Hiring your first freelancer can be a nerve-wracking process but knowing the common mistakes ensures that it’s less likely to happen.

They may not be a permanent addition to your team but choosing the wrong freelancer can be a costly error for any employer. If you’re a small business owner that’s looking to hire a freelancer, it’s natural to feel nervous about botching the selection process.

To put your mind at ease, here are seven common pitfalls to watch out for when hiring a freelancer, as well as handy instructions on how to avoid them.

Providing an unclear brief

It’s all very well to have a clear idea in your head, but if your brief sets ambiguous expectations it will be impossible for even the most capable freelancer to meet your needs. Lack of detail or careless wording when describing your vision will inevitably lead to misunderstandings and an end result that’s completely divorced from your actual goal.

To pre-empt this, construct a written brief that details exactly what you need your freelancer to do, being as detailed as possible about the project’s deliverables, timeline and skillset required. By clearly communicating from the off, you’ll save valuable time and leave no room for miscommunications.

Hiring the cheapest option

This is a tempting impulse, especially for a small company that’s trying to cut costs. However, if you’re offering a stingy fee you can expect cheap quality results, and may even need to have the work re-done to a higher standard.

Make sure you get the best freelancer that your budget can account for

It’s best to research what the industry standard rate for this kind of work is, and establish a budget that’s affordable for you, but high enough to ensure quality results and speedy delivery. Be willing to pay what the work is worth. It’s fairer to your freelancer and the results will be well worth the investment.

Hiring under pressure

It’s easy to leave things to the last-minute, but hiring a freelancer under the pressure of a looming deadline is running the risk of disaster.

Employers often book the first available freelancer they can find, without taking the time to ensure they’re fully suitable- and learn too late that their new hire has the wrong qualifications or availabilities for the project. It’s best to carefully vet a few freelancers in advance of the time you’ll need them, so you know exactly who to contact when the time comes. This can be done yourself or with the help of a specialist agency.

Skipping the formalities

It’s common for employers to view their freelance hiring as a loose and casual arrangement. In reality, skipping the formalities will only come back to haunt you in the long run.

“Skipping formalities will come back to haunt you in the long run”

To protect against future disputes, be sure to sign all necessary documentation with your freelancer, from the contract to any non-disclosure or non-compete agreements you need from them. It’s also essential to retain ownership of all assets involved in your project, in case edits or further work are required after your freelancer has moved on.

Committing too early

It’s exciting when your search turns up a perfect candidate, but important to check they’re not too good to be true.

You wouldn’t take a permanent hire’s CV at face value and skip the interview process, so don’t do it with a freelancer. As remote workers often won’t be available for a face-to-face interview, consider a video call or work with an agency that can vouch for them.

Test the waters by offering them a small test project to get a sense of their work. This is your chance to gauge their personality, so get to know them. This will help you avoid choosing someone who’s great on paper, but all wrong for your business in practice.

Last-minute dropouts

It’s every employer’s worst nightmare: your freelancer flakes the day before a project, or down the line they pull a vanishing act and stop responding to messages. In either case, your time and money has disappeared down the drain.

While you can’t micromanage a freelancer, there are precautions you can take. Be clear and consistent when communicating deadlines and use a contract to ensure your freelancer takes things seriously.

Be clear with freelancers when it comes to deadlines

Don’t pay the full fee all at once. Instead, give a deposit and use milestone payments when key deadlines are hit. You should also consider working with a freelance agency – they only work with candidates they can trust. If a dropout does occur, they’ll have a pipeline of replacements waiting in the wings.

Mistreating your freelancer

One of the biggest mistakes you can make as a freelance employer is forgetting to treat them well. They may not be a permanent hire, but they are still part of your team and you shouldn’t mess them around by ignoring their messages or failing to pay them on time.

Also, you may be the boss but it’s important to recognise that you don’t know it all. You’ve brought this freelancer on as an expert in their field, so be open to suggestions and value their insight. Excellence is hard to come by and if a freelancer feels underappreciated you may lose a valuable asset.

By heeding these tips on hiring a freelancer, you have a much better chance of getting the end results that you’re after. Save yourself time, money and stress in your quest to hire the right freelancer.

Lucy Brem is a content writer at Yellow Cat.

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