How to Hire and Work with Great Freelancers

One of the most flexible and easiest ways to grow a company can be to hire freelancers. The challenge can be how to find skilled freelancers as well as how to hire and work with them effectively. This can be particularly challenging when you are working with people in various time zones with very different skills than yours.

In this guide, we will go through five simple steps you can use to build a great freelance team. First, we will look at how you can create a great profile. Then we will put together a clear brief focusing on how to achieve your core key objectives. After that, it is time to search for great talent. We will cover how to do this both on and off goLance. When you have applicants for your job, it is time to create a shortlist before picking the best ones to work with.

 

Create a great profile

It is very important to create a great profile because you want to attract the best talent. If you spend some effort to come across as a professional, you might also reduce the time you spend hiring talent.

Freelancers will evaluate you as a client mainly based on the feedback you have generated from other jobs. If you have high ratings, you are more likely to be trusted. You can also be regarded as an experienced client if you have a record of spending a high amount on the platform. It can help if you clearly describe yourself as a client and mention any values or mission you have. Finally, it helps to have posted a lot of jobs on the platform where you are looking to hire.

 

Example

The profile of ResponseCRM clearly focuses on Direct Marketing automation. They are rated as having 5 stars and the company mission is clearly stated.

Underneath, you can see how many jobs they have posted and the total amount they have spent. With all the information they are providing, they come across as a serious client.

 

Put together a clear brief

Clearly describing the work you need done indicates you know exactly what you want. This makes you come across as a professional. The same clarity also makes it a lot easier for freelancers to provide a quote for the work you need done.

The following are the steps to putting together a clear brief:

  • State a clear goal. For fixed roles, you can state what you are looking to create and your goal. For hourly work, you can define the role title and the main responsibility of the job. Clearly communicate what you want and what you don’t want done.
  • Define key deliverables. Break down what you are after in 5–7 key bullet points. Your aim is to clearly describe the outcome you are after. That way it is easy for freelancers to understand exactly what you are after, so they can understand their role or quote a price for the job.
  • Ask questions. You want to test the knowledge of the applicant by getting them to apply their knowledge. Asking questions can allow you to easily check if applicants read and understood your brief. This makes it easier to shortlist them.
  • Ask for improvements. This can help to let freelancers know you are open to different opinions or approaches. This can help increase motivation among prospective applicants.
  • Say that the budget is negotiable. This can help give the impression that you are focused on quality, which will attract freelancers who would otherwise avoid your posted job because of the stated budget. It can also help build an impression of you as a fair client. The net result is that you could attract bids from a wider range of talent.
  • Include relevant attachments. Keep in mind that you do not need to show everything. You just need to give enough information for the freelance to give you a quote. If possible, try to limit yourself to only one attachment. If you are looking to create a landing page, for instance, your attachment could be a wireframe.

 

If you are hiring for the first time and you want to test people before having them start on a larger project, then make sure you start with a small project. By doing this, your risk is minimized.

 

Example

Here we see a job brief for a landing page broken down into the same sections described above:

I need a simple, highly converting Instapage landing page for a webinar.

The landing page needs to be designed to do the following:

  • Match our existing branding
  • Focus on one main call to action
  • Be fully mobile responsive
  • Have clear sections emphasizing the content
  • Easily integrate with gotowebinar

In order to be shortlisted for this job, please answer the following questions:

  • How would you design this landing page to maximize conversion?
  • Which suggestions, if any, do you have for changes on the attached copy to generate more signups?
  • Which additional information do you need, or what questions do you have to do a better job?

Any suggestions to improve this brief are welcome. Just explain the reasons behind your suggestion, so I can understand what you are thinking.

The budget for this job is negotiable based on skills and experience. I am not sure what a fair price is, so please apply with what you would like to be paid for this type of job.

Find Great Talent

Good freelancers in high demand have three things; relevant skills, work experience and good feedback. As a client, you are able to get an idea about which skills the freelancer might have by what they write on their profile and which keywords they use. From looking at their portfolio and feedback, you can get a good idea about the type of experience they have.

In Grigori Tishkin’s profile, you can see that he is a back end developer based in Armenia with 5 star feedback and over 10 listed keywords.

 

If you want to reach out to freelancers like Grigori, then it can help to stand out from other requests by writing a custom message where you show you have read his profile. In the message, make sure you ask that they read and reply to the brief.

Here is an example of what that could look like:

 

Depending on how many freelancers you would like to consider, you might like to send out 10–20 custom invites.

After you have sent those invites, you might like to share the job post on social media so you can attract talent from outside goLance. LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can be effective places to reach out to connect with additional talent. Over time, you might make it a habit to share your job right after you have posted the job.

The sharing options are available to the right of your job post:

 

Shortlist

Once you have finished promoting your job post, it is time to narrow down the applicants. First you should shortlist the ones who replied to your brief. That is because their willingness to reply to your brief can be seen as an indication of their willingness to communicate with you. Then shortlist your shortlist based on the quality of the replies.

You should be left with a much shorter list, which you can then reach out to. As you go through the process of looking for applicants, it can help to keep the following numbers in mind:

 

 

The above numbers will, of course, vary from job to job; however, they can give you an indication of what you can expect.

As you search, keep a clear eye on what you are ideally looking for: someone with good communication, with applicable skills to your project and with the ability to think independently.

This could be one example of that:

I might be the person you are looking for to design the lander for your webinar because I have 12 years of experience creating landing pages with an average conversion of 5.69%.

Hire and work with the best

If you have followed this process, you should be left with a high-quality pool of talent. If you choose to interview potential candidates on Skype, you might find that you get a different impression of them than if you just pick them based on text messages. If that is the case, you might like to follow your instinct first and evaluate your judgement second.

Ultimately, you are looking for a good fit for the project and for you as a client. In the end, you might not be looking for the best freelancer, but the one who is the best for you.

In evaluating cost vs return, you might like to also keep in mind the total cost of working with the freelancer—including the hours you spend communicating with them. You may find that freelancers who might, on first impression, cost more per hour, might cost less per task.

When you get started working with the freelancer, make sure you are available to communicate to clarify the job and support the process. At the same time, it is important to give the freelancer space to do the job their own way by not asking for too many updates. That way you reduce communication time and cost. Instead, you might like to hold the freelancer to a deadline and even suggest a bonus for delivering on time.

After the job has been completed, you might like to evaluate the results by asking if the job was done on time, according to brief, and with an acceptable total cost (the money spent and your time). If you want to delve a little deeper, you might like to ask if any problems could be easily fixed.

In summary:

Hiring freelancers can at times be challenging; however, if you plan your effort and work systematically with these points, it should make the process a lot easier:

  • Create a great profile so high-quality freelancers notice you.
  • Put together a brief clear enough so freelancers can provide a quote.
  • Find great talent by reaching out to them with a custom message and post the job on social media.
  • Shortlist the ones who reply to your brief.
  • Hire and support the best freelancer for your needs. To make sure your interests are aligned, you might like to consider paying a bonus.

4 Steps to Work/Life Balance

A lot of freelancers find it hard to achieve a good balance between the duties of work and the challenges of life. Many of these obstacles can seem hard to overcome, but if you are willing to apply a little bit of discipline, you can do it.

In this article, we will look at how you can achieve a balance between work and life by first identifying what is important. Then we will try to identify what pulls you away from the things that matter the most to you. Then we will define what barriers you need to put up to protect your new life before we give starting tips to get you on your way.

 

Identify what’s the most important

 

A good place to start is to define three core values that matter to you. These values can guide you towards getting a better work/life balance. For instance, if one of your core values is family, then write that down. You might also like to describe what each value means for you and why they are important to you. To ensure these values are truly core values, ask yourself if there is anything you would be willing to trade them away for.

