27 October, 2020 12 min read

6 tips for recruiting freelancers

Covid-19 has meant that businesses are increasingly outsourcing work to freelancers. There can be a number of reasons a business might choose to engage a freelancer. Perhaps the skills and expertise for the task no longer exist within the business, or never did. Maybe the skills are there but the capacity to get the task done in time isn’t. The need for a freelancer is often ad hoc so there might not be the demand (or budget) for a full-time resource.


Whatever the reason, a freelancer can be a great solution, but the approach will be a tad different to recruiting an in-house employee. Here are some tips to prepare yourself for recruiting one.

Tip #1 – define your project or job description

Spend some time planning before you get cracking. What exactly do you need done? Is it even suitable for a freelancer?

Computer-based work like design, editing, development or copywriting have been the traditional types of freelancer roles. However with remote working becoming so mainstream, roles like business analysis, project management, IT support and operational support are now joining the freelancer work pattern.

With all the tools for remote work available now, people can easily share their work, and be part of the team without needing to be in the office.

Be clear and specific on the scope of work you need. Write a brief and make a list of the kinds of attributes you want your freelance to have.

Tip #2 – calculate your budget

Freelance rates vary considerably so establish your budget early. Do your research – ask around and consider the budget in terms of the value the work will be to your business. Although freelancers are cheaper than permanent employees because of the lack of overheads and benefits, don’t try and get away with paying pennies. You’ll pay for it through re-work or sheer frustration.

Like most things, there is a direct correlation between quality and price. A good freelancer can understand a business and its needs and provide high quality work efficiently. Expect to pay more for those with plenty of experience who are experts in their field, and a lower price for someone who may be starting out as a freelancer. Newer freelancers might be prepared to do a gig or two for a reduced rate to get some runs on the board. If you’re a Not for Profit organisation you may be able to get a freelancer to do the work pro bono.

Location can play a part too. Off-shore freelancers may have cheaper rates than those on shore. But keep in mind time zone differences, potential communication issues, and a likely lack of local market knowledge.

Long story short, you need to find a balance between setting a reasonable price, and getting professional, quality results for your business.

Tip #3 – find your talent

Don’t underestimate the part your network can play. Who do you know who has done this work or might know somebody who has? Recommendations can be like an instant reference check. If the referrer has used the freelancer before, they will see their recommendation as a reflection of their standards. And don’t feel like a burden asking people to help you find the right person. Helping someone get work in the current economy is something anyone would be happy to do.  

If you haven’t been able to find anyone or don’t have the time to wait for the grapevine to bear its fruit, you can use a digital platform to source a freelancer. These platforms allow you to post your project and explore freelancers’ profiles and portfolios. They often include ratings and reviews based on previous gigs. Some of the more well-known digital freelancing platforms are:

You are probably going to be inundated with applications. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as you’re going to have to spend time assessing the applications - some whose skills will match the brief and others that won’t.

Using nextmile to source a freelancer saves time and stress. Register for free and tell us the skills you’re looking for. You’ll receive a shortlist based on matchable profiles which will alleviate that inbox congestion. This allows you to connect with only the right people and see results sooner.

Tip #4 – assess them

Ask to see a portfolio so you can assess the candidates based on samples of their work. Base your assessment of their work on like-for-like tasks. For example, if a designer has a portfolio of logos, it may not translate to web design, if that is indeed what you’re after.

There are a couple of ways to proceed from here. You can develop a shortlist and conduct phone or video interviews.

You can make your choice based on their work, their references/reviews, and what sort of companies have hired them before. It makes sense to choose someone who has done a project similar to yours.

Or you can offer them a short paid trial to judge the quality of their work and test their compatibility with the team.

However you make your decision, try and meet them if possible. This provides an opportunity to ask one another questions and for them to get a good feel for the job. Provide them with context of where the output of their work will appear in the overall scheme of things. It’s important that they have a good understanding of the space your business is operating in.

Tip #5 – agree on the payment terms

Don’t wait for the invoice to arrive to find out what the freelancer charges. Have the conversation upfront and establish how and when you will be paying them.

There are options when it comes to payment terms.

  •   An hourly rate: a straightforward way to pay for the service, this is a common preference. The risk is that the time it takes the freelancer to complete the job could be much longer than you may have anticipated (or budgeted for). Make sure the freelancer estimates the number of hours it will take them to complete the work before they start to give you a clear idea of what the invoice will look like. Experienced freelancers might be willing to drop their rate if they’re assured ongoing work so don’t be afraid to put that on the table.
  • Per project: This is a fixed amount is based on an estimate of time and materials to complete the project. It’s common for things like logo creation and copywriting.

Tip #6 – sign a contract

Whatever you agree on, put it in writing. Be painfully specific! Ensure you specify the scope of work, the deadline, how you want the work provided, and the payment terms. Also consider negotiating ownership of the final work.

You don’t want to have to refer to the contract later down the track, but if you have to, make sure it contains all the details you might need.

Bonus tip – make them feel part of the team

You will make the experience more enjoyable for everyone if you make your freelancer feel like a valued member of the team, and like they’re part of something big.

Communication is integral to the success of a freelancer so consider inviting them to a face-to-face briefing, have regular catch-ups, or add them to the team Whatsapp or email distribution group. Ask them to provide regular updates of how their work is going and make them comfortable enough to ask questions and make suggestions.

After all, you may need to use them again!


It could be the time to try nextmile for your next hire.

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