I’m going to depart a bit from my normal blogging content today, and speak directly to clients – hello, clients! You are the lifeblood of this workforce. Thank you for employing freelancers!

First of all, kudos to you! Hiring a freelancer is often a great move – attracting some of the most free-thinking, creative, and ambitious talent out there. Here are a few quick tips to get the best and brightest freelancers working for you… and no, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

1.) Pay competitively

I absolutely understand that budget may be an issue for you. But when you pay bargain-basement prices, you get bargain-basement quality.

INVESTING in good freelancers – and yes, that may mean a higher hourly rate – is investing in your project. When you find good freelancers (and pay accordingly), you’re accessing a higher quality of talent, years of training, expertise, and experience.

Trolling for lower prices (or worse, trying to bargain us down) is a good way to drive away the best would-be freelancers. Paying well and promptly attracts talent and retains loyalty; it makes us want to do our best for you.

Put your money where your needs are. The results will be worth it.

Do the best you can price-wise. But even if you can’t always pay as much as you’d like, you MUST do the following to find good freelancers…

2.) Treat them well

Freelancers are self-employed business owners – for the vast majority of us, it’s not a hobby. You wouldn’t call another business after operating hours and demand that they be open according to your needs, would you?

And I bet you wouldn’t drag your feet on payment to the utility company. Nor would you allow your employees to be rude or condescending to a representative from a partner organization.

Treat freelancers with respect and courtesy; that ranges from the micro-level (saying things like “please” and “thank you”) to the macro-level (make requests and payments on an agreed-upon timeline; don’t let anyone in your company bully, harass, or otherwise exploit freelancers).

Unless you’re explicitly paying freelancers to be available 24/7 (and that better be a healthy paycheck), don’t expect to be able to access them 24/7. Treat them as equals, as expert consultants – not lackeys.

Trust me, freelancers talk to each other; there’s a real information pipeline out there. You don’t want to get known as a bad employer – or else your freelance pool will dry out fast, and you’ll only be able to get the greenest and most desperate candidates available. That leads me to…


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3.) Ask for recommendations

So you KNOW you’ll treat your freelancers well (or better yet, you’ve always treated freelancers well in the past)! Great! Half of your search is already done; you may have a stable of people who love working with you, and will happily take up your project.

Sometimes, however, they won’t be available – but they may know somebody else who is.

Ask for recommendations when looking for freelancers – not only from other businesses, but from freelancers themselves! Often, when I can’t take a job, I know another wonderful candidate who’s available.

It’s also a great idea to turn to social media; a lot of freelancers get their gigs from word-of-mouth and friends-of-friends via Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Pay attention to portfolios, samples, and work history, sure! But be sure to ALSO ask for recommendations – a portfolio can’t tell you about freelancers’ temperament, work style, or disposition (and believe me, a phone interview is not that revealing).

Use your social network (that includes freelancers!) to find hidden gems.

4.) Be clear about your needs

What, precisely, do you need? When do you need it? Who will be giving final approval? Who needs to be kept informed about progress? How many drafts do you expect to see as part of a project fee (hint: keep it reasonable)?

Who are your target audiences, if any? What do you want this project to accomplish?

And what DON’T you know? Are there any questions the freelancer can answer?

If I had a penny for each time that energy was wasted because clients didn’t have a clear structure in place before hiring a freelancer… I’d have a lot of pennies. You want your freelancer to start their project armed with clear expectations, agreed-upon deadlines, and all the necessary information you can gather.

That saves EVERYONE’S time, and helps your freelancer to hit the ground running.

As your project proceeds, be responsive to inquiries. Make yourself or a point-person available to answer questions or give feedback as requested. Be open-minded to suggestions and comments that you don’t expect – after all, you’re hiring someone with expertise or a viewpoint you don’t have; why not give them the freedom to express it?

Great freelancers are out there, employers. They’re hungry for the work – and best of all, THEY are also looking for YOU. Be the kind of dream employer that freelancers compete to work for, and you’ll eventually attract your dream freelancer. I guarantee it.

Kate Hamill lives and works in New York City, where she consumes an inordinate amount of Sriracha daily. You can catch up with her on Twitter at @katerone.