How to be a freelancer's dream (and get what you need)

Startups, if you’re thinking of hiring a freelancer, you’ll find that most of the resources out there fixate on a single question: how can a freelancer benefit your business? 

That, of course, makes sense. After all, hiring a freelancer is a different ballgame from hiring a full-time employee. And so, it can be helpful to weigh up the pros and cons of working with a freelancer. 

But that's just one way to look at it. Let's think outside the box for a moment and try to see it from a different perspective.

We'll explore the benefits of working with a freelancer of course, but let's also consider a less common (but arguably more important) question:

How can YOU make a freelancer want to work with you?

How can you be a freelancer's dream? The ideal, or dare we say, perfect client. Contrary to popular belief, freelancers aren't all strapped for cash and desperate for their next gig. Many can afford to be fussy. So how can you stand out? 

We'll come onto that but first, let's clarify a few things.

What’s the difference between a freelancer and a full-time employee?

Most companies are familiar with the process of hiring a regular full-time employee. Typically, there’s a vacancy in your company - for example, let’s say an electronics engineer - and you hire a person to fill that gap on a consistent, full-time basis.

So, when you find that person, they will likely sign an employment contract for a year or longer, be paid a yearly salary, and become a full-fledged member of your team.

In practice, this might mean that they come to the office every day, have a company email account, and receive all the benefits of a full-time, salaried employee. 

The benefits of hiring a freelancer

But freelancers are a little different. For example, let’s say you need a little help with your company’s website. You don’t have a need for a full-time graphic designer but you do need one for a project right now.

Recruiting, hiring, and onboarding a full-time, salaried graphic artist takes time. In fact, it can often take six months or more to recruit, hire, and train a new employee.

It’s no surprise that this can seriously slow your momentum, especially if you’re trying to scale rapidly or meet a tight deadline! And that’s where freelancers come in.

There are many freelance platforms online which help you connect with a talented professional who can help you out as needed. The freelance hiring process can take less than 24 hours!

That’s because professional freelance platforms enable you to browse multiple candidates’ profiles and get a feel for their qualifications, expertise, and previous client reviews.

If someone meets all your requirements and comes highly recommended, you can reach out to them about your job opening. From there, you’ll likely exchange a few messages, have a video call to get to know each other, and - if you click - you’ll agree on a rate for their services.

Most freelance platforms are equipped with payment processing services that protect both of you through this process, ensuring that the freelancer is compensated fairly and the client only pays for work that is satisfactorily completed.

So, even though you may only work together once, it’s easy to see how hiring a freelancer can be a win-win situation. And - even better - the freelancer talent pool isn’t limited to creative roles. You can find freelance editors, bloggers, recruiters, and more for pretty much any service you might need.

But where do you find a great freelancer to work with?

Pick the right platform

There’s a popular misconception that freelancers have an unstable employment status or that they must be desperate for work.

But many people make a great living by establishing themselves as freelance professionals in their fields and enjoy a lot of perks such as working from home and setting their own hours and rates.

And the pandemic undoubtedly accelerated the rise of people choosing to go freelance, as more and more professionals adapted to remote working.

So, if you begin your search for a freelancer with the idea that THEY are lucky to be working with YOU, you might want to adjust your perspective!

While it’s true that the freelance marketplace is competitive, professionals who know their worth and the value of their experience are rarely desperate for work.

Of course, those are exactly the freelancers you want to work with. So, how do you find them? For starters, the right platform is key. Online freelance platforms abound but some - like Upwork - are more reputable than others.

These platforms carefully vet their freelancers, put safety measures in place, and award freelancers a job success score based on their client reviews.

Pro tip: if you’re looking on Upwork, it’s a good idea to only hire freelancers with a job success score of 80% or higher.

Once you’ve found a highly rated freelancer, you should also pay attention to their education, experience, and portfolio. For example, if you’re hiring for a position that requires a certain degree or certification, can they prove that they have it?

You should also ask to see samples of their previous work. Whether they’re a writer, editor, or artist, any freelancer worth their salt will be proud to display a portfolio of their best work to prospective clients.

So, verifying work is a great way to prove that someone is who they claim to be and that they can do great work.

Choose your job description carefully

Have you ever seen that meme of a water tower spray-painted in badly-done graffiti which reads ‘Help! Graphic designer needed!’ Memes like that might make us laugh but it’s important that your job description doesn’t like that.

Put simply: if your job description is mediocre, you’ll likely attract mediocre freelancers. So, take the time and effort to craft a job description that will be attractive to highly-rated professionals. Clearly outline things like:

  • Who you are
  • What your company does
  • What works needs to be done
  • What you value in a freelancer
  • What you’re looking for in an application
  • What you’re paying
  • Your preferred way to collaborate

Your business might be the bee's knees in your eyes, but how do you convey that? What makes your SaaS startup let's say, stand out from the rest? You want to capture a freelancer's interest.

Do you have a style guide? That's especially important when working with freelancer designers. You want to give just enough steer so that the work they produce complements your branding while still allowing for creative license.

Do you collaborate using Google Docs or another tool? If a freelancer you're working with uses software that you don't have, that can cause complications and delays.

A job description which outlines all these things in a clear, respectful, engaging and organised manner will help you stand out and attract top freelancing talent. It will also show a freelancer why they should want to work with you.

Communication is key

While this may sound obvious, not everyone is an expert communicator, so bear with us.

When it comes to freelancers, you may never meet this person face-to-face, so it's essential that your communication with them - whether it’s via messages or video calls - is crystal-clear, respectful, and professional.

Remember - this person may not be a full-time member of your team but they are still a professional being hired to work with you. So, be friendly, be kind, and treat them with the same respect you would give a full-time member of your team.

If they’re going to work with you for a while or engage with other members of your team, it wouldn’t hurt to add them to your team’s Slack channel, include them on Zoom calls, and help them feel included by staying in regular communication.

As you work together, you both may have questions for each other, so make it clear that sending you a quick message is always okay and that you’ll make an effort to reply promptly. And if you have an issue with their work, take time to talk it out.

The steps outlined in this article might seem like small gestures (obvious points even) but they go a long way when it comes to attracting and connecting with kick-ass freelancers.

Although the freelance hiring process is different from hiring a full-time employee, it can often be faster, easier, and more stress-free.

So, take time to craft a clear and well-worded job description and have meaningful conversations with freelance professionals who meet your requirements. Let them know that they will be treated with friendliness and respect and that clear communication is a top priority for you.

These simple steps will help you find a freelance professional who is an awesome fit for you and your project.

And remember, like anyone, freelancers talk - you never know who might be in their professional network. So be the shining example. One of, if not their all-time favourite client.

Are you about to make the leap and launch a business? As well as resources like this, we have tools specifically to help early-stage startup founders set their businesses up for success.

From company admin and equity management to Intellectual Property Assignment and NDA templates (useful when hiring contractors and freelancers). Learn more.