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Hiring FreelancersFreelance workers can provide top-quality work for a fraction of the cost of full-time employees. That’s because most freelance workers are experts in their fields, with talent and technical skills in areas like writing, graphic design, programming, and consulting. You only pay freelancers for the work they do, and you don’t need to offer them health care or retirement benefits or pay Social Security or Medicare taxes on their income. Freelancers are ideal for short-term projects and projects that can be completed off-site.

The Internet has made it easier than ever to find people advertising freelance services, but it hasn’t made it any easier to evaluate whether a given freelancer is as reliable and skilled as he or she claims. Where do you find freelancers, and how can you tell if they’re reliable?

Look for experienced experts who can show a portfolio of work, and consider giving the freelancer a smaller trial assignment before trusting him or her with the entire project. Steer clear of the lowest prices, and be wary of freelancers who ask for payment in full before any work is completed. Don’t be afraid to Google freelancers to learn more about their reputation and skills.

Look for Freelancers Online and in Your Local Community

There are generally two places to find reliable freelancers — online and in your local community. You can find freelancers on marketplaces like ElanceODeskGun.ioAuthentic JobsProBlogger, and Folyo. Just post your job requirements and wait for the cover letters to roll in. Make sure to ask for CVs, samples, links to social media profiles, and other information that might help you evaluate the freelancers’ skills and qualifications.

“You might also find qualified, skilled freelancers in your own backyard. Maybe you have some former co-workers who would be willing to take on a side project that can be completed at night or on the weekends. Maybe your neighbor has a friend who knows someone. Ask around; word of mouth is still a great way to find the resources you need.” says Laurence Cathey, project manager at

If you hire a freelancer in your local area, you’ll be able to meet with the person face-to-face. It’s not that you necessarily need to meet the freelancer, but meeting someone in person is still the best way to get a read on his or her personality, and that can be invaluable when you’re hiring a freelancer for the first time.

Check CVs, Samples, and References

The relationship between a freelancer and his or her client is a little different from the relationship between an employer and an employee, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to do your due diligence during the hiring process. You might not call the freelancer in for a round of interviews, but the hiring process can still be complex. Many entrepreneurs are surprised by the number of applications they receive when they advertise a freelance position; you may need to ask for help to go through all the resumes.

Just as with a normal job applicant, a freelance candidate should send you a cover letter and CV. You should be aware that freelance CVs can be much longer than normal resumes, especially when the freelancer is in a creative field like writing or web design. You should also ask the freelancer to send some samples of previous work. Feel free to ask for as many samples as you need to get a grasp of the person’s abilities. It’s not unusual to ask for two or three samples initially, then ask for several more once you’ve narrowed the playing field to a few very qualified candidates. Just be aware that you can’t claim any rights to the samples your freelancer sends, and you shouldn’t ask the freelancer to create any new samples to your specifications unless you’re willing to pay for them.

Don’t be afraid to ask for references and call them — most reliable freelancers can and will put you in touch with former clients. You can also learn a lot about a freelancer’s reputation by Googling his or her name. If an alleged professional has cheated clients before, it’ll be online.

Hiring a FreelancerDon’t Hire the Cheapest One

It can be tempting to go with the cheapest freelancer you find, especially when many overseas professionals are offering their services for pennies on the dollar compared to domestic contractors. But you should be wary of hiring the cheapest freelancer you can find. Very cheap freelancers often produce very cheap work, and if you end up hiring an overseas professional, you could encounter significant issues involving language barriers and time zones, to say the least.

Just as with most other products, you’ll get the best results from a mid-price freelancer. Of course, if you can afford to hire the best, most experienced, and most expensive professionals, go for it. But since the freelance market tends to drive prices down, you’ll probably get good value for your money even if you pay a little more.

It’s not unusual for freelancers to ask for some portion of the payment up front; they’re just as wary of you as you are of them, and it’s definitely not unheard of for freelancers to get ripped off for work they’ve done. If your freelancer wants an upfront payment or wants milestone payments, especially on a big project, you shouldn’t let that fact alone deter you from hiring him or her — not if everything else looks good. But if the freelancer wants payment in full up front, that’s a big red flag.

Freelancers can be an affordable source of expertise, especially when it comes to short-term projects and creative work. Finding and hiring a reliable freelancer can be daunting, but it’s more than worth it. The right freelancer can become a trusted associate who learns the ins and outs of your business and provides long-term service for a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee’s salary.

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