Today, many companies ranging from startups and small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs) to large organizations hire freelancers to meet their staffing needs and tap into a diverse, global pool of expertise.
Hiring freelancers comes with many benefits: It can be a very cost-effective and flexible way to work with some of the best experts in their fields and enables your business to be nimble and adaptable to changing circumstances. But to get the most out of it and find the best freelancers out there, you also need to know how to do it right.
Thankfully, there are a number of solutions you can use to streamline and automate your freelancer hiring process, such as skill tests and applicant-tracking systems (ATS).
Yes, that’s right – you can use those tools even for freelance roles and temp workers. Skills-based hiring is one of the smartest ways to recruit talented freelancers, because it enables you to zero in on the best candidates without spending countless hours sifting through freelancers’ applications, websites, LinkedIn profiles, and portfolios. Instead, you can simply ask all freelancers to take a quick skills assessment and then talk to the best ones to see who’s the perfect fit.
In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of hiring a skilled freelancer for your business. For this, we’ll explain what skills you need to look for, how to assess them, and where to find the best freelancers out there.
But first, we’ll look at the basics: what freelancers are and what they can do for you and your business.
A freelancer is a professional who offers their services to clients on a project basis. This means that they’re not tied to a specific company or employer but instead have a few clients they work with – and regularly source new ones.
Freelancers are sometimes referred to as 1099 employees in the US, because businesses need to fill out a 1099 form for independent contractors to whom they pay $600 or more during the year.
Most often, businesses hire freelancers to get help with a specific project or to plug a talent gap quickly. Sometimes, companies opt to work with freelancers on a more permanent basis to stay more agile and be able to adapt swiftly to changing market demands and manage their budgets better.
By leveraging the niche expertise and flexibility of freelancers, you can get access to a diverse talent pool, while also reducing long-term commitments and the overhead costs of hiring full-time employees.
Although some freelancers are generalists who can help you with a broad range of simple tasks, such as admin support or data entry, most freelancers are experts in a particular field, such as web design, coding, content creation, marketing, and project management, among others.
Freelancers set their own rates and working hours, which means that they’re essentially operating a small business. They also take care of their own admin work, client acquisition, project management, invoicing, taxes, health insurance, and retirement savings.
Hiring freelancers comes with a multitude of benefits but also with some downsides, so it’s important to weigh both sides of the equation to get the most out of your investment. Let’s first look at the pros of working with independent contractors.
Workforce scalability: If you’re looking to scale your business but don’t yet have the capacity or stability to hire many full-time employees, hiring freelancers can help you unlock growth opportunities early on in your journey. And, if need be, you can also scale down your operations easily, too.
Access to specialized skills: Freelancer recruitment enables you to harness specialized skills for the needs of each of your projects – or venture into niche areas of expertise where in-house resources may be limited.
Fresh perspectives: Working with freelancers often gives you a fresh perspective, especially if you’re feeling lost in the details and lack the capacity to step back and evaluate the bigger picture. This helps foster a dynamic and forward-thinking work environment.
Agility: In all likelihood, you won’t be the only client of each of your freelancers, which means that you don’t have to guarantee a specific workload or always look for ways to keep them busy, motivated, and productive. You can get access to their services based on your actual needs.
Working with freelancers can have its challenges, though, so it's important to take those into consideration before you start recruiting. Here are some of the common obstacles you might face, plus some ideas on how to address each one:
Lack of availability: Freelancers are often busy juggling multiple clients and projects, especially those who are well-established experts in their fields. As a result, they may not be able to accommodate urgent requests or larger workloads. To address this, always discuss timelines in advance and communicate key deliverables and urgent tasks well in advance.
Limited integration and team cohesion: Freelancers work remotely and usually have limited interaction with your team. This means that they're also less engaged with others, which can erode collaboration in teams that rely heavily on teamwork. To mitigate the risk of disengagement, provide clear project guidelines and integrate freelancers into your team as much as it makes sense for your project and company. This will help you foster a sense of inclusion and of common responsibility.
Quality and consistency concerns: Although many freelancers are experts in their fields, you'll also encounter people who have varying levels of expertise -- and some who are less reliable than others. Skill-based hiring can be an excellent remedy for this, as it enables you to source the best talent quickly and efficiently.
