The Top 5 Problems When Hiring Freelancers (And How To Solve Them)
Some call them as remote workers, others refer to them as freelancers and they are also known as contract employees; irrespective of what you call them, the population of independent workers is on an unprecedented rise.
What this means for business owners is that they have more hiring options than ever in addition to recruiting standard employees. However, working with a freelancer is a lot different than the typical employer-employee relationship. The entire process of hiring and managing a freelancer takes place over the internet which is in contrast to the physical communication that is involved with a traditional employee. As a result of the restricted means of communication, some barriers are introduced while evaluating and interacting with freelancers. This, in turn, leads to several problems when hiring and working with freelancers.
What are these problems? And how do you deal with them? That’s what we will be covering today.
Problem 1 - Finding the right talent is a nightmare
There are over 60 million freelancers in the world. Let’s say you are looking for a graphic designer and there are one million of those in the world. A million designers mean a million choices. Of course, you wouldn’t be going through a million portfolios but you get the idea of how many choices you have. And as we know from the psychological phenomenon of overchoice, the greater the number of equivalent choices we have, the harder it gets for us to make a decision.
Choosing a freelancer might seem daunting but it isn’t too tough of a task. Here are some steps that you can follow to solve this problem:
- Hire pre-vetted talent: This is the easiest solution but the most expensive one. You can leave it to a third party to scrounge the right talent for you. The third party will provide you with a talent that has been screened (that is, the talent has undergone skill and communication tests) and you can interview the candidate and hire them. A pre-vetted talent is amongst the most elite in the world. Because of this reason (and the fact that the selection process was performed by another party), you will have to shell out more bucks.
- Ignore short responses: A candidate who sends a one- or two-line response to your job post means that they either sent you a copy-paste reply that they spam every job post with or they aren’t interested in your project. In the case of the latter, the candidate didn’t bother to prepare a detailed reply which means that they might not have even gone through your job post properly. Such applicants can be hard to trust and therefore must be ignored.
- Check sample work, past projects & feedback: In most cases, you can get an idea of the freelancer’s abilities by going through their work and employer feedback. Most freelancing portals have sections for the same. While browsing through reviews, make a note of the date of the review (this will tell you how experienced the freelancer is) and the number of ratings (this tells how many projects the freelancer has taken and their frequency). The five-star ratings will mention the attributes and the qualities past employers found the best in the freelancer.
- Be clear in your head: Before you go about making a job post, make sure you know what you want. For example, if your job post mentions a requirement for a graphic designer, you will attract applications from illustrators, brand designers, vector artists and package designers. You might want an illustrator but you will get responses from all types of designers because you weren’t specific in your job post. So, when writing a job post, be as descriptive of your requirements as possible and mention the specifications of the attributes you desire (for example, you might want someone with an experience of at least 3 years). A detailed and specific job description will result in lesser applications, thereby making the choice of a freelancer easier.
Problem 2 - Dubious Freelancers
When choosing between freelancers (given they have equivalent skill level), their rates and ratings become the deciding factors. And with millions of freelancers in the business, there is fierce competition to attract the limited number of clients. In addition, the sophisticated algorithms of online hiring platforms use the combination of ratings and rates to rank freelancers across search results.
To get in the radar of an employer, a remote worker must rank high in search results and for that to happen, the worker must have a large number of positive reviews and a competitive per hour rate. For those workers who are freshly starting out, it has become tougher than ever to break the cutthroat competition. So, what do such workers do?
For getting a positive appraisal, the independent worker must have a project in hand, and to get that, the worker lowers his (or her) hourly rate for the first few projects.
The freelance market is a mixed bag of all types of people: established professionals, aspiring professionals, amateurs who thought of ‘freelancing’ as a cool word, and shady people who are trying to rip off employers. We know that quality and cost go hand-in-hand, so the best freelancers will charge a lot, and those with lower skill levels and malicious intent will have lesser rates. But as we have seen, there will be some aspiring freelancing professionals with a good skill set at the lower end. However, searching for such freelancers can be extremely time-consuming.
