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How to hire a 1099 employee


Imagine this: You own an apparel business and have decided to bring your business online to reach more customers. The first thing you need to do is create a website where people can browse your products. However, hiring an in-house web developer to create the website can be costly, time-consuming, and ineffective in the long run – and you won’t be able to keep them busy after the website is live.

This is where hiring a 1099 employee, i.e. a freelancer or an independent contractor, comes into play.

With the rise in the gig economy, more and more companies are shifting towards hiring temporary employees on a per-project basis instead of committing to a full-time in-house employee.

In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the intricacies of how to hire a 1099 employee, the skills you need to look for during 1099 employee recruitment, and where you can find the best candidates for your project.

What is a 1099 employee?

US employees can be classified into two categories: W-2 employees and 1099 employees.

A W-2 employee is employed directly by the organization and they work as a regular employee earning a wage or a salary. W-2 employment contracts are subject to federal and state laws regarding benefits, leaves, and overtime hours.

A 1099 employee, on the other hand, is an independent contractor. They are called 1099 employees because they must fill out the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Form No. 1099 to report their earnings. 

What is a 1099 employee definition graphic

With 1099 employees, you don’t have control over the way they work or their schedule – and you cannot ask them to come to your office, except for the occasional, mutually agreed meeting.

In short, despite the name, 1099 employees aren’t employees at all. You should also be careful about classifying them correctly: If you hire a 1099 employee for what should be the role of a salaried worker, you might have to pay employment taxes for them.

A 1099 employee might refer to themselves as a freelancer, independent contractor, consultant, or a self-employed worker. Some examples of 1099 employees are Uber or Lyft drivers, freelance writers, virtual assistants, and more. 

There’s also a significant difference between hiring an independent contractor and a regular employee: 

  • In the case of W-2 employees, employers take care of the admin side of things, as well as of tax obligations and employee benefits

  • Independent contractors are responsible for paying their own income and self-employment taxes – and they also don’t have access to employee benefits like health insurance or performance-based incentives

Hard skills to look for in a 1099 employee

The hard skills of a 1099 employee depend on the nature of the work they’re performing or the industry they’re working in. 

Below, you’ll find some common examples of skills that a 1099 employee might have – but, again, the skills you’d look for will depend entirely on the project and the tasks you need their help with. 

Web development and design

Having a website is essential for almost any business out there. If you’re hiring a freelance web developer or designer, make sure that they have deep knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

For more complex projects, they also need to have a solid understanding of front-end and back-end development to build a functional and fast website that serves your business and delights your visitors. 

Graphic design

Graphic designers are some of the most commonly hired 1099 employees. They are proficient in design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign, but hiring them would depend on what you want them to do.

There are many types of graphic designers, too. For example, video editors use tools like Adobe Premiere to cut and edit video footage, 3D modelers design 3D objects and animations that you can use in your product or website, and typographers decide which font to choose and how to arrange the text to give the best user experience.

Content creation and copywriting

Content writers, copywriters, and content specialists are responsible for crafting compelling and persuasive content for websites, ads, or marketing materials. They are the ones who help bring traffic to your website by creating informative and engaging web copy, blog articles, social media posts, and other content.

Make sure that the content writer you hire can not only write exceptionally but also has deep knowledge of SEO and can optimize their content to rank higher in search engine results.

Software development and programming

Want to create an app but don’t want to hire an in-house software developer? Hire a freelancer or an agency.

Freelance software developers are proficient in different programming languages, software development frameworks, and libraries. They are responsible for streamlining the development and deployment process and creating apps for iOS and Android devices.

Virtual assistant skills

Hiring a virtual assistant can help you easily manage your day and stay organized. Virtual assistants excel in administrative tasks such as managing schedules, handling emails, and booking appointments. They also have excellent communication skills and might need to often engage with clients and customers on your behalf.

Prioritizing tasks, providing customer support, managing documents, and doing data entry are some of the other responsibilities of a virtual assistant.