Obviously, the hard skills you need your next freelancer to have will depend entirely on the role and project for which you’re hiring. In this section, we’ll give you examples of some roles and their role-specific hard skills you need to look out for:
Graphic designer or illustrator: Look for proficiency in graphic design software (e.g., Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator), knowledge of typography, color theory, layout design, and branding
Content writer: Make sure you hire someone with excellent writing skills, knowledge of grammar and style guidelines, ability to conduct research, a solid understanding of SEO principles and best practices, and proficiency in content management systems (CMS)
Social media manager: For this role, you need someone who is an expert in using different social media platforms and their analytics tools, who knows how to create and schedule social media content, and who has strong knowledge of social media advertising.
SEO Specialist: Look for a person who has a solid understanding of search engine optimization techniques and keyword-research strategies and who knows how to optimize website content; don’t forget to assess proficiency in SEO tools, such as Google Analytics, Ahrefs, or SEMrush
Virtual assistant: For this role, you’d need a freelancer with strong organizational, communication, and time-management skills – and who knows how to tackle a variety of administrative, research, and data entry tasks
UX/UI Designer: Look for a freelancer who is proficient in design software, such as Adobe XD or Figma, and who has excellent knowledge of user experience principles and best practices, the ability to create wireframes and prototypes, and a strong understanding of usability testing and responsive design
While hard skills are essential for getting the job done, your freelancer’s soft skills are also key for the success of your project. Let’s look at some of the most important soft skills that freelancers should have.
Remote work requires excellent communication from both sides – and even more so if you’re working with freelancers.
Look for people who respond quickly and concisely, know how to collect information about your requirements and needs, and who keep you updated on their progress, regardless of their specific communication type.
Freelancers often work on multiple projects at once, so being able to plan and prioritize their tasks is essential for respecting timeframes and sticking to deadlines. Make sure you hire professionals who know how to manage their time and are respectful of yours.
Hiring freelancers enables you to gain a fresh perspective on your workflows and processes, so make sure the ones you hire have a creative knack and are able to propose inventive approaches and solutions.
Creativity is difficult to evaluate objectively, but look for professionals who have successfully tackled complex projects in the past.
Cognitive flexibility, which is often linked with creativity, is about being adaptable when dealing with uncertainty and always looking for new ways of doing things. It’s also among the most important skills in the modern workplace for businesses and individuals alike.
Freelancers with high cognitive flexibility adapt better to changes, whether it's a shift in strategy, project scope, or timelines, and can help you make your organization more resilient as a whole.
The ability to address and overcome challenges is a vital soft skill for any freelancer.
You want to be sure that if an issue arises during your project, your freelancer has the necessary tools and mindset to identify the problem, evaluate potential approaches, and implement the best solution.
Look for a history of successful problem-solving in their previous projects or use a skills test to assess this skill (more on that in the next section).
Critical thinking is essential for objectively analyzing and evaluating an issue and making a sound decision. This skill is crucial for freelancers, especially when working on complex projects that require decision making and strategic planning.
Finding the right freelancer can seem like a daunting task, especially if you’re planning to filter through applications, websites, and portfolios manually.
We have good news, however: there’s a much easier way to hire a skilled freelancer for your business. Skills assessments enable you to:
Save time and resources: Instead of manually going through each person’s application and portfolio, you can simply invite everyone to take a skills assessment and see who truly has the skills you need
Assess skills bias-free: Even if you’re very self-aware, unconscious bias is extremely difficult to get rid of; skills tests are objective and give everyone a fair chance
Avoid costly mistakes: Even if hiring a freelancer is less risky than hiring a full-time employee, the wrong person can still cost you a lot of money and cause delays; skills assessments are objective and help you make the right decision each time
To assess freelancers’ skills, you first need to define the role you’re hiring for. Then, if you use TestGorilla, you can build a skills assessment of up to five skills tests.
Here are some test ideas for specific roles:
For more tests, simply head on to our test library of over 300 tests you can choose from.
Now that you know what skills to look for in freelancers, we’ll guide you through the freelancer hiring process in our step-by-step guide.
