Running a startup is challenging.
You often need to focus on value-adding activities that support the core of your operations, but also have to manage the day-to-day tasks to keep your company moving forward.
Generally, to say that entrepreneurs are busy people would be an understatement.
Few entrepreneurs personally possess all of the skills needed to cover every aspect of the business, and hiring full-time staff to address those points isn't usually cost-effective.
The key to scaling a startup business is hiring freelancers.
By offering contract jobs, you gain access to high-quality skills without a long-term commitment, making it an ideal approach from a cost management perspective.
But, when ensuring the project is a success is a priority, that means you can't settle for just any freelancer.
You need a genuine unicorn; someone who can meet your needs at a reasonable price.
And finding that unicorn -- that ideal freelancer who can take your contract job, skyrocket past your expectations, and deliver a stellar outcome in a timely fashion -- isn't easy.
After all, the gig economy has led many to strike out on their own as freelancers, and (just like when you post a full-time job opening) not everyone who applies to take on your project is suited for the task.
However, there are online platforms that give you the ability to find the unicorns tucked away in a sea of donkeys.
Here are five of my favorite sites to post contract jobs on.
Upwork is a titan in the freelancing space.
The number of categories (numbered in the dozens) makes it easy to post multiple contract jobs on a single platform and find the skilled professionals you need to scale up your startup business.
Whether you need a copywriter, SEO expert, software developer, financial consultant, civil engineer, or lawyer, you can reach out to them here.
Upwork isn't a matching service, so you have full control over who you select.
When you post a contract job, you can review bids submitted by freelancers interested in taking on the project and search for professionals who might meet your needs and request that they apply.
Essentially, this lets you explore the entire available talent pool, making the search for your freelance unicorn easier.
Additionally, Upwork features freelancers at a variety of skill and experience levels.
This means you can also find freelancers for entry-level skilled projects, ensuring you don't have to pay for an expert when you only need a novice.
Toptal covers three specific niches: developers, designers, and finance experts.
They also focus on freelancers with high-level skill sets, making the site a great option when you need top-tier professionals for your contract jobs.
The developer category includes coders, architects, and software engineers who cumulatively cover hundreds of technologies.
The designers classification covers a range of visual arts, including everything from UX to Photoshop to animation.
Some of the finance experts even focus on startups, including areas like funding consultations, venture capitalist consultations, or operating as interim CFOs.
Toptal goes the extra mile when it comes to screening their freelancers.
They ensure that all of their talent is fluent in English and have a proven track record.
As a bonus, there's a risk-free trial period associated with every match.
This means a bad match won't cost you a dime.
It is important to note that Toptal does the matching for you, though they are diligent about gathering your job requirements to make sure you are connected with skilled individuals who can get the work done.
Fiverr has come a long way.
Originally, the platform focused on $5 tasks, limiting the skill sets of those who worked through the platform.
Now, Fiverr is much more than that, skyrocketing into a full-fledged freelancer platform.
You can find digital marketers, video editors, writers, logo creators, programmers, and more on the platform.
The addition of Fiverr Pro has given this website even more clout.
The service provides access to verified professionals, increasing your odds of finding a unicorn quickly and efficiently.
Fiverr Pro is still expanding, though it already covers a range of popular categories.
Plus, it comes with 24/7 VIP support, ensuring you can get assistance from the platform whenever it is required.
Freelancer uses an approach that's similar to Upwork.
You can submit contract jobs and receive bids from professionals interested in taking on your project.
This platform is predominately for technical services, ranging from SEO marketing to mobile development, but there are some additional categories as well.
An interesting feature of Freelancer is the ability to host "contests," a crowdsourcing approach to idea generation that allows professionals to submit entries and compete for a prize.
Typically, contests are used for design category work, and you only have to pay for winning entries you select.
However, this site isn't ideal if you are looking for entry-level freelancers, as the platform favors experienced professionals.
That means the starting prices may be higher than on other platforms, so keep that in mind if you are looking for novice contractors.
There are certainly some freelance unicorns on the site, making it an option worth exploring for contract jobs you need filled in the tech niche.
While not technically a freelance platform, posting a job on Craigslist can still yield results.
Since the website isn't niche-oriented, the sky's the limit when it comes to posting jobs as you aren't stuck in pre-defined categories.
However, you aren't going to have the same level of protection as may be available through one of the freelancing platforms.
For example, you'll have to handle contract creation, and that may be more than you want to take on.
Screening for Unicorn Freelancers
If you've spent any time examining options for hiring freelancers, you've likely seen some horror stories from both sides of the aisle.
Typically, on the company side, it's posts about subpar results, contractors who failed to deliver, or similar tales of woe.
Should you let these stories deter you?
However, it's smart to learn from their experiences so you can guard yourself against having a similar experience.
Ultimately, if you want to find a unicorn freelancer, you need to thoroughly screen your candidates.
If you are looking for a fluent English speaker, don't rely on short conversations or stock questions where the person responding can literally cut and paste an answer they got online.
Similarly, ask for previous examples of the person's work and request they provide references.
You can also set up a paid test project so you can see if they can deliver what you need.
Also, realize that you get what you pay for, so undershooting the compensation can hurt your chances of finding a unicorn.
Sure, if you post high paying contract jobs on platforms that allow freelancers to bid, you are going to get applications from individuals who are underqualified but enticed by a big payday.
But, if you don't offer enough for the project, you're probably only going to see underqualified or inexperienced applicants.
So, do a little research to see what is fair compensation for your contract jobs, then let the unicorn hunt begin.