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Six Quick Tips To Hire The Perfect Freelancer For Your Project

Nov 15, 2007
Millions of business entrepreneurs across the Internet tap into freelance marketplaces to hire freelancers for their projects. In fact, the freelance/outsourcing model is becoming more popular to do business in the 21st century. It allows all parties (entrepreneurs and freelancers) to work out of their homes. It exposes both buyers and sellers to the choices available in the global marketplace across international boundaries. Best of all, it is a direct trade of skill for money, without all that bogus bureaucracy getting in the way.

For instance, you don't have to worry about the employee having a green card or providing their tax information, as the freelance site does this for you. While you can ask for evidence of credentials such as diplomas and certificates, the real thing that counts is whether the freelancer you're hiring can do the work. The freelance marketplace allows you to evaluate freelancers by their work and not their resume.

There are dozens of freelance marketplace websites out there. Some notable ones include:

Rent-A-Coder (http://www.rentacoder.com)

The original and one of the best. Not just for coders (as in programmers) anymore, the site is a thriving resource to find writers, graphic artists, web designers, and any other creative worker whose field involves computer technology as a medium.

eLance (http://www.elance.com)

One of the most comprehensive. eLance offers many of the same kinds of freelancers as Rent-A-Coder, plus a focus on consultants. Also a hugely popular and established site.

iFreeLance (http://www.ifreelance.com/)

A newer market, but one which has risen to some popularity. Slightly more upscale than the others, with an apparent focus on smaller jobs.

The way a freelance marketplace website works is:

1. Sellers (providers) register with the site. Just like with any job, they submit a resume and usually have some kind of program through which they are certified.

2. Buyers (that's you) also sign up with the site and post projects on the job board. An auction begins, in which various freelance workers have the opportunity to view your job and post a bid. Usually, you will have to deposit money with the site, and will be able to adjust options such as the range of price you are willing to pay and the length of time the post should remain open for bids.

3. When you have selected the winning bidder, the freelancer begins work on your project. You will have the opportunity to view progress and interact with the freelancer until the project is finished.

4. The freelance marketplace acts as an agent between you and freelancers. Usually, the marketplace holds your money and the completed work until you approve the transaction. This is a "double-bind" transaction to ensure that neither you or the freelancer can be cheated. Since the reputation of the freelance marketplace is at stake, you will usually have a number of avenues to pursue should you think the freelancer isn't doing the job you wanted. You, the client, have the right to demand review by the site's arbitration board or to not approve the work, for instance.

5. If all goes well, you buy the work and get all rights to use it as you wish; the freelancer gets your money. The freelance marketplace gets its money as well, of course, which may be via charging a commission from you or the freelancer, or charging a per-transaction flat fee, or a membership, or however they do it.

This is a very loose template, because different freelance marketplaces have different business models. Whatever you do, you should pick a reputable, established online marketplace to act as your agency. Check around for references. Search the Internet for testimonials. Check into a webmaster's bulletin board and ask around.

Here are some tips to help you solicit the perfect freelancer from a freelance marketplace:

1. Post a CLEAR AND DETAILED description of what you want! This is the number-one reason jobs go wrong on a freelance site: A client will post a job with nothing for the description but "a picture of a kangaroo" and get offers to draw an encyclopedia kangaroo illustration, a 3D rendered kangaroo, a cartoon of a boxing kangaroo, etc. Meanwhile what they really wanted was a two-color vector graphics logo in a conservative style of a bounding kangaroo in profile for their business cards. Don't make people try to read your mind!

2. Choose somebody who really can do the job. A reputable, well-maintained site should guard against scam artists and have channels in place for you to report wrong-doing and seek reimbursement for a bad transaction.

Some signs that a bidder isn't all they're cracked up to be include:

a) little or poor communication;

b) grandiose claims of being experts in everything);

c) presenting themselves as a large company when it's just one person;

d) "spam bidding" where they bid on every single job on the board with a stock bid and the same message for every job.

If you discover a shifty character, report them to the site immediately.

3. Ask for a sample or reference to previous work. The system on the site should be set up so you can correspond through the site to nail down the deal. You can ask for a sample of previous work, references from previous customers, a proposal outlining how they would do your work, or an example or rough draft (a sample chapter, a small watermarked version of a graphic, a demo of a software program, etc.). Just like the rules of business for any venture, you are the "boss" and you should conduct it just like a job interview.

4. Don't just award the bid and then disappear! Check back at least once per day to provide feedback and further guidance to the seller while they are working on your project. Questions and problems may come up, or they may send you a demo or rough draft and give you the opportunity to review their work and suggest improvements for the final revision which you will be buying.

5. Give a project deadline that takes into account all of the factors. If you need the job done in 48 hours flat, with no way around it, say so - but it will be difficult for the transaction to go well under such a tight deadline. Whenever possible, post the job as far in advance as you can and be generous enough with the deadline. A deadline padded with a few extra days at the end gives you time to review the work and ask for improvements. You have every right in the world to ask for revisions and corrections to the final product.

6. And one more small detail: when posting the job, be specific in what file format you want the work to be presented in. Computers being the pesky beasts they are, there are dozens of file formats on dozens of platforms. You can ask to receive writing work in plain text, rich text, PDF, or Microsoft Word doc format. Specify whether images are .jpg, .gif, .png, or whatever it is you need. Specify that web pages be made portable for Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, and so on (actually, all web work should adhere to W3C standards so that they are usable in any web browser on any platform!). Indicate for software projects what platform you want the program to run on (Windows NY, Vista, Unix, Apple OS X, BSD, and so on.).
About the Author
Brian Scott is the Creative Director for www.FreelancePortfolios.com, a searchable database of creative portfolios to hire freelance talent. Download Mr. Scott's free e-book, "How A Freelance Ghostwriter Saved My Business!" at FreelancePortfolios.com
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