Here’s how to hire a freelancer:
The first and perhaps most important step involved in hiring freelancers is determining the scope of work for the project. Since freelancers aren’t immersed in your business the same way employees are, it’s important to give them as much information as possible upfront. This will give your freelance hire the best chance of success.
In many cases, the freelancer will create this document based on conversations with your team. If not, you should take the initiative to create this document internally.
A good scope of work document will spell out:
Your needs: Spell out the what and why of the project. In other words, what do you need the freelancer to do and what is the purpose of the project?
The objectives and goals: How will you know if the project was a success? You can use the SMART framework to make sure you’re setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. This way, your freelance hire will have the context they need to be successful and you’ll be able to decide whether a particular freelancer was a successful hire or not.
A detailed description of the deliverables: Don’t leave anything to the imagination unless you truly want to leave it to the freelancer’s discretion (but even that should be spelled out). Describe the project in detail so the freelancer you hire knows exactly what you expect them to deliver.
Constraints: What potential roadblocks or constraints will limit your freelancer? This could include software limitations, budgetary considerations, or anything else that the freelancer should be aware of.
Terms and conditions: What are the terms and conditions for acceptance of the work and payment? Will there be milestones that trigger payments throughout the project or will they receive payment as a lump sum? Will they work on retainer for an indefinite period of time or will this be a one-off project?
The next step is to determine the qualifications you’re looking for in a freelancer. The scope of work will help you a lot in this step. Consider factors like educational qualifications, work experience, background, specialization, and cost. This step will make it easier for you to hire the right person.
Here’s a more detailed list of skills, experience, and other qualifications that you might take into account:
Work experience: Previous work experience is one indicator that the freelancer knows what they’re doing and can get the job done.
Specialization: A freelancer who specializes in the type of project you need help with may be better able to meet your needs than someone who doesn’t. For example, if they’ve done similar work in your industry, they’ll have additional context that a freelancer who has worked in a different industry might not.
Certifications: If your project involves working with specific software, tools, or skills, you can look for candidates who are certified to work with them.
Skills: What skills will be important for the role? Test these upfront with online skills assessment software.
Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s the time to create an effective job description.
This will help you to get the right proposals, so make sure it is very clear and effective. It should summarize your project, requirements, cost etc. Moreover, it should also describe all the hiring factors, scope of work, and required experience.
Don’t forget to share the job on your social media accounts.
Job posts receive dozens or sometimes even hundreds of applications, especially if you’re open to hiring remotely.
This means that you may receive a lot of proposals in a very short span of time, but not every freelancer who applies will be qualified. You’ll need to test each candidate to develop a shortlist for further consideration.
Instead of asking applicants to send you their resumes, you can use TestGorilla to include a link in your job description that allows candidates to take an online skills assessment. Then the candidates will be automatically sorted, based on their scores on the tests you include in the assessment.
Take a look at our growing test library of over 300 tests to see what you should include in your assessment.
You can also have candidates share their portfolio, resumes, LinkedIn profiles, references and other relevant material within TestGorilla.
Now that you have a list of candidates, you can start reviewing and interviewing the most skilled applicants.
Based on the candidates’ assessment scores, educational background, certifications, work experience, and skills, create a shortlist of candidates to interview.
The best way to find out if someone can do the job is to actually work with them. This will allow candidates to understand your style of work and the requirements of the project, and you will get a chance to see how well they work with your team.
To do this, assign a project that will test the skills you need for the position. Then you can compare your teams’ impressions of the candidates along with their final work.
The final step is to hire your chosen candidate. If you’re hiring through a platform like Upwork, this step is entirely handled by the platform.
Otherwise, you’ll need to prepare a contract that includes important details such as the scope of work, the agreed compensation, the method of payment, schedules, deadlines, and any other relevant information.
There are many ways to find freelancers for hire. Here are some of the most popular platforms and methods you can use:
Upwork or Fiverr: Those are the two most popular platforms connecting businesses with freelancers from different fields including writing, graphic design, programming, and marketing. On both, you can see freelancers’ portfolios, previous projects, and client reviews, which are all important factors to consider.
