As an entrepreneur, new business owner or solo practitioner, there’s no doubt your company will need to rely on the talents of freelancers for one project or another. Finding the right freelancer can be intimidating if you’re new to using outside talent. You need to take your search as seriously as you would if hiring a new employee.  Here are some tips to consider:

 1. Ask colleagues for referrals

Successful entrepreneurs know what they don’t know. Which is why they turn to outsourcing for the skills they need. But when those skills are beyond your area of expertise, it’s not easy to find the right person. One way to fill in the gap is to network with colleagues for recommendations of people they have used. If you are part of a coworking facility, like CoLab, you’ll often find the resources you need within your own community.

Another option is to use an online talent source, like Upwork or Fiverr. But while these services offer a wealth of helpful hints and a large pool of potential freelancers, they usually charge a fee in addition to what you pay for your project.

 2. Focus on what freelancers have done, not what they say they can do

Profiles and proposals are useful when you’re screening potential freelancers because they quickly introduce who someone is and the type of work they do. But in an effort to market themselves to you, freelancers often embellish the truth. So, make sure you also ask to see samples of projects that relate to the work you are looking to have done and ask questions about the process that went into creating the final product. That way you shift the focus from presentation to what a freelancer can actually do when they’re hands on.

 3. Check references and testimonials

Read testimonials from previous clients or even better, ask for references you can contact yourself.  If a freelancer is a referral from someone you know, ask questions about the process of working together including ease of communication, adherence to project parameters, level of expertise, timeliness, and satisfaction with the final deliverable. This feedback can give you a sense of the freelancer’s reputation and client relationships over time.

 4. Conduct interviews with freelancers

Conducting interviews with one or two potential freelancers gives you better insight into how you might work together. The freelancer’s responses, and the questions they ask about your project, indicate their expertise, organizational skills and work style.

 5. Consider a paid test project

A test project helps you see the freelancer in action and limits your exposure if the relationship isn’t optimal.  The project should be relatively small, similar to your actual project, or can even be the first step in the project. This process is not only helpful to assess a freelancer’s skills and problem-solving abilities, but also in determining your ability to collaborate with one another. Once the trial project is completed on time and within budget, you can move forward more confidently to work with your chosen freelancer on a more long-term basis.

6. Get the agreement in writing

Be sure to put the details of your freelance arrangement in writing. It sounds so simple, but too often entrepreneurs fail to formalize the terms of their agreement, perhaps because of time constraints or worries about the cost of a professional contract. If time and finances are issues, write down the terms of the agreement yourself and have both parties sign it. This minimizes the risk that misunderstandings arise once the freelancer begins the project. Include a timeline for the completion of the project, as well as payment requirements and specifics on deliverables or outcomes.

 7. Specify projects as ‘works made for hire’ 

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, usually a person who creates a work is the legal owner. However, the copyright office provides an exception to the rule. That exception is for a “work made for hire” project prepared by a worker when the assignment is specially ordered or commissioned in certain specified circumstances. When a project qualifies as a work made for hire, the employer or commissioning party is considered the legal author and owner.  Online legal resources like offer numerous sample clauses to include in freelance contracts.

 8. Know the freelancer’s payment requirements 

Some freelancers charge by the scope of the project while others bill by the hour. For hourly billing, ask for a scope of work up front so you have an estimate of the number of hours the project requires to complete. The cost of hiring a freelancer varies greatly and depends on the project and the freelancer’s area of expertise.

For example, according to Indeed Salaries, the average salary in the U.S. for a freelance designer is $29.27 per hour. Freelance photographers earn an average of $35.63 and freelance writers earn $22.90 on average. And as with any business contract, never pay the entire project fee up front. Try to spread the payments out based on the various deliverable stages of a project. In this way, if either party cannot proceed to the end, you are not out the full amount, and the freelancer is paid for the work they have performed to date.