How To Hire Freelancers on Upwork: The Ultimate Guide
Sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to hire a full-time employee or it’s just not possible. But there’s still work to be done and innovation to unleash. That’s why most (66%) hiring managers who engage independent talent say they plan to use more freelancers over the next two years.
The thing is, companies aren’t using more freelancers only because they can’t add headcount. They’re using freelancers because it’s a fast way to access the best people with highly demanded and ultra-niche skills.
But not every team is rushing to hire freelancers.
After all, how do you know you have the right person? Can you trust them with company data? Will they do as good a job? Heck, will they even deliver on time?
These are all common and totally valid concerns. As when hiring full-time employees, there are a wide range of choices. After 25+ years of helping businesses expand their capabilities and innovate faster with independent talent, we at Upwork learned what works and what doesn’t.
This article covers how we guide clients to confidently hire the right freelancers for any project. It breaks down to these six steps:
- Define a budget
- Create a job description
- Find the best freelancer
- Assess the freelancer
- Hire the freelancer
- Create and sign a contract
Step-by-step guide to hiring a freelancer:
1. Define a budget
Before starting a search, set a realistic budget for the work you want done. Keep in mind that many freelancers are business owners; they pay their own taxes, insurance, and overhead. So their hourly rates may be slightly higher than an employee’s.
When estimating project costs, think about all of the deliverables you expect, then set a fair price. If you’re unsure what’s fair, ask your network how they price similar projects. You could also look at related job posts online for ideas.
Know that hourly rates can span a wide range, mainly due to the talent’s experience level and where they’re located. A 3D animator in Paris, France may have a different rate than one with equal experience in Paris, Texas.
We all have limited budgets, but choosing the lowest-priced person may not be a sound strategy. If you engage someone to write an article then end up spending 10 hours of your time communicating back and forth and editing multiple drafts, how much are you really saving? Especially when you compare it to hiring someone who may charge a few bucks more, but they get it right the first time with minimal edits.
Of course, a higher rate doesn’t guarantee quality work either. So, be sure to budget enough time to carefully vet each person.
[See also: The Costs of Hiring a Freelancer vs. In-House Employee]
2. Create a job description
Understand that independent professionals want to do a great job. Not only because they’re passionate about what they do, but also because the better they perform, the higher their chances of getting more work.
That’s why when they peruse a list of job posts, they’re looking for projects they believe they’ll enjoy and do well. The clearer you are about expectations and deliverables, the better able they can determine whether they’re a good fit, so you receive more qualified responses. And the more details they receive upfront, the more accurate their proposal will be.
But don’t worry, crafting a winning job post is straightforward. You don’t need a full job description; those are only needed for employment. Here’s what a project post should include:
- Project start and end dates
- A description of the work you want performed
- Deliverables you wish to receive and deadlines if applicable
- Payment terms (fixed price or hourly)
What a bad job post looks like
Image source: Upwork
What a good job post looks like
Image source: Upwork
For more examples and tips, check out: How to Post a Job on Upwork
Remember to have fun with your post. It’s good to show your personality so they know what it may be like working with you. And don’t hold back asking for everything you want—ask for your “purple squirrel”—as Kevin Scott, Head of Technology at PGA of America found:
“We were trying to find somebody who had a combination of skills that nobody in their right mind should actually have. We found one person [on Upwork]. And that one person was the purple squirrel we were chasing down. It was absolutely mind boggling. And he crushed it. Ever since then, we’ve been finding all kinds of great folks on the platform.”
3. Find the best freelancer
Technology makes it so much easier to find skilled independent professionals located anywhere in the world. Here are some of the most popular ways to find the best freelancer for a project:
- Ask “Who do you know?” Ask your work and personal network for referrals. Consider asking for people they’ve worked with in the past and had positive results, so you can get more quality referrals.
- Reach out on job boards. Yes, these people are looking for a full-time job, but if you find someone qualified, it may be worth asking if they’d consider taking on a project. The risk here is that if they find a job mid project, they may not be able to finish the work.
- Post on social networks. A large percentage of businesses are using social media to broadcast job openings. It can be an effective way to target specific audiences and expand your talent pool. One caveat: It may take more back and forth communicating a project and vetting the candidate.
- Hop on a freelance platform. Hiring platforms make it easy for you to act as your own staffing agency, but better. Upwork designed such an efficient platform that clients say they find talent faster, get better quality matches, and receive higher quality work. Compared to a staffing agency, Upwork delivers it all with less work and at a savings.
4. Assess the freelancer
No matter what the skill and project, you can evaluate if someone’s the right match within two steps. Of course, the length and detail of each step depends on the work expected and your needs. For example, if you’re hiring a freelancer to develop a mobile app for a large marketing campaign, you may go through a more involved vetting process than if you’re engaging a specialist to translate a blog post.
Step 1: Create a shortlist
Here’s where you review the project proposals generated from your job post. Toss out any proposals that don’t meet your list of requirements or leave you underwhelmed.
Here’s another trick to quickly pare down a stack of proposals: Include a small test in the job post, like asking talent to include the word blue in the first line of their cover letter. No blue? Toss. What’s more, the test also indicates how well they follow directions and pay attention to details.
TIP: If you’re sourcing through a freelance platform, you can gather more qualified proposals by filtering for specific requirements and inviting those who stand out to check out your job post.