Toptal: Toptal advertises itself as an elite freelancing platform that has a rigorous screening process. It might be ideal if you’re looking for more experienced folks and need help with a complex project in a field like software development, web design, or finance.
LinkedIn: Many top freelancers are active on LinkedIn and use the platform to connect with businesses and other freelancers. You can simply search by type of role or post a job ad and specify that you’re looking for independent contractors.
Recommendations: If you’re looking for a freelancer, you can also ask your professional network for recommendations, either via LinkedIn, email, or personally.
Behance: Behance is ideal for creative professionals; it’s a platform where artists and designers upload portfolios, which you can browse through. Then, you can use the platform to contact freelancers directly.
Below, you’ll find a sample job description template for a freelance UI/UX designer. Feel free to copy it and adapt it to your role and needs.
Role: Freelance UI/UX Designer
Job type: Contract/project-based
[Your company name] is seeking a talented freelance UI/UX Designer to join our team on a project basis.
We are [briefly describe your company, its mission, and the project for which you are hiring].
We are looking for a UI/UX Designer who is passionate about creating user-centric designs, intuitive interfaces, and innovative user experiences for our [website, application, platform].
This is a remote contractor position and you can work from anywhere. Ideally, we’re looking for someone who’s available to work with us approximately 15 hours per week over the next 6 months.
Collaborate with product and development teams to define and implement product design direction and strategy for our [website, application, platform]
Create wireframes, storyboards, user flows, process flows, and site maps to effectively communicate interaction and design ideas
Build original ideas for simple and user-friendly designs for complex design problems
Conduct user research and evaluate user feedback to iterate on design solutions
Proven UI/UX design experience with a strong portfolio
Proficiency in visual design and wireframing tools such as Sketch, Figma, Adobe XD, or similar
Experience in using UX design best practices to design solutions, and a deep understanding of mobile-first and responsive design
A clear understanding of the importance of user-centered design and design thinking
Ability to iterate designs and solutions efficiently and intelligently
Ability to clearly and effectively communicate design processes, ideas, and solutions to teams and clients
Please submit your portfolio and a brief description of your relevant experience [link to an application form]. You can join us from any location. We ask all applicants to take a 30-minute skills assessment: We care about your skills and expertise rather than about your resume.
As you might have guessed, there’s no simple answer to this question. It all depends on your requirements, the project’s scope, complexity, timeline, and the skills you’re looking for.
Additionally, some freelancers might charge an hourly fee, which can range from $20 for simple roles and tasks to 250$ or more (for example in the case of senior copywriters), while others might instead work with flat rates.
To make sure you’re getting the most value for the budget you have available, make sure you compare a few cost estimates of freelancers who have similar skills and experience.
Discovery calls or interviews are an excellent opportunity to ask targeted questions and gain an in-depth understanding of freelancers’ skills and their suitability for the project. Here are some sample freelancer interview questions to help you with that:
Can you describe your process for collecting requirements? What steps do you take to make sure you’re aligned with your client’s vision?
How do you typically communicate with clients during a project?
Can you share some examples of past projects that are similar to ours? What outcomes did you help other companies achieve?
How would you handle a situation where a project does not go as planned?
How do you handle feedback and revisions? How many revision rounds do you typically offer?
How do you handle changes in a project's direction or the scope of work?
What do you need from us to get started on the project?
How comfortable are you working with our team and potentially attending virtual meetings?
Hiring freelancers can be a cost-effective way to get access to top talent but it requires clear communication about project expectations, timelines, and payment terms. And, as with any hiring decision, you have to be very selective in who you work with.
Even though it’s easier to terminate a contract with a freelancer than it is to terminate an employee, making the wrong hire can lead to costly mistakes and wasted time.
TestGorilla’s skills assessments help you mitigate those risks, evaluate all applicants’ skills fairly and objectively, and hire the best freelance talent out there. Sign up for a free 30-minute live demo to see how much simpler your freelancer hiring process can be.
To address its increased recruitment needs and influx of applicants for roles that include customer support and leadership, Dyninno Group implemented TestGorilla. See how the Dyninno Group of companies improved candidate screening and recruitment productivity by 400%.
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