The most challenging part of a home renovation, whether it's a bathroom or kitchen, isn't the dust or inconvenience, although that's no picnic. It's finding contractors you can trust to do the job right in a timely manner.
If you're not technical and are hiring a developer, ask one of your technical friends to chat with the prospect
The same applies to hiring freelancers. It doesn't matter if it's an accountant, lawyer, Web developer or writer. Sure, there are websites where you can find thousands of candidates. And there is the tried-and-true strategy of asking friends and co-workers. But there's always some risk involved.
For expert advice on finding the right freelancers for short-term projects, we spoke to staffing experts, owners of e-commerce businesses, consultants, and even a lawyer or two.
The approach varies
Let's start with the recruiting pros. Abby Kohut is the owner of the career site Absolutely Abby. She's hired 10,000 people in her 18-year career. "When hiring freelancers, it depends on what kind of individual I'm looking for as to where to source them," she tells us. Here's her advice.
1. Graphic designers, editors, data entry and transcribers: Kohut has hired these people from oDesk (now called Upwork) or Elance. Both sites provide a cross section of candidates, from entry-level to experienced, so she can decide whom to hire based on her budget.
2. Lawyers and accountants: Kohut always hires these professionals based on recommendations. But if she doesn't have any recommendations to go on, she uses LinkedIn. Even if she doesn't find them on LinkedIn, she evaluates their backgrounds and reads their recommendations.
3. Technology experts: In the past, Kohut has posted ads on job boards or in LinkedIn Groups. If none of these options work, she uses Google and evaluates candidates based on their websites.
Mine your network
Todd Horton is the founder of KangoGift, a company that helps other companies improve employee recognition. His hiring background spans more than 15 years, and he's worked for companies like Monster.com and Salary.com.
Here are his tips:
Hiring quality personnel for freelance work is more difficult than hiring for permanent work, but … it is getting easier
1. Get referrals. Tap into your network and ask, "Who is good?" for your specific need.
2. Ask for references. Ensure the prospect is open to sharing contact information for references.
3. Review their portfolios. If you're not technical and are hiring a developer, ask one of your technical friends to chat with the prospect. It's critical to ensure the candidate has the skills needed to complete the task.
4. Ask for a trial period. Each new hire is critical. And in addition to professional skills, interpersonal skills and fit are key, too. Create a defined project to measure fit.
Tap your current pool
If you have employees, ask for their recommendations, says Alexander Ruggie, an executive with digital marketing company Milestone SEO.
"Tap the existing talent pool within the company for suggestions on people they know and trust who would be good for the position," he says. "Hiring quality personnel for freelance work is more difficult than hiring for permanent work, but as the a-la-carte professionalism of the 21st century progresses, it is getting easier to find the best for one-off jobs."
If that doesn't work, he suggests turning to LinkedIn, Monster or Craigslist.
"This last option allows you to be extremely specific with what you are looking for, and it eliminates the need for fielding countless potential candidates from these other sites only to find out that they are looking for something from a job that you can't provide," he says. "Craigslist ads can also funnel a lot of clutter your way, but if you have the time to sift through it, a truly worthy temporary candidate may be awaiting."
Ensure they know your 'vision'
"Fit" is definitely important, says Ryan Farley, COO of LawnStarter, a company that matches homeowners with lawn care professionals. He calls this understanding your company's "vision."
He adds that freelancers will probably be more costly.
"The lowest bidder isn't always the best choice," he adds. "At the end of the day, a freelancer isn't truly a part of the team, and their quality of work is typically driven by how much they are getting paid. Once you find a quality freelancer, bring them in on your company's vision and goals. This is essential for a successful partnership, as it ensures both parties understand the task at hand and what it will take to successfully knock it out."
Only hire people that are better than management (or have the potential to be better). Never hire for hope
Look for a proven record
Brandon Howard owns a Web design and marketing company called All My Web Needs and has worked with many online sellers.
"I'd say the biggest problem we've seen is programmers who don't stick around," he shares. "Typically programmers are a little flighty and try to either take on too much at once, or end up moving on to other jobs/ventures. My advice… is to use someone who has a proven track record and has been around for years."
Go with a service you already use
When online seller Donna MacMurray Klein needed a design for a new webstore, she first hired someone whose work she admired and who was familiar with the platform she was using, Volusion.
"But he never 'got' the style I wanted, which is using retro photographs for the design, and underwear," she says. "He had no experience doing a site like I envisioned."
After six weeks, the contractor grew frustrated and offered MacMurray Klein her $3,000 fee back. She then had the design team at Volusion do the work.
"The fees were absolutely comparable," she notes. "In fact, I got more design for what I paid Volusion designers than I'd have gotten from my first choice."
The seller would never go back to a single individual for something like a custom webstore design again, she says. "Not only did they [Volusion] do a fantastic job, but I knew that their work would perfectly fit the platform," she adds.
Never hire for hope
Finally, we got some pithy but wise advice from Mike De'Shazer, founder of CodeCloud, "Hiring the right people is simple: Only hire people that are better than management (or have the potential to be better). Never hire for hope."
We hope these tips will make hiring your next freelancer easier, and help you avoid costly mistakes.