Business planning, Legal

Five essential tips to hiring contractors online

Paul Dunstone /

Hiring a freelance contractor online is an excellent way to save time, money and boost productivity within your start-up, especially if you’re a sole operator.

If you need a job completed which is outside the scope of your skill or time constraints, hiring a freelancer to complete the job will give you access to thousands of talented contractors willing and able to get the job done quickly and for a competitive price.

However, if you haven’t hired a freelancer online before, the process can be a little daunting.

For example, you might be asking yourself the following questions:

  • How will I communicate with someone half way around the world?
  • Why is it so much cheaper to hire online in this way?
  • What if something goes wrong during the project timeline?
  • How do I select a candidate if I can’t talk to them in person?
  • How do I handle scope creep?
  • What if the project ends up a complete disaster?

All these questions are valid and common fears many employers face when hiring a freelancer online for the first time; but there are simple steps you can take to ensure both the hiring process and project management aspect to your project run smoothly.

1. Ensure you’re job description is thorough

Pretty obvious, right? But it’s surprising how many employers don’t provide an accurate job description when posting a freelance job online.

Because one of the major differences between posting a freelance job and hiring a full-time staffer is that freelance jobs are generally for tender, you need to ensure your budget matches your description.

For example, if you state your budget range is $400-$500 and that “you need a website”, you’re going to attract a really mixed bag of candidates.

By providing a thorough description of your job you’re much more likely to attract the right type of candidates and receive much better value for your money.

2. Research your candidates beyond your job ad

Generally, the higher quality candidates who apply for your freelance job will have a portfolio of work you can check to get a feel for the quality of the services. This is a must for all employers looking to hire freelancers.

Never hire someone online unless you can see their past work. Similarly, if a candidate has mixed work reviews online, you should definitely take notice of this and even contact the reviewer for clarification if you’re serious about hiring the candidate.

However, if a candidate has consistently strong reviews and is receiving work on a regular basis, this is a good indicator your money will be well spent.

3. Don’t just hire the cheapest contractor

The old term, “you get what you pay for” is worth considering when hiring freelancers online. But you must apply this to context.

Because there’s so much competition in the freelance marketplace and you’re dealing with different currency valuations for work across the globe, this will push prices down. But don’t get too excited.

Remember that you’re already likely to get a great contractor for a great price, so hire on expertise, not price.

Gauge what the market considers a fair price point for work, and once established, make your choice based on this factor combined with the contractor’s portfolio of work and online reviews.

4. Establish your preferred communication lines

Remember, even if you’re a newbie at hiring freelancers online, you’re still the one with the cheque book (or PayPal account), so clearly define what you expect in terms of regular communication.

This will include the medium (i.e. email, Skype, weekly reports), and the frequency. If you feel that you need to talk in person with a particular contractor prior to confirming their hire, there should be no reason they are not available for a Skype chat.

If they refuse, take this as a warning sign and move on.

Because there are so many freelance contractors looking for work online, you hold all the cards. So clearly define some fair and reasonable parameters for communications. This will go a long way to maintaining healthy relations between yourself and your contractor, and boost the chances of a quality project outcome.

5. Oh no, things didn’t work out…

The most common reasons freelance projects don’t work out include the following:

  • Poorly scoped project parameters
  • Inconsistent communication
  • The contractor exaggerated their skill set

The good news is all of these problems can be easily overcome. Firstly, by ensuring you have a legally binding agreement with the contractor stating the costs, project outcomes and timelines which need to be met, you’ll go a long way to avoiding any problems during your project timeline.

Again, if your contractor is not willing to agree to some fairly straightforward project terms and conditions, this is a major warning sign, so move on.

By ensuring you scope the project clearly, research the candidate properly, and implement a reasonable set of communication guidelines along with some clearly documented legal terms and conditions, you’ll find the freelancing process online to be one of the most effective tools your business can take advantage of.

Paul Dunstone is the chief executive officer of freelance marketplace JobStock.com. Job Stock boasts over 250 categories of work where freelancers can seek employment opportunities online. Paul is also the editor of the Job Stock blog which is an essential guide for freelance news, tips and discussion. 

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