The freelance workforce is booming, and small businesses can reap the rewards. An estimated 36% of U.S. workers actively participate in the “gig economy,” and those numbers are expected to keep rising, thanks to the popularity of online freelance marketplaces such as Upwork, TaskRabbit and Fiverr.


For businesses, these sites make it easier than ever to find temporary help during the busy season or to bring on specific expertise for short-term projects without bulking up their staff.


One challenge, though, is wading through online profiles to find the right workers for your needs. How can you know you’re hiring the best person for your project? Follow these dos and don’ts to enlist the right freelancers for your company:




Start small

Don’t wait until you need help on a major project to start looking for freelancers. It’s better to start off a freelance relationship with smaller jobs, says Adeel Shabir, content marketing executive at GigWorker, a media outlet focused on the gig economy. “You’ll get a better understanding of someone’s skills and talents based on how they perform a specific task,” he says. As your confidence grows—and the freelancer becomes more familiar with your business and your expectations—you can assign larger projects.


Vet potential hires

Anyone can put together an impressive online profile, so you should make sure they’re as impressive as they seem before you hire them. Eric Carlson, co-founder of 10xFactory, an online entrepreneurship community, uses various techniques to vet freelancers before bringing them on to a project. “The goal is to better understand how they can help me specifically,” he says. “These extra steps often eliminate the people that weren’t that serious about the job in the first place.”


When posting a job, Carlson might ask potential hires to answer questions like, “What attracted you to this posting?” or “Why do you think you’ll be the best fit for this role?” For more complex jobs, he will test their skills beforehand. “For one writing gig, we had several people on a paid trial completing the same task,” he says. “Based on the results, we identified and hired the top performer.”


Set clear expectations

Have a written assignment for each project that details the scope of work, the final deadline and the milestones along the way to ensure that project remains on track. Then schedule regular check-ins to make sure the freelancer understands and is comfortable with their responsibilities.




Be too cheap

The adage “you get what you pay for” can be particularly true in the freelance arena. Top freelancers often charge higher fees based on their skills and experience, but the payoff can be a higher-quality product with a faster turnaround.


Ignore them

Be ready to invest the same time and energy in a freelancer as you would with any other employee, says Illia Termeno, a director of marketing firm Extrabrains. “You can’t expect commitment from someone without demonstrating it yourself,” he says. “Make the freelancer understand that his or her work is a valuable part of the big project.”


Let ‘project creep’ set in

Don’t ask freelancers to do something that’s outside their original scope of work without offering additional compensation. Little things that may seem like a small request to you can add up quickly on the other end—which could ultimately sour the working relationship.


The most productive freelance experiences can turn into long-term relationships that benefit both the company and the individual, Shabir adds.

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