There are many benefits to hiring freelancers. Scalability, cost reduction and economies of scale are compelling reasons for outsourcing tasks. Despite all the advantages, if you don't ask the right questions, you may start the relationship on the wrong foot.
Consider asking these seven basic questions before hiring your next freelancer.
1. What are your normal business hours?
Outsourcing marketplaces now make it possible to hire professionals from across the globe. With a few clicks, you could be chatting with freelancers from Argentina, India and The Philippines.
Keep in mind that most people (including online workers) tend to operate within their own local time zones. Inquiring about normal business hours is an important step for both parties. Setting realistic expectations can be useful in evaluating fit, but it is also important for minimizing friction in the future.
Depending on the work being done, it is possible to maintain healthy virtual relationships when operating on completely different schedules. However, this can only be done when both you and the freelancer understand the arrangement.
2. What type of Internet speed do you have?
There’s nothing worse than a choppy web conference. You have enough tasks on your todo list already, and dealing with a contractor’s poor Internet connection isn’t one of them.
Ask the contractor to do a quick test using one of the many free tools available online. As a general rule, at least 1 mbps (megabits per second) of download / upload speed is a minimum necessity for video calls. However, for high definition or group video conferencing, additional bandwidth may be needed.
3. Hourly, fixed-price or both?
Most freelancing contracts fall into one of two categories: hourly or fixed-price. Either arrangement can be beneficial, but it often depends on the work being done. For example, if you’re hiring someone to redesign your logo, it may be wise to push for a set budget. On the other hand, if you need a consultant to provide multi-faceted support, hourly is probably a better option.
In some cases, a melding of the two models can also be worthwhile. For example, if a contractor proposes $20 per hour, you might consider a slightly lower rate in exchange for a performance-based bonus. This can help you, the client, from a cash flow standpoint and give the contractor an even greater earning potential if output exceeds expectations.
4. What do you enjoy doing?
It's frustrating when you hire a freelancer to do a certain task and later find out that she dislikes the work being done.
Keep in mind that many freelancers, especially some in certain cultures, tend to promote themselves as generalists. For example, a marketer may claim to have expertise in graphic design, blogging, social media, email marketing and project management. In my experience, there are actually very few contractors who truly excel in all of these areas.Avoid this issue by asking candidates what they enjoy doing (or prefer not to do). If you never ask, you may not find out until it’s too late.
5. Is your software properly licensed?
This might be over the top, but I gain peace of mind knowing that people I engage with are playing by the rules. Pirated software is still a big problem in today’s world, and this is especially true among freelancers.
I would venture to say few clients ever consider asking this question, but what could be a stronger indicator of character? Finding honest and forthright freelancers should be a priority, especially if you’re hoping to leverage outsourcing for the long-term.
6. Are you willing to sign an NDA?
Nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) are commonplace in today’s business environment. Asking contractors to sign them can be wise, especially if they will be privy to information you wish to keep secret.
Consider seeking legal counsel to ensure your NDA is enforceable and protects your business. If a contractor is unwilling to sign your agreement, it may not be the best fit.
7. Can you follow up with me in a few days?
This might be the most important question to ask. Having hired many freelancers myself, I can attest to the difficulty of measuring skill and character through a virtual interview (or even multiple interviews). Sometimes even the most seemingly qualified person will fail to perform when contracted.
To reduce the risk of failure, I will typically close an interview with a simple question: “Would you mind following up with me in a few days?” In asking this question, I give the freelancer his first task (albeit small). If he fails to follow up, it sends an important message about reliability.
Ask the right questions
Don't assume your expectations are already known by every freelancer. Instead, ask the right questions before making a hiring decision. In doing so, you will set the groundwork for better relationships and more profitable outsourcing.