10 Tips on Finding and Hiring Freelancers for Your Startup

Businesswoman interviewing a freelancer virtually.

When you're in the early stages of building your startup, creating a team can be one of your biggest expenses. Reduce operating costs and access unique skill sets by including freelancers in your startup team.

With 59 million Americans working freelance gigs of all descriptions, finding and hiring one can be intimidating, especially when you're simultaneously founding a startup. We've rounded up the top 10 tips for finding and hiring freelancers for your startup.

Recommended: You can also check out our comprehensive startup hiring guide.

Top 10 Freelance Hiring Tips

1. Use Freelancing Job Sites

Looking for freelancers? Go where they gather — freelance job sites. Platforms like Fiverr are your best bet for accessing the enormous pool of freelance talent, and they won't blow your budget either. Sites like these also help you to vet freelancers before you hire them by providing ranking systems based on how the individuals have performed with previous clients. 

2. Look for Multi-Skilled Freelancers

Often, freelancers are professionals, who've left formal employment to enjoy the freedom of working for themselves, have a vast array of skills — rather than focusing on just one in a permanent position. While we don't recommend looking for a unicorn with every skill you need in one freelancer, you could easily find someone with graphic design experience, for instance, who is also a killer copywriter. 

3. Know Exactly What You're Outsourcing

Take some time to draw up a clear and concise brief that describes the type of work you need done. Will the freelancer be paid an hourly rate, or will remuneration be task-based? What are your deadlines? Will there be meetings to attend to complete the tasks? Summarize all of these elements in a brief before you start advertising so the freelancer can provide an accurate estimate.

4. Create an Onboarding Process

Even though freelancers are not permanent team members, it certainly helps to build a relationship with them. For them to really produce top-notch work, they also need to understand your startup. By creating an onboarding process before you start hiring freelancers, you will save time by immediately immersing your freelance team in your culture, guiding them on expectations, and giving them access to your collaboration tools. 

5. Set Up a Screening and Shortlisting Process

If you're placing adverts for freelancers, be prepared to get huge numbers of applications. Sorting through those applications and finding the right people can be daunting, so to save yourself time and stress, set up a screening and shortlisting process before you even place that ad. Decide what your qualifying criteria are going to be in various stages, and ask for your first-round criteria to be included in the freelancer's initial short response so you can immediately include or exclude them. 

6. Don't Skip the Interview Stage

Just because you might never meet your freelancer in person — assuming they work remotely — don't think that this means you can skip the interview phase. Online video chat tools make interviews easier than ever, and there's no better way to get a feel about whether someone will fit your startup culture than speaking to them face-to-face. 

7. Take a Trial Run

Now, we're not suggesting you get free work out of freelancers to qualify them. Freelancers are professionals who deserve to be paid for any work they do, but providing a trial task that simulates the type of work you're recruiting for, and paying a fair fee for it, is a great way to be absolutely certain that your shortlisted freelancer is the right fit. 

8. Don't Forget the Contract

With the entire freelance hiring process often being done online, it would be very easy to forget to formalize your agreement with your freelancer. Don't forget. By putting expectations and agreements in writing, you are not only protecting your startup but also providing reassurance to the freelancer. 

9. Be Prepared to Pay for What You Want

Lowballing freelancers is not a great idea. Very often, cheap freelancers charge less for a reason — they don't have the same experience or produce the same quality as their more expensive peers. So, when setting your budget, decide what you want. It's either quality work or cheap work. You'll never get both. 

10. Trust Your Gut

This is your startup. It's your baby, and you only want the best for it. Just as you would have made many gut decisions up to this point in your startup founding journey, recruiting freelancers is not the time to disregard that gut feeling. If your gut tells you that someone is the wrong (or right) fit for the role you're trying to fill, you should definitely include that in your decision-making process. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are freelancers safe?

 If you look hard enough, the horror stories are out there: freelancers pretending to have skills they don't have, freelancers ghosting employers, NDAs being broken, etc. But, if you follow a comprehensive process like the one detailed above, there is a very good chance you will find qualified, professional freelancers.

Do I need to supply my freelancer with any equipment?

The general answer to this is no. Your freelancer should have what they need to complete the tasks they've signed up for. If you develop an ongoing relationship with the freelancer, though, and would like to enhance that by providing some resources to make their lives easier, go for it. Just remember to put the terms in writing.

What sort of tasks should I outsource to freelancers?

This is going to be different for every startup, but, generally, any task that you do not have the skills or time to perform can be outsourced. This may include everything from copywriting to accounting. If the investment saves you time and effort, hire a freelancer to do it.