We have some tips which will help you stay wary of amateurs and dubious freelancers:
- Avoid freelancers who charge ridiculously low: Before you hire a freelancer, you must make a note of the average rate by looking at what other freelancers of the same niche are charging. If you come across a worker who is charging extremely low, it is likely that the worker is a defrauder. Even if a talent is starting out as a freelancer, they aren’t going to outrageously drop their rates.
- Hire verified freelancers: Most freelancing portals now verify the identities of their workers using a government identity card, video call and other means. If the profile of a freelancer is verified, you will see a blue or green checkmark next to their name.
- Ask for sample work, resume: As mentioned before, you can tell whether a worker is authentic by looking at their profile. The resume will consist of skill details and the experience the freelancer has had, while on the other hand, the work samples will tell you how good of a work the freelancer can do. Another way to evaluate the freelancer is to hire them for a very short duration, have them do a short task and judge them on its basis.
If you want to avoid this problem entirely, you can hire pre-screened talent whose identity, skill level, work quality and communication abilities have already been verified.
Problem 3 - Managing freelancers, deadlines and work quality
This is the most widespread problem and the reason why many companies don’t want to engage with remote talent. The aim isn’t to scare you off but rather explain the scale of the problem. There are several organisations who are successfully working with freelancers and they are a testimony that this is a solvable problem. We will tell you how you can avoid this problem but first let’s see what the problem is.
Unlike a traditional employee who only works on what the boss asks him to do, a freelancer is his own boss. The rules that a company employee will have to adhere to won’t be applicable to a freelancer. Many companies have a clause in their hiring contracts that their permanent employee cannot have another job in the same industry at the same time. The rationale behind the clause, as you would have guessed, is to safeguard the intellectual property and keep the employee focussed on one thing (psychology says humans are bad at multitasking).
So far, we haven’t come across any hiring contract mention the non-compete clause. This means that a freelancer may work on several projects at the same time. As a positive for the freelancer, he has multiple sources for income; but the downside for the company is that the freelancer won’t be giving his entire attention to the project he has been asked to work upon. Instead, if a more exciting (or profitable) project comes along the way, the freelancer might dump the former project in favour of the latter.
Additionally, the lack of exclusivity may mean that the company won’t share its IP with the freelancer which limits the jobs a freelancer can do. However, this is changing lately with the onset of remote development teams.
Also, in contrast to the permanent employee, an independent worker doesn’t work in the company’s office space. The worker is usually connected to their manager through the internet, video chat or via voice call. Because of the limited modes of communication and the restricted ways to reach the freelancer, it becomes hard for the manager to answer questions such as ‘how is the worker feeling about this project’, ‘is the worker in a productive state of mind’, ‘how can I motivate the worker to do better’. A demotivated worker will find it harder to meet deadlines and deliver quality work.
“Prevention is better than cure,” Desiderius Erasmus said. Now that we know what the problem is, let us look at how you can avoid it in the first place:
- Set firm ground rules: Before you start working with the freelancer, ask them how they are comfortable working and what are your expectations off them. This should include how frequently they shall update you with progress, deadlines, which communication channel will you use, how many hours per day (or week) do you expect them to work and more. The more questions you ask, the clearer things will be. There would be lesser room for thought to assume things and there would be even better chances of great results. And don’t be afraid, freelancers are just as willing to communicate as you are. After all, you are paying them. Some employers prefer to have all these questions answered in their writing but your mileage may vary.
- Focus on building relationships: While freelancing is about working on short projects, we have had many clients return to the same talent time and again. If an employer is happy with the work of a talent, they will surely him again rather than repeat the time-consuming process of searching a remote talent and then hiring them. When working with a remote talent, you should aim at establishing a long-term working relationship with them. Letting the worker know that you might hire them again in the future will make them feel secure and motivate them to work harder.
