In a previous post I talked about the benefits of working with a freelancer over an agency and why it might be the best fit for some people. I included how to go about hiring a freelancer as part of that article, but think it probably deserves its own post. Here are just a couple of quick and practical suggestions on how to properly vette a freelancer. You are, after all, placing a lot of trust and potential business capital in their hands. Remember that the time you invest up front with the freelancer is well worth your time if it frees you up to do other important aspects of your business.
So How Do You Hire a Freelancer?
So there are a lot of potentially bad things that can happen going the freelancer route, right? Arguably all of those same things can happen with an agency but most of your risk is a little more mitigated with a more established business who may be very concerned about their reputation - whereas an individual can create their own new identity online. There are ways to work with a freelancer and also things to look out for that will help prevent a lot of these things from happening. If you're working with a freelancer for the first time, here are some things to consider before you've had the opportunity to build up some trust.
You don't need to go the full-blown route of a background check, although you definitely could, but just do some quick googling on the freelancer. Any decent freelancer will have a portfolio or Github profile or something that will help display their work. Once you get that from them, start copying and pasting large chunks of that text into Google and see if there are other places that same text shows up. This will help prevent you from working with someone who maybe threw up a template portfolio site or even stole someone else's site. You don't want to work with those kinds of folks.
If you're working with a freelancer for the first time, start with a smaller project first before moving on to the bigger project. If you want a full website design, start with just designing a home page or even just a section of the home page like the header. Smaller projects in stages can help build trust on both sides and ensure that you're happy with both the quality and efficiency of the work provided.
Work Through a Platform
One way to minimize risk is to use a platform like Upwork or for Shopify-specific sites Storetasker or the Shopify Expert Marketplace. This gives you the opportunity to check out reviews or helps establish at least that these freelancers have gone through some vetting process and are at least more legitimate than people you would meet on Facebook/social media. Upwork and Storetasker even add another layer of accountability in that they put your money in escrow. This means if you contest that work was not actually completed, your money gets refunded to you.
Actually Talk to the Person
I am so surprised when I have talked to people about issues they have had with previous freelancers and they say they just met and chatted with them on Facebook Messenger and agreed to start off with a $1,000 deposit on a website build. WHAT?! Don't do that! Actually get on the phone or hop on a video call before working with them. If you have alarm bells going off during the call, trust your intuition and move on to the next person.
Have a Backup Plan
Stuff goes wrong all the time. Maybe it does not work out with the freelancer or your deliverable has changed or their timelines are now off with other projects. Have a backup plan and talk to the freelancer about a backup plan if it's an extended project. Nothing wrong with making sure your bases are covered.
That's Really It
End of the day, go with your gut/intuition. It's gotten you this far, but make sure you spend the time using your common sense and good judgement when working with a new freelancer for the first time. Remember that trust goes both ways - for every business that has been burned by a bad freelancer, there is a freelancer who has been burned by a business. Things like asking for a deposit to start work is not abnormal - but make sure you've done your research first.