Upwork provides an additional rating feature, which enables you to quickly isolate the best within a certain tier.
Image source: Upwork
Step 2: Conduct a video interview
Phone interviews are fine when video isn’t available. But most freelancers work remotely, so this may be the only time you’ll ever “meet” the person. When you conduct a video interview, you can gain a better sense of the person’s abilities and fit than just talking to them over the phone.
Here’s what to look for during an interview:
- They can complete the project on time. Chances are, they’re working with other clients while taking on your project. Do they seem capable of juggling lots of moving pieces and are self-motivated?
- They get it. What’s their approach to the project and how would they handle any unforeseen bumps in the road?
- They’re experienced. Have they worked in a similar sized project? Are they familiar with the industry?
If you can’t decide between the final two or three people, consider offering them a small, paid project. For a more accurate comparison of work quality and communication style, offer each one the same project.
5. Hire the freelancer
Congratulations, you found the ideal person! Now it’s time to offer the project to them and iron out details.
When discussing project details, understand that both of you are negotiating an agreement that covers when the person can start, what they’ll deliver, when those deliverables are expected, and payment terms. Unlike an employee, you don’t manage or tell freelancers how to do their work, they control all that themselves.
A helpful way to think about this is to focus on what you want, not how it’s done. Remember, independent professionals are running a business. When you go to a business, you expect them to deliver a product or service within an agreed timeframe and price, but you don’t tell them how to do it, right?
What you can do is get super clear about expectations. This is the time to provide related work examples and share project-related documentation. If the individual requires access to internal systems, try to have their permissions set up so they can be productive from day one.
[Read: How to Create a Foundation for Security When Working with Remote Talent]
6. Create and sign a contract
Make your agreement official with a contract. Good contracts are detailed, yet concise so they’re very clear. Your contract not only protects the business and the talent, it also serves as proof to the IRS that you’re not violating any worker classification laws.
Here are the 10 essential information that should be included in most contracts:
- Names, contact information, date
- Role (deliverables and responsibilities)
- Payment terms (fixed price or hourly?)
- Deadlines (include milestones)
- Who owns the work
- Confidential information clause
- Independent contractor terms (what the client won’t do nor provide the talent)
- Limitation of liability
- Termination terms
- Indemnity clause
Drafting contracts can take up a huge chunk of your day, especially if you’re engaging several people at a time. Upwork saves time by automatically creating a contract based on the job post and other details. Once you click “hire,” the contract’s immediately generated.
This is just one of many ways Upwork, the largest work marketplace, purposefully engineered its platform so that anyone can find the right person and start getting work done right away. In fact, many clients say they have found talent and got projects started the same day.
How to hire a freelancer on Upwork in 5 steps
Step 1: Sign up
If you haven’t already, sign up to instantly join Upwork and access its global talent pool. Remember, your profile is as much of an ad for attracting independent talent as their profiles are designed to attract you. So create a good profile and have fun with it. Be natural, show your personality and the company’s culture to give a sense of what it’s like working with you.
Step 2: Post a job
Now that you signed up, it’s time to post a job. You don’t need to be skilled at crafting a winning job post, as the platform will guide you step by step. Even easier than posting a job, check out these two faster ways to get work started:
Project Catalog™: Prepackaged projects at a set price
Need a Shopify store? An augmented reality app? A social media campaign? If you know exactly what you need, but you’re not sure how to get it done, hop over to Upwork’s Project Catalog. There, you’ll find projects at a fixed price, which takes the guesswork out of budgeting, knowing what skills you need, and figuring out what the deliverables look like.
Talent Scout™: Hire the best without doing the legwork
The most time-consuming part of finding the best of the best talent is searching, qualifying, and interviewing people. So, we’ll do it for you. When you use Talent Scout, our recruiters vet the very best developers, designers, marketers, and creatives on our platform, then deliver a hand-selected shortlist to you. There are no fees for the service and you save up to 50% compared to traditional staffing agencies.
Step 3: Review proposals
Shortly after you post a job, Upwork’s system uses data science to review the millions of highly skilled freelancers on Upwork and serve up a shortlist of people based on their skills and your job post. Choose the ones who look promising and invite them to look at your job post.
You can also use Upwork’s AI-powered filtering system to select your own criteria and generate a list of quality talent. Then invite who you want to submit a proposal for your job post.
Step 4: Conduct an interview
All from one place, you can use built-in collaboration tools to invite talent for an interview. Then conduct them via an Upwork video or voice call, internet phone call, or Zoom meeting.
Step 5: Get started
After you select the perfect talent, simply click “hire” on their proposal. This automatically creates the contract offer and enables you to pay them with a single click. That’s it! They’re ready to start working.
Hiring a freelancer is similar to hiring an employee in that you must find, vet, interview, then hire them. Only with freelancers, it can be easier.
Upwork immediately expands your talent pool to as far as you’d like to look. And removes the obstacles to getting all the help you need by significantly streamlining all of the administrative work associated with onboarding and paying talent. Upwork is how Adrienne Young, Lead Art Director at Amway, produced a global video series across five countries—without ever leaving her home office. She said:
“We can go to Upwork for exactly what we need, no matter what the scope requires. It has changed the way we get work done every day.”
Don’t let resource limitations keep your team from achieving at its full potential. See what’s possible with Upwork.