Soft skills for a 1099 employee

A 1099 employee’s work often requires a lot of interaction and collaboration with others. This means that their soft skills are essential for the success of your project. Here are some of the skills you should look for when hiring an independent contractor: 


Freelancing is all about communication, especially since the person won’ be physically present in your office.

Freelancers should have excellent communication skills to make the most out of each call or meeting, understand the project requirements, provide updates, and address any concerns you might have. The better the communication is between you and the 1099 employee, the better the outcome will be.

Time management

Freelancers often work on multiple projects at once and therefore need to have excellent time-management skills. They must be adept at prioritizing tasks and meeting deadlines. They might work in a different time zone, too – and good time management is essential for asynchronous work. 

Breaking tasks into smaller, manageable steps makes it easier to set realistic timeframes. Freelancers who accurately assess the time required for each task are better equipped to deliver exceptional results.


Freelancers work on a wide range of projects with different clients. Adaptability and versatility are therefore must-have skills for them, enabling them to tailor their services to each business’ needs.

The ability to learn new technologies and software tools and adjust to rapidly evolving market trends is also essential for freelancers, because it helps them provide better services to their clients. 


Something you should expect from any freelancer is professionalism. This involves: 

  • Carefully listening to clients to understand their goals

  • Defining a strategy and working towards achieving their objectives

  • Promptly communicating any potential delays or concerns 

Professionalism is even more important in the event of a dispute or a disagreement. Being able to resolve conflicts and handle difficult situations with tact helps maintain mutual trust and respect.


While they often work alone, freelancers must still collaborate with clients, in-house teams, or other freelancers working on the same project. Effective collaboration and teamwork skills enable them to seamlessly adapt to team dynamics and contribute to the project.

One of the main advantages of working with 1099 employees is that they bring fresh perspectives and insights to the table – but for this, they must be able to work well with others. Their active contribution can foster an environment of continuous improvement and growth in the company.

How to test the skills of a 1099 employee

Finding the right freelancer online can seem like finding a needle in a stack of hay. 

If you post a job ad, you’ll probably receive dozens or even hundreds of resumes and portfolios, plus a wide range of rates. This might make it feel nearly impossible to identify the right candidate.

And indeed, shortlisting candidates based on their resume or portfolio alone can be a laborious and inefficient process. And with the advent of AI, determining the innate skills and abilities of the candidate becomes even more difficult.

This is where pre-employment skills testing comes in handy. It enables you to evaluate a candidate based on their performance in a skills-based assessment that you can tailor to your hiring needs, testing the exact skills you need for this project. With TestGorilla, you can create your own custom assessments by combining up to five different tests.

Here are a few skill tests you can use to evaluate your future 1099 employee’s skills:

  • Communication: With this test, you’ll make sure the person you hire understands the project's requirements thoroughly, asks for further clarifications as needed, and communicates with others clearly and effectively

  • Time management: Evaluate the candidate's ability to prioritize tasks, manage their schedule, and deliver projects on time 

  • Attention to detail: Assess candidates’ attention to detail to check whether they’ll be able to effectively soak up information during meetings, notice discrepancies, and submit work that is error-free

Based on your project and needs, you’ll also want to evaluate applicants’ role-specific skills. Here are some examples: 

For more tests, check out our test library, featuring 300+ tests designed by subject-matter experts.

Interview questions for 1099 employees

Once you evaluate applicants’ skills with the help of talent assessments, you can invite the best ones to an interview – or ask for a discovery call. 

The questions you ask will depend on the specific role. Below, you’ll find general questions you can ask freelancers, plus some role-specific questions.

