one comes with a glowing recommendation from someone you already trust.
And if your freelancer has been advanced enough to be a mentor, you may be lucky enough to get someone who already acts and thinks like the one you’re losing.

Getting the Best Freelancers

So to sum up – getting the best freelancers is about being the best client.  A combination of understanding, professionalism, friendliness, fair treatment, and decent pricing will help ensure that you find, and can work with, the best experts in their field.
Above all, be respectful.  Even when you are vetting multiple great options.  Don’t forget to drop your applicants a line here or there to let them know that you’ve started the review process.  And for extra credit – do something very few companies do.  Write your non-chosen applicants to let them know you’ve made another choice.
Again, this is a simple courtesy that costs you very little in time or energy, but it leaves professional freelancers with a positive, even glowing, opinion of your excellence.  And in the future they will be ten times more likely to remember you and try to get your business.
Please let me know if you found this article helpful – or if you would like to see more like it in the future – by commenting below or contacting me.
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