Grow your business by making the most of the freelance economy with these 5 hiring tips

This post by Kate Kendall originally appeared on LinkedIn.

More than one-in-three American workers are now millennials. In 2015, we replaced Gen Xers as the largest cohort of the workforce. As a result, there’s been a shift in how we want to work and live, representing an evolving nature of priorities and perspectives. Job security isn’t what it was in previous generations. We’ve become much more accustomed to uncertainty and want to spend time doing something we believe in, in a format that is authentic to us.

In Mary Meeker’s 2015 Internet Trends Report. she shares the benefits millennials desire most when it comes to work. While the assumption might be that it’s all about cushy pay packets and perks, the most desired benefits are actually training and development at 22%, and flexibility at 19%. The latter has meant that many millennials are building full-time careers from freelance work so they can pursue flexibility and freedom.

In fact, 53 million Americans — 34% of the workforce — are currently independent workers, and this is expected to grow to 40% by 2020. This is exciting news when it comes to building businesses — from a freelancer’s perspective as they build their own independent businesses, and for companies as they have greater access to talent than in the past.

When I was bootstrapping my first company, I was in limbo between wanting to grow my business and not being able to afford full-time hires or costly agencies, or wanting to use low-quality marketplaces. Over the past few years, the explosion of qualified, professional freelancers means I now have access to the help I needed to grow my startup. Here are some tips for hiring freelancers that I’ve learned along the way:

1. Prioritize where you need help

You can’t read an article about startups without the importance of focus being stressed. The same goes for engaging freelancers: knowing which role(s) to focus on hiring first is so important. You can approach this in two ways:

  1. Find someone to complement your skills and take over tasks you don’t like doing, or those that are taking up a lot of your time. Or,
  2. Hire someone to focus on the biggest growth opportunities in your business.

I first hired a freelance assistant to help out with general administrative tasks and scheduling. I then hired a freelance social media and community manager to help with a range of marketing jobs. This meant I was free to be less reactive and had more time to focus on fundraising.

2. Know where to look

A great place to start when hiring freelancers is your personal network. Ask your friends and colleagues for referrals. LinkedIn isn’t very good for non-full time or remote jobs. I’ve found Facebook much better, especially Facebook Groups. Check out The Freedom to Freelance Project, Dreamers // Doers Jobs andAlbert’s Job Listings & Referrals. Good old Craigslist is still relevant and Reddit under the For Hire subreddit is worth a look.

There’s also a ton of sites that have been around for a while like Upwork (formerly oDesk), FlexJobs, Freelancer and Guru. There’s also been an explosion in modern takes — especially in the tech space like Crew, Gigster and Toptal. If you’re after marketing, content and community freelancers, check out CloudPeeps.UpCounsel is great for legal needs.

3. Don’t be afraid to jump on a call

The beauty of a lot of marketplaces and freelancer communities today is that you can connect with someone locally or on a similar time zone. Don’t be afraid of jumping on a call to get to know them better. Good relationships are all about communication. Ask questions to further vet their experience: it’s one thing to say you worked on Coca Cola’s brand when thousands of people across the world worked on a plethora of different campaigns. Ask what they specifically did. Encourage people to dig into their experience. Look at any reviews, ratings, testimonials, case studies and ask for referrals.

4. Look at culture-fit and approach them like one of the team

Just as if you were hiring in-office, full-time employees, your freelancers should fit into your culture and buy-in to the mission you’re seeking to accomplish. They should be passionate about the company’s goals. Other qualities to look for in a remote freelancer are:

  • Self-starters: Good freelancers have a propensity towards action and working autonomously
  • Entrepreneurial spirits: Good freelancers take ownership of the work they’re doing
  • Prioritizers: Good freelancers ruthlessly prioritize to get the most important tasks done well, and on time
  • Excellent communicators: Good freelancers are clear and concise communicative ninjas who are equally at home across chat, email and quick check-in calls
  • Trustworthy and reliable: Good freelancers “show up” and deliver on time. Importantly, when they’re not going to meet deadline — they let you know why, which builds trust and open lines of communication

5. Create processes, communicate regularly and give feedback

Keeping communication open and flowing is crucial for happy client-freelancer relationships. Lay the groundwork for a successful relationship by building clear processes and expectations. Learn how to give good feedback in a direct and kind format. Make sure your freelancer has access to everything they need along with guidelines for the projects that they’re responsible for. Make yourself available regularly to provider further clarity and be aware when you’ve become a blocker on tasks. At CloudPeeps, we love Asana, Trello, Slack, Github and Google Apps for daily workflow and project management.

Final thoughts

One of the things I appreciate most about starting off building professional relationships in a freelance capacity is that you can test things out before ramping up. It seems a little strange that traditional employment often involves going in cold for a one-hour interview, followed by a couple of reference checks — then all of a sudden you’re spending most of your waking life in an office on the job. If a freelance relationship doesn’t work out, you can respectfully part ways and keep going.

All in all, businesses get the chance to work with talented experts they wouldn’t have had in the past, and freelancers get to work on things they’re passionate about while making a true impact. Not to forget, from wherever they are in the globe. Now that’s a promising evolution.