The way we work is changing. Approximately one third of Americans are now employed in freelance, temporary or part-time work, and it’s estimated that by 2020 40% of us will work as freelancers.
This is due to a combination of technological factors making it easier for people to log on to systems remotely and send work to employers from anywhere in the world, and also of companies being more reluctant to take staff on permanently, with the insurances and associated costs.
It’s also a lot simpler for project based work, or if the company is unsure about its long term staffing needs – better to take people on a short term contract then a permanent one and then have to let them go.
There are many ways to hire freelancers these days, but one format which advertises itself as an easy solution is the contractor job website industry. Sites such as Elance, People per Hour, Guru and Freelancer allow people or companies to advertise freelance jobs, and contractors can apply for them or bid for them.
If you are considering using one of these websites to complete a project for your business, or even for ongoing work, there are some things you should be aware of before you start.
Using freelancers is a great way to reduce your costs and keep control of your budget, but you can only do this if you’re aware of what you will need to pay the contractors. Do research first, look at similar advertised projects. However, be aware that this might be misleading. A lot of people advertise jobs with rock bottom rates, but it’s unlikely that you will attract a good quality freelancer that way.
Remember that if the freelancer is based in America they will need to be paying into an HSA or Co-op, along with covering their other costs, so you want to pay them a fair wage for their work, but also something that you can afford.
The websites let you search for candidates; don’t be shy about approaching them and discussing fee structures and what they deem to be fair. If it’s copywriting it might be a fee per word, whereas for design work it’s more likely to be a flat rate.
Even though using a freelancer should cost you less than hiring a full time employee, you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, and this will require some input from you. At the very least, you need to set expectations from the outset and provide a clear and thorough brief for what you expect.
This will protect you from being handed work which is not what you expected but still being required to pay for it because you didn’t state your needs clearly enough. It will also mean you get a higher standard of work at the end and will save time in revisions and micro-management.
It’s also important that you select the right worker. Ask to see previous work samples and, if necessary, gather references. A lot of the freelancers on these sites aren’t American - speak to them at least on the phone to make sure they are someone you can communicate with.
Things can be misconstrued or missed via email; you always get a clearer picture of whether someone understands your brief and needs if you actually speak to them. Skyping them is even better as it allows you to build a relationship and you will feel confident that you’ve selected someone you can trust.
That’s not to say that once the project is underway that you can sit back and forget about it. In the early days, check in with the freelancer, ask to see what they’ve done so far so you can make sure it’s on track, and iron out any problems early on.
In short, you need to treat these websites as a way to meet a partner to work with within your budget, rather than a way to get work done on the cheap.