Before hiring a freelancer, you need to make sure they’re the right one for you. If you’ve got pitches from lots of different creatives, you’ll want to work out a way to shrink the pool a little. Luckily, there are some questions you can ask that can make the selection process that little bit easier.
Question 1: Can you meet my deadline?
Just because the deadline is months away doesn’t mean that this question doesn’t apply. The freelancer might have multiple projects scheduled in the coming months, so you need to make sure your project fits into their overall workflow. For tighter deadlines, make sure the creative can work fast enough, and ask about past projects to establish their usual turnaround time.
Equally, make sure you’re being reasonable about a deadline. If every freelancer you ask is saying no, perhaps you’re the one who needs to have a rethink. Your timeline simply might not be realistic for the scope of the work. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Question 2: Do you have the necessary equipment and tools?
You can’t provide a freelancer with equipment, so make sure they’ve got what they need to do the work. This is obviously role specific, but for instance it’s a bit of a red flag if a graphic designer doesn’t have Photoshop and ends up sending you a ‘high-res’ logo in a Word document. Similarly, if you’re hiring a game developer you need to make sure they’re familiar with the necessary coding languages and game engines. For music producers, you might want to check what programmes they mix their music on, or whether they have access to a full-blown studio.
Question 3: Can I see your portfolio?
Looking at past work is really the only way of seeing if a freelancer is as good as they say. It’s not only about quality though. If you’re hiring an illustrator, for example, you’ll want to make sure their art is the right style for the project. If you’re looking for a realistic watercolour painting and their illustrations are all surreal, digital masterpieces, it probably isn’t going to work out.
When you’re looking at past work, make sure to ask some questions about the projects they’ve done. What was the goal and did they achieve it? What was their approach? Did they meet all the deadlines? What sort of feedback did they get? You could even ask what they wished they’d done differently on a particular project.
Question 4: Do you have references from past clients?
Getting in touch with a past client is another way of guaranteeing that the freelancer is a good egg. After all, clients are far less likely to “bend the truth” than the freelancer themselves. People ask for references for full-time employees for this very reason.
Question 5: What’s your approach to working remotely?
If your freelancer is in a different country, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have face-to-face review meetings. This question lets you gauge how they expect the client/freelancer relationship will work – for instance, how you’ll communicate and how often they’ll be wanting feedback. This is also the time to discuss practical issues – for example, how you’ll negotiate any time zone differences. It’s unlikely that either of you will be up for Skyping at 4am!
Question 6: What sort of work do you enjoying doing the most?
Okay, so there’s a good chance that they’ll say “designing corporate logos with a rustic feel” because that’s what you’re asking for, but it’s still good to try and get a read on where their passion really lies. A lot of freelancers say they can do everything but that rarely means they do everything well. You might be better off hiring a freelancer who specialises in what you need and is well-versed in that field. There’s a reason you don’t see Skrillex producing heavy metal albums.
Question 7: What’s your rate?
There’s nothing more heartbreaking than falling in love with a particular freelancer’s work, only to find out you really really can’t afford them. Ask this question early on – or tell them what your budget is, and see if they can work with that. Check if they charge a per-project rate or an hourly one. If it’s the latter, it’s really crucial that you establish that the timeline you’re proposing is realistic. Otherwise, you could end up going massively over budget!
Question 8: Are revisions included in the price?
Check how many changes are included. It’s unfair to expect a freelancer to do a million revisions for free.
Question 9: What’s your understanding of the brief?
This is a way to make sure that your freelancer has a full understanding of what the project expectations are. Getting them to explain it back to you shows that they get it and they can also flag up anything that’s horrendously unclear on your side. If you’re a business, you probably want to check they understand the core values of your organisation and can reflect that in any work they do.
Question 10: Do you have any questions?
This gives the freelancer the chance to ask about anything that’s unclear that hasn’t popped up in the conversation anywhere else. On top of that, if every freelancer is asking the same question, it’s something you might want to make clearer in the brief as it’s clearly not covered there. Well, either that or they’ve all read the same advice page on questions to ask in an interview…