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10 Steps To An Effective (Online) Freelance Project

A brief guide to for project success.

There’s an African Proverb that states, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” There is no better person that can relate to this than an entrepreneur.  Starting and running a business is a marathon, one that requires endurance, people skills and quick judgment, amongst a list of other capabilities. One of the most important being, the ability to manage your time through the art of delegation.

As business owners there’s no way we can do everything on our own. No matter how often I want to do things by myself, it’s just not possible. Besides the limitation to our most valuable resource, time, we can’t possess all of the skills needed to run a business.  Some things we will need to outsource to save time and ensure the output is the quality we desire. One way to achieve this is by hiring a freelancer. Freelancers are typically used for short-term or one-off projects.

So how does one go about working with a freelancer?

Below are the 10 steps I utilize to ensure I have the most effective freelance projects.

1. Define the scope of your project

I know this may seem obvious, but as entrepreneurs we love ideas which can sometimes leads off course from where we need to be. Before seeking a freelancer, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you would like to achieve and the purpose of the project

2. Choose a platform.  

There are online platforms designed specifically to match freelancers and jobs.  I prefer to work with freelancers that are already on these established platforms, rather than seek out through other means.  Some of these platforms will allow you to browse the freelancers based on area of expertise, reviews and view portfolios. Additionally, there are usually consumer protections that allow you to dispute if the project goes off the rails.

3. Create a post.  

Make the headline catchy and fun.  This is what will attract freelancers to view and apply for your project.  On some platforms you can even invite freelancers to apply for your project.  The idea is to have the most qualified freelancers applying for your project. In your post I wouldn’t have more than three short sections.  One paragraph of the type of expert you are looking for, another paragraph giving a brief description of your business and another section that contains the deliverables for the project.  The deliverables should be in bullet form.

4. Interview between 2-3 candidates.

Thank the freelancer and express your excitement that they applied for the job.  Let them know you are actively looking at a few candidates and have a few questions which will help narrow the search.  I wouldn’t send any more than three questions to each candidate. Two questions which do a bit more digging to determine expertise and one question which allows you to get to know their personality and align with their goals.  For example, how long do they believe it will take to complete? How much are they seeking for payment. Another question you can ask is, other than compensation, what are they looking to get out of this project? Pay attention to how they respond.  Do they disappear for long periods of time or fail to answer to the question? This will provide a good indication of how they will likely approach your project.

5. Choose your freelancer.

Offer the job to the freelancer of your choice.  Tell them you would like to have a call to kick off the project.  Try and do this within the same week to keep the momentum.

6. Have a kick-off call.

There’s nothing that can replicate human contact and establishing a relationship. That’s why I believe it is important to set up a 30-minute conference call to officially launch the project. Make sure you provide an agenda beforehand. This allows you to have a personal touch and ask/answer any questions that may have been lost in the email or messaging chains.  

7. Be assertive about what you want.

You are investing real time and money into this project. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and check for understanding. Have a clear list (for yourself) of “need to have” vs “nice to have.” You can negotiate by adding or removing items based on the level of importance to the desired outcome. Make sure there is accountability for each party.

8. Create milestones for deliverables.

Once you’ve agreed upon compensation for the project, I recommend splitting the project into 3-4 parts (also known as milestones) and have payments scheduled once you’ve reviewed and approved the milestone.

9. Thank your freelancer.

Provided the experience was a pleasant one, send a note of thanks. This will keep the lines of communication open, for any possible projects in the future.

10. Leave a review.

Ask the freelancer to review their experience with you and at the same time also review your experience with them.  You can grade the project on a few different categories including timeliness, professionalism and quality of work.

Lastly, don’t forget to be kind and stay organized throughout the experience. If people know you are not difficult or unpleasant, it will make your future projects that much smoother. Additionally, these relationships can lead to future business through the power of referral, which is always a nice bonus.

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