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How to Fairly Hire Freelancers From Developing Countries

Talented freelancers have the right to charge premium rates, no matter where they're from.

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Is it okay to pay someone in a developing country $4 an hour for gig ? (Short answer: no).

Some entrepreneurs from developed nations claim that their low payments are a great opportunity for the freelancers they hire. 

But think about it. If you would pay an expat living abroad three times more to do the same job as someone who was born in that country, you need to reevaluate your practices, educate yourself on anti-racism and make major changes in how you hire and pay.

The truth is that you should pay someone based on that person's skill, talent and his or her right to make a good living. If you can’t do this, then you shouldn’t hire freelancers anywhere. Full stop.

Here’s how to hire freelancers from developing countries.

Be open to hiring offshore freelancers for important positions 

Don’t just turn to developing countries for entry-level assistant work. Hire experts too. 

“The most important thing to keep in mind when hiring a freelancer from a developing country is that we're just as good as freelancers in developed countries,” says Chima Mmeje, an SEO expert and the founder of The Freelance Coalition for Developing Countries, an organization dedicated to helping BIPOC freelancers from developing countries gain the skills and confidence they need to charge not only fair, but premium rates. 

Related: The Business of Freelance: An Increasingly Popular and Very Viable Career Choice 

Don’t expect lots of work on a low budget

A developing nation should not be treated as an unlimited source of cheap labor. Negotiating BIPOC freelancers’ rates down (particularly as a white entrepreneur from a developed country) is an extremely damaging use of your privilege. By doing so, you perpetuate colonialist concepts that their labor, and their lives, aren’t worth as much and that they don’t have the right to thrive and live abundantly.

“Choosing to work with BIPOC freelancers shouldn't include strings like cheaper pay and more work,” says Mmeje. “Treat us how you would like to be treated when working with your clients — with respect and dignity.” 

If your budget is low, offer other opportunities

Sometimes new startups aren’t trying to muscle their way towards paying low-ball rates. They might simply not have a high budget. If that’s you, know that you can still engage with a freelancer from a developing country, but you need to lower the expectations of how much work can get done. And, you need to make the effort worth the freelancer's while.

“If budget constraints prevent you from hiring a top-tier freelancer, think of how you can sweeten the pot for newer freelancers,” says Mmeje. “This could include feedback on work done, exposure to trade secrets that have helped you scale, advice on improving the skill and business side of freelancing. For example, my foundational knowledge of topic clusters and creating content briefs came from working with marketing experts who outsourced work to me but were willing to share their process so I could improve on the skill side.” 

Related: How to Hire the Best Freelancers When Building a Remote Team

Do your part to accommodate time differences

Many online entrepreneurs in the United States feel that their offshore freelancers should work on their schedules. But unless there’s a real business case for this, it should be avoided.

“Be aware of the time difference when scheduling zoom meetings and communications with freelancers in developing countries. For example, 10 a.m. for a client in California is 6 p.m. in Lagos, Nigeria,” says Mmeje.

If you do require that someone work during their nights and evenings, they should be paid extra for this inconvenience. Night pay is common in many industries, so why not freelancing?

Remember that all contractors have business expenses

Back to the $4-an-hour question. Even if you could argue that it’s equivalent to a good hourly wage in that country, it still isn’t because of the contractors’ expenses.

When paying gig workers hourly, you should be willing to pay two to three times what an employee would make per hour. Expenses can include health insurance for a family, retirement-plan contributions, software licenses, bookkeeper fees and other business-maintenance costs. 

Plus, contractors can’t put in eight hours a day. They need to market and sell their services and take care of the administrative work that comes with owning a small business. 

If $4 an hour is a suitable hourly wage for that job, that means $12 an hour should be the bare minimum. But, as we’ve already discussed, you shouldn’t go looking to developing countries for low-cost work. 

Hiring freelancers overseas? Look for top talent that you will pay top dollar for. There are many, many skilled freelancers all around the world. 

Related: 6 Ways to Cultivate a Diverse and Equal Workplace

Dayana Mayfield

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Dayana Mayfield is a sustainability journalist and content creator who amplifies the reach of eco brands solving the world's biggest problems.