After you have defined your values, spend a week recording how you actually spend your time. Don’t be lazy and record what a normal week is like based on memory. Instead, actively observe your life objectively. What do you really spend time on? Don’t judge it. Just record as you go on with your life. It can help if you get a small notebook to record what you spend your time on and when.

When you have finished the week, evaluate whether you are spending your time according to your values. What can you learn from how you actually spend your time? Are you easily distracted? Do you put others ahead of yourself? If so, which good reasons can you give for justifying that?

You might realize that you spend a lot of time on things that are not vitally important to you and that you have a lot more time than you might be aware of. For instance, you might be spending a lot of time on social media when you could be spending time reading that book you never got around to picking up. Or you could be spending hours staring at programs on the TV that you don’t really care that much about.

If you are not comfortable about what you have learned about yourself, list your real values and compare them to the values you stated. How can you bring them together so you have one set of values that represents who you truly want to be?

 

Remove distractions

 

Now that you know what your real values are, it is time to start saying “no”. For freelancers, one of the biggest time-wasters can be clients who are not a fit for your skills or who are simply difficult to deal with. If you realize that they are not worth the time and money they bring in, you might decide to let them go. Just make sure you let them know in an honest and considerate way.

After you have made your first “no’s”, it is time to be selfish. You might need some time for yourself to be valuable to others. You might need more “me” time to be able to properly give to the people who are in your life. That might mean disconnecting from your life for an hour a day to go running or going out for coffee with friends. Over time, you will gain clarity about what you care about and let yourself care more about less.

You might realize you have lots of shiny objects in your life or are committed to “social contracts” which don’t matter that much. If that is the case, be brutally honest about what you really have to do or put up with and what the real consequences would be if you stopped. What would the real consequences be if you said “no”? Do you know this for sure or are you simply letting your fears dictate what you think the consequences might be?

 

Create barriers

 

In order to be productive, it is important to create barriers between yourself and everything that can distract you. Start by setting up a workspace for yourself. It should be a defined place just for work where you cannot be disturbed. You might like to look into signing up to a co-working space where you can get away from family and simply be more productive.

Also, clearly define when you work and create a routine that works just for you. Ideally, you want to find a rhythm which is tailored to work for you, not the other way around. If you work by the hour, you might like to use a time tracker like goMeter, which allows you to track time spent on various projects. Here is a screenshot of how it looks on a desktop

 

One of the key benefits of structuring your work life is that the line between work and private life becomes much clearer. So if your goMeter is not on, you are definitely NOT working. That means you have no reason to check emails or your phone. You leave your work and any worries for when you clock your hours.

You can have a better work/life balance by simply setting up a clear barrier between the two.

 

Start living

 

Once you are set up, it is time to focus on what matters. You might realize that less might be more in your life. You might realize that taking on one task at a time really works well for you. Saying “No” might start feeling like a “Yes” to what you really enjoying doing.

However, in order to do that, you need to be comfortable with letting some things go. That might mean caring less about what other people think and say as you make changes in your life. Instead, chase your own freedom and try to network with people who share your values and enjoy spending time with you.

If you feel like making a change, then do what is necessary. If you start getting bored, look for a different challenge. You might just need a break. If not, just go through this process again.

In summary:

Creating a work/life balance can seem challenging at first. However, you might find it a lot easier by approaching it step-by-step:

  • What is most important to you?
  • What are your biggest distractions?
  • Which barriers should you create between life and work?
  • How can you start living today?

 

Identify your target income

In order to break down your target income, start by looking at what you are currently spending your money on. Go over last month’s bank statement and mark which of your values represent which expense. If one of your values is “family”, you can mark the baby clothes you bought with an “F” for “family. Any expense you cannot attribute to a value, just leave blank.

Go over the unmarked expenses for the last month and describe which values they represent. You might realise there is a big inconsistency. For instance, if one of your core values is health, it can be hard to look at a restaurant bill from McDonald’s.

