Freelancers tend to be quick and cheap. They come in, get the work done, and then they're off. You don't have time to handle the paperwork and responsibilities that come with bringing a full-time employee on board, anyway.
However, while hiring a freelancer may seem like an entrepreneur's ideal scenario, there is one major concern to be had: quality. The yucky truth is that many freelancers, even those with a stellar job success rate and impressive reviews, often end up producing absolutely garbage results once you hire them.
To prevent such a nightmare from ever occurring, here are five safety measures you can take in order to choose a freelancer who will get the job done the way you want it:
1. Post on multiple sites.
Your first goal should be to reach as many freelancers as you possibly can with your job post.
Despite the millions of freelancers available online, your job post might not attract as many proposals as you might think. This is especially true if you have a tight budget or require a very specific set of skills.
Look for freelancers on a number of different freelance websites. Doing so allows you to pick the best offer from a much larger talent pool.
2. Wait a few days before making your hire.
Don't be too eager to hire the first freelancer who fits your requirements. If you wait a few days, you might get an offer from someone equally qualified and willing to work for a cheaper price.
Sometimes you're in a rush and need a project completed before a certain deadline. If that is the case, you may end up having to pick someone who is less than ideal for the job.
One way to avoid this unfortunate position is to create a job posting even before you're sure that you'll have a job available. Yes, it's a little disingenuous--I don't recommend doing it often. If you only do this once, though, you won't get penalized for not ultimately hiring someone to complete a job.
3. Interview your top candidates and ask for previous work.
There's a reason businesses usually interview full-time candidates in person before hiring them. You probably won't be able to meet most freelancers in person--a simple phone or Skype call will do in a pinch.
By having a conversation with your job candidates, you'll get a much better sense of who actually knows their stuff. Have them show you examples of work they've done in the past, and give them examples of the quality of work you expect when you hire them.
Treat them just like you'd treat full-time candidates.
4. Test your candidates by having them follow simple instructions.
We all hate spam, and there's a lot of it on freelance sites. Many freelancers have generic introductions and cover letters that they submit to virtually all job postings they see. These freelancers probably haven't fully read your job posting, and probably aren't suited for your job.
Here's a sneaky little trick to help filter out the spammers: Provide instructions somewhere in the middle of your post that will allow you to determine whether or not an applicant actually took time to read through your job posting. As an example, in your job description, you can ask all candidates to insert the phrase "I've fully read your post" in their response.
This is also a great way to weed out applicants who simply aren't good at following instructions.
5. Break the project down into smaller chunks.
Even after following all the advice above, it's still entirely possible for you to hire someone who turns out to be completely incompetent. Trust me, it happens all the time. How do you cut your losses when this nightmare scenario occurs?
Break your projects down into smaller parts. Some websites refer to these parts as "milestones," which you can list in your job posting.
When you have milestones in place, your freelancer will complete a certain portion of the job and then check in with you. If you aren't satisfied with his or her work, you can cancel the job right away.
You still have to pay the freelancer for the work already completed, but that's a whole lot less than what you would have paid without this mechanism. More importantly, it'll allow you to get back to finding a freelancer who will actually get the job done properly.