Yet, the internet has allowed companies to fast-track HR and provide access to on-demand, skilled talent. If you’re new to the freelance, remote, or outsourcing world, finding someone in this growing new industry can be a daunting task. Where do you even start?!
We know it can be overwhelming when you decide to find and hire a freelancer. With our step-by-step guide, we wanted to show you just how easy it is. From what platform to use, how to post a job, find the right freelancer, and manage a project, we’ll give you the details. Once you get the hang of it, there’s so many neat things that you can do -- the possibilities are endless.
WHERE DO YOU FIND FREELANCERS?
Let’s say you’re on the hunt for an awesome designer to create an infographic within the next two weeks. You want something that’s eye-catching and engaging, something that people can’t help but share. You’ll be using it as a promotional piece to raise awareness about your upcoming product launch.
One of the best places that we’ve used to find great creative talent at affordable rates in a short period of time is Upwork. For us, it’s one of the first places that we turn to when we’re on the hunt for someone to complete a specific task or looking to fill a certain role.
It’s not just us! Over one million businesses use them too, so you’re in safe hands.
First thing’s first, setup your account, payment method, and profile details. Then we’ll buckle down and get into the nitty gritty.
CREATE AND SHARE YOUR JOB POSTING
As soon as you click “Post a job”, you’ll be asked to choose the kind of job that you're posting for:
For the most part we’ll always choose the first option, since we typically use Upwork for one-off or short-term projects that don’t take insane amounts of time. This would be the case with our infographic designer example. Since it’s quite a broad category, most roles and / or projects will fall under here.
It’s time for the good stuff: where you get to fill in all of the details about your project!
If you’ve been using Upwork for quite some time, you can populate the entire page with the details of a previous job posting -- it’s such a great time saver! If you need to, you can even change some of the information.
However, since we’re assuming you’re brand new to the Upwork world, skip down to ‘Choose a category and subcategory’.
Hate to break it to ya, but some decisions have to be made here -- you can only choose one category and subcategory. Sometimes it’s hard to pick!
For some projects, it’s easy to narrows things down. For others, it can be a bit tricky. Multiple subcategories can apply to your posting.
Why does this matter? The category and subcategory duo that you choose is where your job posting will show up on the freelancer side of things. For instance, if we place our infographic project under ‘Design & Creative’ (category) and ‘Illustration’ (subcategory), the job will only be exposed to freelancers who follow and find jobs under the ‘Illustration’ stream, no where else.
This is where you can create a few of the same job postings, but with different subcategories. Although to be honest, that’s time that doesn’t need to be wasted! We’ll show you why in our next section.
Next up is where you can put all the juicy stuff about your project. You want to create a job description that stands out and attracts the best applicants.
Create a title that’s straight to the point and / or with a little pizzazz. In our example, you can go specific “Infographic for e-commerce apparel store” or keep it broad “Awesome designer for infographic”.
In the job description, we like to provide as much detail as possible:
Provide a one-liner about what your company does and why it’d be great to work with you.
Give a high-level description about the role / project, what the candidate will be doing, the end goal and benefit of the role / project, and who the end audience will be.
List out the responsibilities into smaller digestible pieces. For some projects, this really isn’t necessary. We mainly do this if it’s a boarder, more longer-term role that we’re looking to fill.
Outline your expectations. Get on the same page from the beginning. Seriously, this can help weed out some of the people who definitely won’t be a great match.
Any other tidbits of information that might be useful: Will it be long term? Is it ongoing? How many hours do you need per week?
Just as much as you’re scouting for the right individual, potential applicants are also assessing if you’re the type of company that they want to work with as well. Think of if it as a two-way street: to attract A-game freelancers, you need to bring your A-game as well. It all starts with your job description!
Here you can define if your project is one-time or ongoing, and if you need one or more freelancers. If you want to get super specific, you can throw in a few skill requirements. To get the infographic done, we might want someone that has ‘Illustration’, ‘2D Design’, or ‘Cartooning’ as a skill set.
After you’re done all of that, it’s time to talk money.
More choices: do you want to pay hourly or at a fixed rate? Our rule of thumb: we’ll usually go with fixed pricing if the project has an end deliverable with a definite end date -- just like our infographic example. If we’re going for a long-term, ongoing project, we’ll go the hourly route.
If you choose ‘Fixed Rate’, throw in a number for your budget. Select how long the project will go for and the estimated number of hours that will be needed each week. All of this plus the rate structure isn’t set in stone -- it’s simply just a benchmark to work off of in your discussions with potential candidates. Things can always change, so don’t get too hung up on the numbers.
We always go with ‘Experienced’ or ‘Expert’ for the ‘Desired Experience Level’. Let us warn you now: whatever you do, don’t choose ‘Entry’ level! It just warrants all kinds of unqualified, time-wasting applicants that are ineligible for your job. Keep in mind, it’s quite a subjective scale - an Expert infographic designer may be worth $400 to you (as the client), while the freelancer themselves may only think an expert level is valued at $200.
Upwork lets you decide on how you want freelancers to find and apply to your posting through ‘Freelancer Preferences’. You can also invite freelancers, as long as if you’ve previously hired them.
You can help narrow down your search by filling in the ‘Preferred Qualifications’ section, which lets you specify certain criteria that must be met for an applicant to be selected.
