I love hiring.
Except when I hate it.
It’s frustrating, but when you find the right candidate it’s suddenly all worth it.
The difficult part is finding the right candidate.
Of course you know that.
I Wish I’d Known this Before
The first time I hired a freelancer to do a complex job things went wrong. He didn’t complete the project and I lost $500. The second time was almost as bad. Now after a year of hiring strangers from freelancing websites I’m finally getting the hang of it.
The fact that you’re reading this article means you need to hire a stranger and I want you to avoid my expensive mistakes. Most of us will start by looking at the most popular freelancing marketplaces.
Let me summarise what you are likely to find after spending a few hours on the Internet reading reviews of these sites, like this one, written by business owners. So top three facts:
- It’s really hard to find great freelancers.
- The cheaper the freelancer the worse the result.
- Choosing the right platform can make a difference.
None of this is going to surprise you greatly.
Flip things around and read reviews written by freelancers you get a very different perspective (for example this reviews by 1st Web Designer). So top three facts I learnt:
- The charges a marketplace imposes on a freelancer impacts where they advertise and search for jobs.
- Most freelancers try to get clients through personal sites as well as freelancing websites.
- It’s hard for a good freelancer to get business from a big marketplace, because of how cheap the competition is.
There’s a lot to say about perspective. While the charges imposed on a freelancer isn’t something I’d think about as an employer, I can understand why it’s one of the first things a freelancer will think about. This knowledge is useful and will help you find alternative websites to find freelancers.
Of course what’s good for the freelancer isn’t always the best thing for you. For instance both Envato Studio, Codeable take a big chunk of a freelancers wages. However, these sites are peer reviewed and only experienced freelancers are featured.
Whatever marketplace you do choose, you need to find the right candidate.
Now let’s get hiring.
Every project starts with a clear job description. Before you write anything, think about how you’d explain the project to a friend. The description should be precise and easy to understand. Ideally you want to summarise the key points in no more than two paragraphs.
After you’ve completed your job description you’ll face the first of many options, how to find your perfect candidate. I personally always make my projects public. Then to increase my chance of getting the right candidate I’ll also do selective headhunting.
2) Shortlisting Candidates
As soon as you post your project you will start getting applicants for your project. The number of applicants is usually directly proportional to the budget, however even with small projects you can expect 30+ applicants. Overlooking the headhunting for a minute, shortlisting that many candidates will take you a lot of time.
The first problem you are likely to face is yourself. Freelancing websites make you feel like a child in a sweet shop. You will get applicants responding to your ad with budgets that you weren’t expecting. Some of these quotes will be so low that you can almost hear your Bank Manager telling you how much of a genius you are.
Hiring the wrong candidate will cost you time and money. The best way to find the right candidate is to spend time doing background research. This doesn’t need to be complicated, but it is time consuming. Some of the key things I would recommend you do include:
- Check feedback from previous clients (don’t be afraid to actually email these clients if it’s a big project).
- Review the project history of the freelancer.
- Pay attention to the repeat rate for clients, the number of hours worked and money earned.
I’d suggest setting some base criteria to help you shortlist candidates quickly if you have a lot of applications. For instance you can set arbitrary minimum targets, like 5.0 star candidates that have worked a minimum of 50 hours. Choose whatever criteria you are comfortable with and fit your project needs.
3) Prepare for the Interview
Once you’ve found a few possible candidates create a short list of no more than ten people to interview.
Every time I hire a freelancer I do a Skype interview. There are a lot of basic reasons for this. For example you can check language skills, find out if they have a good Internet connection and find out how punctual they are. Here are a few of the things I do when preparing for an interview.
- Upload all of the files related to the project to Dropbox.
- List the questions you want to ask (sometimes you will forget a question during an interview.
- Draw up a list of questions the candidate should be asking you and then try and answer them.
Even though preparation is a small thing, it does have a big impact. Being prepared makes you look more professional (there are two people in the interview). It also means you can get the best out of the interviewee.
When you’re doing an interview, don’t fall into the trap of doing all of the talking. Get the candidate to summarise the project in his or her own words after you have explained it.
Also, pay attention to the questions they ask. Be worried if the person that you are interviewing doesn’t ask you lots of questions. In fact, if they don’t ask any questions I’d suggest hiring someone else.
The Importance of Testing Your Candidate
Think you found the perfect candidate?
Great. Now prepare a test.
A test doesn’t need to be difficult; it just needs to reassure you that the freelancer can do what they said the job.
You can make the test the first milestone of your project. If they don’t pass the test or hit the deadline then fire them immediately. Yeah. That sounds harsh, but trust me, it’s probably for the best.
You want your hired help to grow your business, but all too often that help becomes a headache. I can’t guarantee that by following my advice you’ll hire the right candidate, but I do know setting up a clear system for hiring people will reduce the chance of getting the wrong candidate. Good luck with your project.
P. S. If you’re developing a premium product then check out this six-figure guide to finding affiliates (we used this very strategy to sell $600,000 of software in 10 days).
P.P.S. If you are interested in how hiring processes are likely to develop in the future, check out this article from The Guardian newspaper. It’s a really interesting piece on how companies are starting to use big data in the hiring process. Definitely worth a read.