When you have a specialized job that you need done, but there’s not enough work to hire a full time employee and not regular enough work to hire a part time one, what you want is a freelancer. For many small businesses, bringing in freelance and contract employees is an ideal solution: it’s a specialist in his or her field who can deliver what you want, within budget and by deadline. And when freelancers do great work, everyone benefits; clients get their projects done, and the freelancer gets strong referrals and a reputation as a talented professional.


For many companies, though, the challenge is in actually finding a qualified and capable freelance employee. How can you ensure that the person you hire will get the job done the way you want and on time? Here are seven tips for hiring a great freelancer.


  1. Hire for a specific job, not on retainer.

It might seem like a good idea to have a freelancer on call when you need one, but you may actually be better off hiring for each specific job. That’s because you can explain exactly what you need and then hire the perfect person to do it. In other words, you can fit the employee to the project rather than the project to the employee.


  1. Solicit bids, proposals, and/or portfolios.

For larger freelance projects, you’ll have access to freelancers all over the world on job boards like Remote, Upwork, and even LinkedIn. Or, if you prefer personal referrals, you can ask for recommendations from your professional network. Also, do keep in mind that while you obviously want to pick the best candidate for the job, there’s less pressure to hire a good freelancer than there is to hire a good full time employee; if you’re less than completely satisfied with your freelancer, you’re not obligated to hire them again for future projects.


  1. Don’t ask for free work upfront.

While it’s acceptable to ask candidates to share some work samples or put together a short proposal, it’s absolutely not OK to ask freelancers to do the project and then pick and pay for the one you like best. It’s an unethical move that takes advantage of the candidates who didn’t get chosen


  1. Consider remote candidates.

Unless you have a project that absolutely requires geographical proximity, consider hiring a remote candidate and communicating via phone and email. That way, you’re not limited to nearby freelancers, opening yourself up to fresh creativity and an end product that won’t look like similar work from other businesses in your community.


  1. Remember that you get what you pay for.

You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Good, fast, or cheap: pick two.” It’s wisdom that applies to lots of things, including freelance work. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get everything you want for a low cost. For example, you may save lots of money on a freelance photography job by hiring a college student who’s a photography major, and you may even get some great shots, but students are often busy and typically don’t have the work ethic of a driven professional. The end result is that you may find that meeting the deadline is a challenge. Unless you’re willing to pay at the top level for the job, you’ll probably have to make a concession or two.


  1. Clearly communicate expectations.

As in any supervisor-employee relationship, good communication with freelancers is key. Before the project gets started, be sure to outline expected outcomes, deadlines, and who will retain ownership of the final project (you or the freelancer).


  1. Maintain regular communication throughout the project.

Micromanaging is never a recommended strategy, but it’s also important to check in with your freelancer regularly to get updates on how the project is progressing. When you provide feedback on early work, make sure it’s specific and clear so that the changes you want can be made. Finally, make sure that as the client, you listen to the freelancer you’ve hired. Remember, this is a professional in their field, and you thought highly enough of them to offer them the project. He or she may offer some valuable insight that you might not have considered.