After you have looked into your actual spending, it is time to think about what you ideally would like to spend money on. Would you like to travel more? Would you like to buy a membership to a gym? Could you have spent more money on simply having fun? Going paintballing or picking up a PlayStation 4?

Once you have identified what you really like to spend your money on, add an extra 25% buffer to cover the bad times and any unforeseeable expenses. You might also have projects you want to save money for.

 

How to Get Work as a Freelancer

 

Finding work as a freelancer can be one of the hardest tasks around. Particularly if you are just starting out. You might have spent a lot of time on more than one platform trying to figure out how it works, and what you need to say and do to get replies, and, most importantly, what you need to do to get the client to say “yes”.

In this article, we will look at how you can get work on any platform, using goLance as an example. First, we will cover how you can pick a speciality by researching suitable jobs for your skills, how you can create a profile that stands out, what you can do to shortlist jobs, and how to write cover letters that get replies. In the end, you will have a simple roadmap that you can use to become a successful freelancer.

 

Pick a specialty

When you first start on a freelance platform and have little experience, you should identify one small task that matches your interests and is easy to do. When you are new to a platform, one of the biggest hindrances for existing clients choosing your proposal is identifying if you have a successful track record.

Clients get past that by reading through feedback like this:

 

If a client sees a long list of feedback like this, they are more likely to trust you. Therefore, a good strategy is to take on simple, fast, small jobs for your first 5–10 contracts so you can build up a reputation. You can then use this to get larger clients. You can find them by searching on the freelance platform of your choice with keywords relevant to the services you are interested in providing.

Example:

If you want to get into writing, you would start by going into your goLance dashboard and clicking “gowork” on the top left side. After searching for writing, you might find a job post like this:

 

Here we see that the client is interested in hiring a content editor and proofreader. If you would like to focus on offering a service like this on the platform, you might want to check how many of these types of jobs are available, and if you are able to find small fixed jobs in the niche which you could use to build your reputation.

Create a great profile

When you apply for a job on a freelance platform, the client will look at your profile if they find your cover letter interesting. At times, your profile might even be displayed on the same page as the cover letter. So, how do you create a great profile which stands out?

On most freelance websites, you will find a series of steps to fill out the profile. You will need to put in your image, add keywords, and add your portfolio as well as your employment history. You might even have the option to take tests to prove your skills. In the middle of your profile, you will often find the personal description.

When you write your profile, make sure you write a clear concise headline with keywords explaining exactly what you do with key points of difference. Also, include the same keywords in the text where you talk about yourself. The keywords you use influence your ranking on the platform. Make sure that your personal description is very specific in explaining what you do, and what makes you different from most people in your profession.

You can stand out from others by including mention of specific skills you have which are unique, qualifications you hold, or awards won. That can be particularly useful if placed in the headline.

 

Example:

 

Here, we see that Alexey has put in an image, a clear headline, and a link to GitHub as well as a brief explanation of what he does. The headline might be tweaked by testing changes made to it. For instance, Alexey could change the headline to “Master’s educated backend developer with 8 years’ experience”. He can also add links to more social networks like for instance LinkedIn

Shortlist jobs

Once you have created your profile, it is time to shortlist jobs according to which ones are the best for you to apply to. On most freelance sites, you can tag jobs that you want to shortlist so you can return to them later.

When you shortlist, consider how closely matched the job is to your skills. Look to see if the job description seems clear, if the budget is fair, and if the client has a positive track record. You might like to create a rule for yourself to limit yourself to small jobs for new clients. That way you are reducing your risk until you feel you can trust the other party.

Example:

 

Here we see an example of a job post. Although you know the estimated budget is $100, it is important to check that the job description is clear so you know exactly what you are expected to deliver for that budget. The client has included application questions which are important to address in your cover letter so you will be considered for the job.

