How to Find a Freelancer Perfect for You

Every now and then I receive an email that goes something like this: “I’m looking to hire a freelance writer. What are your rates?” This is not the way to find a freelancer that will be a good fit for your organization.

Finding the right freelancer means finding someone who will understand your goals, make your job easier and build a lasting partnership with you and your organization. The next time you’re searching for a freelancer—whether it’s a writer, editor, photographer, designer, social media strategist, marketing consultant or some other expert—follow these tips: A detective using a magnifying glass walks along a street, examining footprints on the floor. He is smoking a pipe, and holding a notebook behind his back.

1. Ask your network.

Getting personal recommendations from friends and colleagues is often the best way to start gathering names. Ask for recommendations on industry discussion boards and send a blast email to a small group of selected in-the-know colleagues (not everyone on your email list).

Ask colleagues in other departments. You may be in the communications department, but marketing, book publishing and meetings might have a list of freelancers they’ve worked with. I also recommend asking on your personal Facebook page; you never know who your college classmates and fellow parents know.

2. Search LinkedIn.

Search phrases such as “freelance photographer in D.C.” Freelancers good at marketing will have optimized their LinkedIn page to meet your search—and will have kept their profiles updated. Check out their LinkedIn recommendations (not the “check-box” endorsements) to see what previous clients and colleagues have said.

3. Google them.

Once you have a name, browse their website (hopefully they have one and it’s updated!) to view their portfolio and services but also to get a flavor for their personality and whether it might match yours. Go 3–4 pages deep on Google to see what other articles pop up. You will likely see some of their portfolio, but you might also find articles where they’ve been quoted as an expert in their industry.

4. Email candidates.

Briefly explain your industry and the type of work or specific project you need someone for. You want to make sure they are a potential fit before you schedule a phone call so that you don’t waste yours or their time. I made this mistake early in my freelance career, setting up phone calls with members of a team only to find out they were looking for a marketing copy writer, not a magazine feature writer.

5. Ask their rates.

But only ask their rates once you have an idea of a project or can explain what your assignments typically look like. A freelancer may also ask you “what’s your budget?” to get an idea if they’re in the ballpark to even consider the project. This is not just about you hiring someone. They need to choose you as well.

And please don’t be devoted to paying only hourly rates. Sometimes hourly rates make the most sense (especially when the project is still evolving), but some freelancers prefer project rates, or, for writers, per-word rates. Consider this: If you hire a less-experienced freelancer at an hourly rate, they will likely just naturally be a little slower since they’re newer and yet they will earn more—and you will pay more—than if you hired a more experienced freelancer at an hourly rate. That doesn’t make sense for either side.

6. Share your process and goals.

For example, if you are a membership association that requires freelancer writers to send portions or all of a draft to the sources before sending it to you, tell them. This is a no-no in journalism, and some writers might balk at this or at least be unfamiliar with its acceptance in content marketing. You may have other requests or requirements that might be unique—but acceptable—to the freelancer, and they should be discussed upfront.

Finding a freelancer takes a little bit of effort, but developing a lasting, successful partnership with the right person is well worth investing your time.

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