Freelancers: how to make sure you find a gem

Choosing a freelancer header

If you’ve decided to outsource, the idea of finding a suitable freelancer can be hugely daunting.  Recruitment agencies aren’t usually interested in placing freelancers so even larger companies will need to talk to freelancers direct.

Sole trader v Agency

If you need a very specific set of skills, it’s a great idea to take on a sole trader.  If your project is going to need a range of different skills, you may want to consider an agency who’ll take on the whole project and bring in their own freelancers if necessary.  This is usually a more expensive option but will save you time if you have the budget.

Getting recommendations

When it comes to finding the right person, getting a recommendation from someone you trust is by far the best option.  A personal recommendation carries a seal of approval as to the freelancer’s professionalism, reliability and the overall quality of their work.  There is also the hope that your contact won’t be looking to sabotage their own relationship with you by recommending a dud!

If you’re part of a larger organisation that uses freelancers regularly there may be an internal database listing suitable people and allowing for feedback.

Networking events can also be useful, particularly if you choose an event that freelancers attend. You can discuss the project with them and potentially gain some useful insight.  You may even find someone who leaves you with a favourable impression (as well as their business card).

The final option is a freelancing website which allows you to post a project and invite bids, with funds held in escrow until completion.  Personally, I’m not a fan as longstanding users are reporting a ‘race to the bottom’ approach which doesn’t allow established freelancers to earn a living wage.  They can however be a useful way for new freelancers to build their portfolio.


Once you have your recommendations, the selection process you adopt depends on you and whether you need to consult with others in respect of recruitment and budget.  If you’re a sole trader you’ll have more freedom to pick the person you want.

To quote or not to quote?

A good freelancer will not be embarrassed if you talk about money up front, particularly as it allows them to either quote within your budget or rule themselves out early on.  A short initial chat can be done over the phone or via Skype and can take as little as 15 minutes.  This will tell you whether your freelancer has the relevant skills and also allows them to ask questions about the project which will be reflected in a more accurate quote.

Personality is key

Whilst access to specialist skills is one of the main benefits of working with a freelancer, you’ll still need to consider whether their personality fits with the way you work.

You might think that it’s less important to find someone whose face fits when you’re only hiring a freelancer rather than a permanent employee who needs to fit in with your company ethos.  However, if your freelancer’s work will be reflecting your brand or if they’ll be working with your staff, finding someone who’s a good natural fit will save you time.

What’s your approach to recruitment?  Do you go with gut instinct or are you more analytical?

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