General interview questions for 1099 employees

Here are some general interview questions you can ask potential 1099 employees to make sure there’s a good fit between you and the person: 

  1. Can you give me an example of a similar project you’ve worked on in the past? What were the outcomes for your client?

  2. Can you walk me through your client onboarding process? What would you need from me to get started on this project?

  3. How do you manage your schedule when working on multiple projects at once?

  4. Tell me about a time when a project didn’t go as planned. How did you handle it?

  5. Have you worked with clients’ teams in the past? What’s your approach to working with in-house teams?

  6. Do you often work with other freelancers? How do you coordinate your work with them?

Graphic-design interview questions for 1099 employees

If you’re looking for a graphic designer, here are some questions you can ask to evaluate their suitability for the project: 

  1. Walk me through your design process, from concept to completion.

  2. Have you worked on multi-channel design campaigns, and if so, how did you ensure consistency across different platforms?

  3. How do you make sure your designs are both functional and aesthetically pleasing?

  4. What's your favorite design software? Why do you prefer it to other tools? 

  5. How do you collaborate with members from other teams, such as marketers or product managers, to ensure everyone is on the same page?

  6. How many revision rounds are included in your fees? What happens if we need more revisions?

Need more ideas? Check out our graphic design interview questions.

Content strategist interview questions

If you’re hiring a content strategist, here are some questions you can ask:

  1. What’s your experience with building content strategies for companies in our niche? 

  2. What’s your keyword research process? How do you decide which keywords to target first?

  3. How do you stay up to date with the latest developments in SEO and with Google’s algorithm updates?

  4. How do you adapt your approach to different target audiences?

  5. How do you determine the ROI of each content initiative? What metrics do you focus on?

  6. Can you discuss your experience with creating content for different stages of the buyer’s journey?

For more ideas, check out our selection of the best interview questions for content strategists.

Where to find 1099 employees

To hire a 1099 employee, you must look for individuals or businesses that can provide specific services on a project basis. Here are some common platforms where you can find and hire independent contractors:

Where to find 1099 employees graphic

Freelance marketplaces

There are entire websites and marketplaces where you can get in touch with freelancers and hire them based on your specific needs. 

Some of the most popular marketplaces are Upwork, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com, but you also have more niche platforms like TopTal or MarketerHire. Each platform has a large pool of candidates, enabling businesses to connect directly with freelancers from various fields.

Social media platforms, online communities and job boards

You can post job ads on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to attract freelancers from across the world. 

Job boards like Remote Ok and We Work Remotely specialize in remote and freelance job listings. 

Online communities such as Reddit also have niche threads or sections where freelancers are offering their services to clients.

Freelancing agencies

Another way of finding freelancers is to work with agencies who work with freelancers and independent contractors. Businesses communicate their requirements to the freelancing agency, and they, in turn, find the person that best meets their needs.

Professional networks

Another option is to leverage your professional network to find talented individuals who might be available for freelance work. Participate in industry-specific events, conferences, and seminars, or ask for referrals from colleagues and business associates.

How much does it cost to hire a 1099 employee?

Freelancers set their own fees and there will be enormous differences from role to role (and from location to location), so it’s difficult to determine the average pay of a 1099 employee. Additionally, some 1099 employees charge a flat fee by project or task, while others apply hourly rates. 

In the US, 1099 employees make around $51,000 a year, but how much you’ll pay will depend on a number of factors: 

  • The scope of the project and its timeline

  • The person’s experience, skills, and qualifications

  • Your budget

  • Your niche

Ask your best candidates for a cost estimate for your project to get an idea of how much you can expect to pay. Additionally, you can check what others are paying independent contractors in your industry and offer competitive rates to hire a talented 1099 employee. 

Hire a skilled 1099 employee with TestGorilla

Hiring 1099 employees can be a cost-effective strategy for working with talented individuals on a diverse set of projects. You don’t need to keep them on the payroll to provide employee benefits and you can easily end the contract when the work is done.

While contract termination is easy, hiring the wrong candidate can still lead to a huge waste of time and money. That’s why we recommend adopting a skills-first approach to hiring. Use TestGorilla’s skills-based assessments to evaluate every candidate bias-free and choose the best person for the role.

Explore our vast test library and start a free trial today to streamline your 1099 employee hiring process.


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