Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5

Find the Right Virtual Match

When you're looking for freelance help, know what you need and be sure you're comfortable with the person you choose.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Most of us know that even if you have the time, you simply can't do it all. Most owners need to call in additional help at some point, whether it's for , web design or virtual assistance to handle or e-mail backlog. Finding the best freelancers or off-site employees isn't easy, and you want to be confident you're getting the services you need for the right amount of dollars.

Decide What You Need
It's frustrating for you and the freelancer you're interviewing if you aren't clear about what you need. Be specific. You don't just need help with your bookkeeping; you need last year's accounts reviewed, and then you need help setting up this year's books. You don't just need help marketing; you may need assistance evaluating your current marketing efforts and recommendations for the future. Perhaps you want someone to manage all efforts. Or maybe all you need is to have a simple press release written.

Find the Right Source
There are a variety of sites to choose from, including , and . Keep in mind that each site attracts different types of freelancers. You may find it easier to work with a single site once you become familiar with it.

Laurie Cohen, president of Deerfield Marketing Associates , uses freelancers exclusively from one site. "I initially tried several different sites and then found one site that I was comfortable with and that consistently had freelancers with whom I worked well," she says.

A number of freelance sites allow you to post your project and have freelancers bid on them. Be wary of accepting the lowest price as your first choice. Instead, consider the qualifications and experience you want and need.

You may also wish to look in professional databases. Virtual assistants, for example have several databases on which you can draw:

Confirm a Match
Because this is a "virtual" working relationship, make sure you and the freelancer are a good fit. It's not quite the same as having someone sitting next to you in the office. You really have to believe this person has the right experience, and that you can trust her to deal with your work.

"I like to chat online with freelancers for a bit before hiring them to see if our style is similar and to judge response time and skills," Cohen says. "I highly recommend this before hiring anyone."

Begin with a Trial Period
Instead of simply handing over all your books or copywriting needs, decide on a specific project with a clearly defined schedule and payment. Put your expectations and compensation in writing. Include details, such as how often you want the freelancer to check in, whether the project fee includes revisions and, if so, how many?

Once the project is complete, you can better judge whether you want this to be a longstanding commitment. Evaluate the freelancer's skills. Was the job done well? If you needed revisions, were those done quickly and appropriately? Was the freelancer offended or did she accept suggestions graciously? Was it a good value for your money? Do you want to work with that person again?

Freelancers also want to choose clients who are a good fit for their skills and personality. For any number of reasons, the two of you might not be a great long-term match. Not to worry; in any relationship, it takes time and patience to find just the right fit. The more thoroughly you know your needs, your likes and your dislikes, and the more specific you can be in your job or project post, the easier it will be to find a match made in heaven.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks