Ladyguide: Hiring Your First Freelance Contractor

So you’ve gone and broken your website, you need a new logo for your happenin’ start-up, or you’d like an objective eye to read over your latest alien zombie vampire dystopian rom-com screenplay. If this is you, you might want to hire a freelancer. 

Screenplay cover mock-up for All My Feels II

As a freelancer myself, and one who has completed jobs similar to all three I mentioned in the intro, I can offer some solid advice that will not only make the lives of my fellow freelancers a little easier, I can make your life, as a potential client, a little easier as well.

Rule 1: Know what you want.

Many of the proposals I receive are very, very vague. I will frequently turn down a proposal if the original doesn’t provide me with enough details to make an accurate estimate about how much the job is going to entail. Frequently, the prospective client just hasn’t spelled it all out, which can be easily remedied with a conversation before an official proposal is made, but more often than I’d like, the proposal is vague because the prospective client doesn’t know what they need. A top-notch freelancer can be a great resource, able to do lots of wonderful things, but almost none of us can read minds. Make sure to take the time to think about and clearly describe the full scope of your project before you seek out your freelancer.

Rule 2: Your freelancer is your partner, not your minion.

A full-time freelancer, especially one who specializes in smaller or one-off projects, is going to be juggling multiple clients at any one time. Many of us manage a full roster of clients with meticulous scheduling, reserving blocks of time for each client. This allows us to give our full attention to the project in front of us, without worrying about being pulled away by other clients. This means your freelancer may not be available to immediately answer emails, or have a conversation on Skype, unless it’s planned in advance. I am more than happy to give you and your project my undivided attention, which means I need the time and freedom to give my other clients the same level of service you expect. A tight schedule keeps it fair for everyone.

In that same vein, if you schedule a meeting with a freelancer, please be on time. Fifteen minutes may not seem like much, but it can easily translate into lost income for your freelancer. Unlike lawyers, we don’t usually bill you for time we spend waiting for you, but you will earn our undying gratitude if you show up on time, every time.

Rule 3: That might take a change order.

Nothing sends a shiver down my spine faster than the words “Can you throw in [time-consuming, skill-requiring extra] for free?” Probably not. Just like your mechanic, plumber, doctor, and handyperson aren’t likely to give away free work/products, your freelancer is going to want to charge you for all the work she/he does. Even if you’ve built up a great rapport. Even if you promise to tell all your friends what a great freelancer she is. That’s not to say it never happens, I’ve given away work to clients I really like, as well as friends and family, but it’s not the norm. It can’t be. Try as I might, my local Kroger won’t let me buy food with glowing testimonials.

Most full-time freelancers are also going to charge for both communication and administrative tasks. When you’re at work, you like to be paid for all the hours you put in, right? So does your freelancer.

Rule 4: Don’t be an invoice lollygagger.

One of my favorite clients pays within 12 hours of final approval, like clockwork. I want to kiss her on the mouth (figuratively). About half of my regulars pay within six to eight weeks of when they receive my invoice. Another quarter pays faster, the last quarter practically require I go to their house and play Nickelback on repeat outside their window or threaten to line their floors with Lego pieces before they cough up. Don’t make your freelancer dream up creative ways of making your life miserable; pay up in a timely fashion.

Rule 5: Read this before you hire.

This article is specific to WordPress site creation, but the ideas discussed are applicable in just about any freelancer/client situation I’ve been in.

By [E] Selena MacIntosh*

Selena MacIntosh is the owner and editor of Persephone Magazine. She also fixes it when it breaks. She is fueled by Diet Coke, coffee with a lot of cream in it, and cat hair.

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