I'm a freelancer. For over a decade, I've been an independent contractor, a hired gun, a "gig economy" pro. Now, there are more professionals-gone-solo like me than ever, which is great if you're a business owner looking outside the company for fresh talent to execute projects on the fly.
But how do you find the perfect person for the gig and avoid the dud who doesn't deliver at the last moment?
Here are five ways you can judge if your hire will get the job done:
1. Her portfolio doesn't look like anything you've seen before.
Regardless of whether you're seeking a coder, a graphic designer, or a copywriter, the fact of the matter is that creativity is the lubricant that will grease the process. A great hired gun is easily adaptable: She shifts her perspective to yours, quickly discerning what your needs are and applying her talents to meet your demands. A freelancer's online portfolio featuring look-alike projects suggests you'll get nothing for your money other than work this gig economy wannabe has done for someone else already. Instead, go for a hired gun whose work looks like what you haven't seen.
2. She's a veteran—so she's won't be cheap.
These are your choices: Save money and get a sub-par product or hire a pro and get it done right. If the project fails, you will pay for it dearly—in stress, in time, in cash—when you have to pay to get the job done again. There are thousands of fresh-out-of-school, self-employed freelancers looking to make money working from home who will do your job for cheap, less than nothing, or, in some cases, zilch. What will your ROI on that be? Piddling. Sure, there's the rare occasion when someone with hardly any experience can hit a home run, but more often than not you'll find a rookie freelancer has a hard time translating what you think you want into what your business needs, not to mention meeting a deadline that could make you or break you.
3. She manages her career like a business.
You might be tempted to use one of the various sites that offer up thousands of freelancers who they say they can do any job. Don't. You're better off looking for someone who's running her own freelance mini-empire. Why? Because that means she's making it on her own. She has enough regular clients that she's not out there hustling for gigs like the dregs. If other clients are coming back for more (particularly high-profile ones), you will, too, hopefully, and then you won't have to go head hunting again, saving you time, money, and energy.
4. She's a killer negotiator.
Being a freelancer has forced me to hone my negotiating skills. It's during your negotiations with your prospective hire that you'll find out exactly how much she thinks she's worth. Bad signs: She takes your first offer without question, she signs on for significantly less than you expected, she doesn't discuss payment terms upfront. In all of those cases, the freelancer is telling how much she thinks her work is worth—which is not much.
5. She skips the sales pitch.
One of my favorite clients was the result of a 10-minute phone call. He didn't waste my time asking what I'd done before that was relevant, if I thought I could do the job, or why I wanted the contract. In fact, I had hardly any experience doing what he needed me to do. What I did have was the personality to do what needed to be done. I didn't sell him on how talented I am. We both knew it, so he hired me, and we've been doing great work together ever since.