Write cover letters which get replies

In order to create an application which stand out, it is important to first read the brief carefully. Clients are used to receiving cut and paste replies which do not address the written brief. These replies are usually discarded and never considered.

Your challenge is to read through the brief carefully, think about what the client is really after, particularly if the client is asking questions, and send back a detailed reply which shows you have thought about the job. What might impress a lot of clients is if you take the time to really research who they are, what they do, and what they want to achieve by asking in depth questions which indirectly prove your expertise.

Over time you will want to evaluate the cover letters which get replies and work, so you can identify commonalities that you can implement.

Example:

Hi

I am a good person to create the content marketing strategy for you because I have extensive experience creating content for a variety of different markets and using social media to make sure it has maximum impact.

You can see examples of that on my LinkedIn profile.

Regarding the job, I have the following questions:

  • Do you have Google Analytics data available on your current site?
  • What other strategies are you currently using to generate traffic?
  • Do you have any data from paid traffic on which keywords has had the highest conversion so far.
  • Which content delivering technology are you currently using?
  • Do you have a preference for the type of technology to use with your site and software? I am asking because Active Campaign could be used to improve your on-page conversion.
  • Would it be possible to review your current website to understand your needs?
  • Would you like the content strategy executed in-house or externally?
  • Do you have access to editors and writers, or do you want assistance with that as well?
  • Since you are asking for a content marketing strategy, what exact deliverable are you interested in? For instance, would you also be interested in a document with step-by-step instructions for implementation?
  • Do you have any plans of using the content multiple times to create marketing material? For instance, do you want to create a lead generating tool to build awareness among prospective customers?
  • Do you want your company’s LinkedIn presence and content strategy to be evaluated as well?
  • Which specific goals do you have with the content strategy over the next 12 months?
  • What budget do you currently have in place for executing the content strategy?

Please clarify and I will do my best to assist.

(signature)

—–

This reply is structured by first laying out why the candidate is a good fit, then going straight into detailed questions. The benefit of replying like this is that the potential client gets an insight into the quality of work you do by the questions you are asking. If the questions are relevant to the outcome the client is after, but outside the brief, you might have done what is necessary to stand out and get replies.

 

Market yourself for free

When you have created a portfolio, it is important to post work you have done on social networks where you know your visitors could be potential clients. At the very least, you should work on having an active presence on LinkedIn. Beyond that, you might want to look at social media that is relevant to your area of expertise, like the portfolio site Behance. Your end goal is increased visibility so you can market yourself.

In addition, you might want to look for any opportunity to create or share content which indirectly proves your expertise. For instance, you might want to create checklists for how you do your work, take part in online podcasts relevant to your field, or volunteer to hold presentations at meetup groups. It might sound minor, but actively working on sharing what you are learning can be the fastest way to go from applying for jobs to having jobs come to you.

Example:

 

 

Here we see an example of a freelancer who has listed his part-time work as a presenter on digital marketing topics and put out checklists, slides, and workbooks that he uses in his presentations. The biggest benefit of putting knowledge out on display like this is that it makes it easy for anyone wanting to know more about the person’s skills to investigate for themselves.

Also adding keywords when describing each item can help with keyword ranking. This can make it easier to be found on LinkedIn. This increased presence can then finally make it a lot easier for potential clients to find and evaluate you.

 

In summary

Being a freelancer is not easy; however, if you plan your efforts and work systematically with these five points, you should see a growth in your freelance career:

  • Pick a specialty there is a market for
  • Create a profile which focuses on your strengths
  • Shortlist jobs that are the most attractive
  • Write targeted, personalised cover letters
  • Market yourself by sharing your portfolio and creating content

 

In summary

Being a freelancer is not easy; however, if you plan your efforts and work systematically with these five points, you should see a growth in your freelance career:

  • Pick a specialty there is a market for
  • Create a profile which focuses on your strengths
  • Shortlist jobs that are the most attractive
  • Write targeted, personalised cover letters
  • Market yourself by sharing your portfolio and creating content