- Effective Communication: If you observe carefully, the first two steps are about improving your communication with the freelancer. It is vital that you communicate with the worker at every stage including initiation and execution. We have already discussed the first stage. For execution, when the worker sends you the first project sample, give them feedback so that the next deliverable is in line with what you want. As mentioned before, the more you write, the better it will be. Make sure you are polite and patient whilst communicating.
- Curated Talent & Payment Security: There are hiring platforms, such as ours, which curate talent and screen them for their communication and working abilities. That way you wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of evaluating the talent. In addition, we offer a project manager across all our plans who ensures a smooth workflow and thorough communication. And with payment security, you can be sure that your money doesn’t go waste. In case you aren’t satisfied with the worker you hire, we shall either provide you with a free replacement or give you a complete money refund.
Problem 4 - Handling the differences in time zones, language
Thanks to the internet becoming cheaper, freelancers across the globe can collaborate with any employer in the world. While this helps in widening the choices of who you can hire, the variations in time zones and language can be tricky to handle.
The differences in language should be addressed right at the beginning. You must only hire those remote workers with whom you can communicate and who know the language in which the work has to be delivered. It is a general understanding that freelancers must be proficient in English but it is likely you will come across someone from a non-English-speaking country who isn’t too good in the language. While interviewing the freelancer, you should decide whether their knowledge of English is acceptable.
As for the variations in time zones, we have highlighted some steps that you can take:
- Stick to a common reference point: To avoid confusion, it is recommended that you and the worker stick to a single time zone while communicating. The common base will alleviate confusion and make it easier to decide on meeting timings and deadlines. The global reference time zone is GMT. Here is a time zone converter which you can use.
- Decide meeting times which are comfortable for you and the freelancer: It might be daytime for you when it is the opposite for the worker. In case of a time difference around 12 hours, either you or the worker may have to schedule the meeting outside the working hours. Make sure the time you decide isn’t too late (or too early) for yourself or the worker.
Problem 5 - Lack of trust
When you hire a talent, you place faith in them. If you are hiring for a project, you hope the freelancer will get the job done on time; in case of a new business, you share your idea with the freelancer and hope they won’t betray your trust; and when companies share their intellectual property, they hope the freelancer won’t misuse it. Is it alright to trust a random stranger on the internet?
Many freelancers also demand a partial payment in advance for their services. Can you trust the freelancer with your money?
Trust builds over time and online hiring platforms understand this. Several platforms offer payment security and partial payments (payment is released to the worker in parts as stages of the projects are completed) to help protect your money.
There are clauses for confidentiality and intellectual property in the terms of service agreement of the hiring platform which protect the information you share with the worker and grant you rights to the content produced by the freelancer.
If implemented correctly, freelancers can be a great asset to your company. They can not only help you save overhead costs but also make it easy for you to expand your business. What comes in the way, though, is the process of hiring and managing freelancers. The process can be painful but it only feels so in the beginning. Once you get past the initial phase, it is smooth sailing.
Looking for a freelancer is the most time-consuming part of the process. You must decide how much time and money you can devote into selecting a worker. On the basis of those two parameters, you can either hire a pre-screened talent or go about searching for a freelancer on your own. The latter option will take a lot of your time so you will have to be patient.
The most important aspect while hiring (and managing) freelancers is communication. You only run into issues with remote workers when communication is lacking at either end. So, it is really important that you make your expectations clear to the worker and hear the same from them. The more you can describe what you want, the better the results will be. Additionally, it is vital for you as the employer to stay involved at every stage. You must give constant feedback to the worker to drive the project in the right direction. Effective and constant communication is the key here.
We also saw that you must choose your hiring platform wisely. A platform - such as HireCream - which provides pre-vetted talent and payment security should solve all of the aforementioned problems. To learn more about our services, click here.
There isn’t any problem related to freelancers that you can’t solve. If you go about things in the right manner, you can reap a lot of benefits by hiring freelancers.