If you’re getting to the point with your business where you need an extra pair of hands but aren’t quite ready to add your first employee, you might want to hire a freelancer.
Freelancers are different to employees in a few significant ways, so we’ll go over those then help you with how to hire one.
Freelancers are self-employed workers who usually work from home or their own premises, and tend to work for a number of different clients on different projects, often at the same time.
You’re most likely to find freelancers in creative industries, such as writing, design, photography, and web development.
Because freelancers are self-employed, you don’t need to worry about many of the issues that arise when you first start taking on employees. Freelancers take care of their own tax and NI contributions, and you’re not required to take out employers' liability insurance if you hire them.
If you’ve done a Google search, you’ve probably found a number of sites offering to match you with a freelancer - PeoplePerHour, Guru, Upwork, and, unsurprisingly, Freelancer.com often appear near the top.
However, before you decide all your hiring problems are solved, it’s worth taking a deeper look. A lot of the adverts on sites like this offer very low rates - while this might be great for those who are just starting out, experienced freelancers often avoid such sites for that very reason.
One way around this is to advertise on other job sites such as Reed, Indeed, and CV Library. Though these sites aren’t geared specifically towards freelancers, because they’re not known for having job postings with very low rates, they can be a lot more appealing to the people you’re looking to hire.
It’s also worth using your professional network to find someone. If other small business owners can recommend a freelancer to you, then you’ll be able to get a better insight into whether they’ll be a good fit for your needs.
It can be hard to know how much to pay a freelancer when rates vary so much. Some will charge as little as £10 per hour, while others expect well into the hundreds.
One of the most important things to do is assess your budget. If you can’t afford to hire a more expensive freelancer then you can dismiss any freelancers who charge over a certain amount.
With freelancers, it’s worth keeping in mind that you often get what you pay for. If you’re only willing to pay minimum wage, then you’re likely to end up with someone who’s either very new to their profession or still a student, and the quality of the work they produce may not be what you were hoping for.
Additionally, it can be beneficial to build up a good working relationship with a freelancer, so that if and when you need their skills again you’ll know exactly where to go. Those with very low rates will often increase them as time goes by, so if you want to keep paying a very low rate then you’re unlikely to be able to hire the same person for multiple projects.
If you’re still unsure, the best bet is to talk to the person you’re considering hiring, work out exactly what they offer for what amount of money, and take it from there.
Much like hiring a permanent employee, you may want to interview your prospective freelancer before deciding whether or not to to hire them.
The interview process may be slightly different to what you’d use for a permanent employee, though - you’re more likely to be finding out whether you could work well together, and checking if the type of work that freelancer does is appropriate for your project.
You could also ask them to complete a smaller piece of work for you so you can assess the quality of what they produce and how smooth the process is. Some freelancers will do speculative work, but many won’t, and can be turned off a prospective client if asked to work for free.
Ultimately, the right person will depend on you, your project, and your budget, and it may take a bit of searching before you find someone who’s a good fit.
Once you’ve found the right person, it’s important that you get the right paperwork in place. Having a contract means that both you and the freelancer you hire are legally protected should things go south at any point.
Say you pay half of the cost of the project up front, but then the freelancer disappears. If you have a contract then they can be held legally accountable. It can be risky for small businesses and freelancers to work without a contact in place, so it’s a good idea to make sure you have one signed before any work begins or money changes hands.
How have you found hiring a freelancer? Let us know in the comments.
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