With websites like Freelancer, UpWork and 99Designs increasing their user base at an incredible speed, coming across a freelance web designer has never been easier. All you have to do is post a project description and within minutes your inbox will be filled with offers from freelancers all over the world, but a rich offer doesn’t necessarily guarantee a successful project.
Each organization has different requirements and goals with which the designer needs to resonate, so before awarding a freelancer with your project, you need to look at a few factors and take some strategic decisions that will streamline your collaboration.
As a first-time freelancer employer, the process of hiring someone who lives in a different corner of the world to handle web design can seem a bit intimidating, so try to be strategic in the recruitment process. Keep in mind that the secret to a good collaboration doesn’t rely only on the freelancer’s expertise, but also on your communication and organization skills.
Decide the role that the designer will have within your organization
Before starting a project on one of the main freelancing platforms, sit down with your team and decide what kind of professional you want to hire and for what task. Split the job requirements section into two parts:
- What kind of design work will they be doing? Do you need a designer to help you with visual elements such as icons, fonts and website colors, or do you need someone who can handle the complex tasks of UX and UI? There are several types of web designers, so make sure you understand the difference to avoid inconveniences.
- How involved will they be in your organization? Do you need someone to deliver an icon pack and end your collaboration there, or do you need someone who can execute the design, but also offer you strategic insights and be part of your brand in the long run? Analyze your business needs and budget to determine whether you will need a designer full-time or part time. For brand continuity, it’s not a good idea to have several designers coming in and out every couple of months, so you should consider a freelancer who can handle repeated projects.
Scout freelancer platforms
After you’ve decided what kind of freelancer you’re looking for, it’s time to create a new project with a clear and concise description. Once the bids start coming in, try not to focus so much on price, but on the reviews those designers have.
Professional freelancing platforms do a pretty good job at filtering out scams, so if a user is truly unreliable, their rating will show it. But how do you differentiate between several dozens of freelancers with a 5-star rating? By reading their reviews and looking for the following keywords:
- Easy to work with
- Responsive to messages
- Accepts constructive feedback
- Respects deadlines
Needless to say, a background check is essential when hiring a freelancer for the first time, so look at their user profile on various platforms, their online portfolio, as well as their social media pages.
Schedule a one-on-one meeting
Freelancer platforms let you start a project with just a few clicks if you’re in a hurry to get things done, but that doesn’t mean you should. Post your project early and ask your top 3 candidates if they are available for a detailed discussion regarding the scope and length of the project. If they don’t have time and offer you elusive answers, it’s best to avoid them, because they will treat your project with the same superficiality.
Sometimes, you come across a freelancer who has all the right references, but after talking to them you may feel that you just don’t click. In these situations, it’s best to trust your gut feeling and hire someone you feel you can communicate with. A business is not a lifeless entity that requires one-size-fits-all solutions. On the contrary, you need to make sure everyone who works on your project is willing to take their time and understand your vision.
Ask freelancers a few questions about their work, but, at the same time, try not to sound like an overzealous recruiter, because freelancers expect a certain level of professionalism. You have all the right to ask questions regarding their level of expertise, availability and rates, but don’t ask personal questions or questions that can be perceived as uncomfortable.
Start a trial project first
If the project you are about to start is very complex and you’re still not sure the designer would be a good match, it’s a good idea to start with something more basic first. This project would still be paid, of course, but it can cover only a small task, just so you can see how you communicate with the designer and whether their way of working aligns with your brand philosophy.
In fact, many CEOs start by publishing small, basic trial projects to “test” freelancers and find the ones that match their vision.
Even if all things go well during the interviews, some things you cannot really know until you start working with that person, so a trial project is a safe way to avoid unpleasant surprises. Just like in the case of scanning reviews, stick with the freelancer who is quick to deliver the work, but at the same time has a proactive approach and responds to messages in a timely manner.