What does this do for you? People can still apply to your job even if they don’t meet those criteria, it doesn’t stop or prevent them from submitting a proposal. It’s more so for you to easily sift through all the applications and easily pull the ones that meet your requirements.
Always add “Screening Questions” to cut down on asking the same questions again during the interview process. For instance, some additional questions to ask in your hunt for an infographic designer are:
Provide us with three of your best infographics
Describe your design process with a timeline.
What’s a big client pet peeve?
Last, but not least: don’t skimp out on the cover letter! Make it a requirement. Most applicants will copy / paste a cover letter, however, the best applicants know that that’s where the real opportunity is to shine, stand out, and customize their proposal. If it’s a cookie cutter response -- we usually don’t look any further!
RECEIVE, INVITE, AND REVIEW YOUR PROPOSALS
Once you have your job posting up and ready to go, you can share it with the world!
Depending on a number of different factors in your posting, proposals might come rolling in left, right, and center -- this can be a good or bad thing. From experience, it’s a bad thing. Your inbox can easily get flooded to the point where you just want to throw your hands up and look at none of them, especially if the first few candidates, their profiles, and their responses are not up to your standards. We’ve seen postings with anywhere from 20 to 50 proposals -- only a handful of those applications are probably worthwhile to look at.
Keep in mind, the best candidates are the ones who check your profile stats:
How many jobs have you posted?
What’s your hire rate?
How much money have you spent?
What’s your average hourly rate paid?
How many hours have you paid for?
If you have a low hire rate, people will likely shy away because they’ll assume you won’t hire for the role anyways. “The best” often charge higher rates, so if they see an average hourly that’s much lower, they won’t want to waste their time negotiating with a business that’s going to nickle and dime them.
As someone who’s new to Upwork, you won’t have all these stats just yet -- make sure you verify you can actually make payments. Freelancers want to know that you have the funds and ability to pay ;) Candidates definitely steer away from postings with unverified payment methods.
Just sitting back and watching the proposals come in will usually get you nowhere close to finding the freelancer that you want. So you’re probably wondering: how the heck do I find a diamond in the rough? Here’s three simple steps that we take to find the right one:
Do your own research into the vast network of freelancers. For our example, you can do a basic search for a “Infographic Designer” and/or setup advanced filters.
You can choose everything from category and subcategory, job success rate, hourly rate, number of hours billed, activity, type of freelancer, english level, location, types of tests and scores, other languages, and job titles.
We’d narrow down our search with the following:
Personalize your invitation. The standard template invitation of “Hello! I'd like to invite you to apply to my job. Please review the job post and apply if you're available.” is great, but we like to give it an extra touch. It doesn’t have to be long -- just changing a few things around to personalize the message makes a huge difference. It shows the freelancer the type of client that you are.
Instead of the cookie cutter message, we’d say something like “Hey Bob! I love your work, think you’d be a great potential fit for my infographic designer role. Take a look at the posting, would love to have you apply!”.
Only review non-invitational proposals with tailored cover letters. Just in case no one responds to your invitation, you can dig a little deeper into applicants that submit proposals with tailored cover letters. Emphasis: tailored.
Whenever we’re reviewing a freelancer to invite or a submitted proposal, we pay close attention to these profile sections:
Personal portfolio (if applicable) - this shows us proof of what they’re capable of
Reviews - this tells us what we should expect
Rate - this is mainly for budget purposes, we don’t necessarily equate rate to value
SELECT YOUR FREELANCER
Let’s say you’ve shortlisted your applicants to 3 to 5 freelancers. You can setup phone / skype interviews, or simply use Upwork’s messaging feature to learn more about the candidate.
During this time, it’s a good opportunity to walk through the job description in more detail, and layout the expectations, so everyone is aligned and on the same page.
In addition to considering their portfolio, reviews, and rate, once we’ve started talking to a candidate, we pay attention to not only their responses to our questions, but their response times and how they communicate. We look closely at the nuances within our conversation to get an idea of how the relationship would be if they were hired.
It’s not just about their skillset, it’s also about their personality.
MANAGING YOUR PROJECT
When you’ve finally made a match and get all of the details sorted out, you’re on your way -- yay!! For projects with an end deliverable and due date, it’s best to set up milestones with funding attached to each one.
For instance, creating an infographic can be broken up into three milestones (depending on the terms that you agree to with the candidate): Create draft one, create draft two, and create final draft.
Along the way, make sure you provide as much feedback as possible and are on top of your communication. Since freelancers don’t live and breathe your business like you do, they often have a lot of questions to ensure they deliver a final product that meets your needs, expectations and satisfaction.
AFTER THE PROJECT
Once your project is done, ALWAYS leave a review -- good or bad. Freelancers on Upwork or any platform heavily rely on these reviews to secure future projects. As you can tell from our process, we pay close attention to these reviews in our decision-making.
This also encourages them to leave a review for you as a client. Believe it or not, freelancers will avoid clients with poor or low ratings. It spells disaster to begin with!
Additionally, reviews can help fellow clients who are on the hunt for a similar kind of freelancer.
That’s wasn’t so bad was it?! Upwork is a great place to start finding your first freelancer. It’s simple, easy to use, and you can get started in no time. Once you see how many talented and skilled on-demand freelancers there are around the world, you won’t be able to stop using them for all your business.