9 common pitfalls when hiring freelancers

Hiring freelancers is great! Well, at least most of the time. Like everything, freelancers come with their own set of potential problems. Here are 9 common pitfalls you might face when working with freelancers.

Pitfall No.1: Magical Vanishing Acts

We may as well start with the scariest one. Picture the scene: everything’s going swimmingly but then suddenly your freelancer stops responding to messages and starts missing deadlines. Eventually, they drop off the radar completely. A total nightmare right? Money, work and time has disappeared down the drain and you have to start from scratch.

Fortunately, this doesn’t happen as much as the scare stories would make out and there are things you can do stop it. Contracts are the golden ticket to making sure your freelancer takes the work seriously and intends to do it. Don’t pay all at once either. Give a deposit and use milestone payments when key deadlines are hit.

Pitfall no.1 - cable car disappearing into the mist

Pitfall No.2: You’re out of control

This isn’t necessarily a pitfall – in fact, it’s part and parcel of hiring freelancers. But it can sure feel like one if you’re used to having full-time employees. You’ve got to remember (and accept!) that they’re not really part of your company, so they’re unlikely to have the same level of loyalty to the business. They also won’t get the training you probably give to employees.

There’s not really much you can do to avoid this one – but try and make yourself a good client. Your freelancer is going to be more likely to want to do good work if you’re not awful to work for!

Pitfall No.3: Lack of contact

You can’t micromanage a freelancer, so don’t expect minute by minute updates on their progress. This can be frustrating when you want to know what’s happening with the work.

Communication can also be difficult to figure out, particularly if you’re hiring internationally. Time zones can ruin even the best laid plans if you don’t take them into account.

There’s also nothing quite like feeling ghosted by your freelancer – that dreaded ‘seen’ message with no reply can drive you up the wall. In most cases though they will get back to you, they’re probably just busy with other things – which brings us to our next point…

pitfall no.2 - man using a tin can to communicate

Pitfall No.4: You’re not their sole focus

Freelancers will probably be working on multiple projects at any one time. They won’t be able to drop everything else immediately because you’ve demanded an “urgent” revision. They’re not at your beck and call. In fact, if they’re only working for you all the time you’re heading into dodgy legal territory. To be classified as a freelancer, they can’t be working exclusively for you, so make life easier for both of you and don’t expect it.

Pitfall No.5: Payment problems

You won’t have your freelancer on the company payroll, so you’ll have to sort out payment. This might involve deposits, milestone payments and international bank transfers depending on the freelancer.

Plan and pay on time. Paying a freelancer is not the time for your inner procrastinator to come out to play.

Don’t pay less than you promised – this is a great way to get blacklisted by a freelancer.

Pitfall No.6: People can lie

Hiring a freelancer means taking a leap of faith. It’s hard to do a full interview and they could be being dishonest about their credentials. Obviously looking at past work will help a lot here, but even so there’s no guarantee that the quality will be as high as they promise. It’ll help to have a list of key qualities you want your freelancer to have – whether they be qualifications, experience or software – and questions you can ask to determine whether they’re the right fit.

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That feeling when your freelancer’s portfolio is as real as this bear.

Pitfall No.7: Confidentiality issues

If your work is sensitive, there are obviously more potential confidentiality problems when hiring a freelancer. You can’t vet them as thoroughly as you would a full-time hire. Make sure you take the relevant precautions – a non-disclosure agreement might feel OTT but if it’s necessary it’s worth getting freelancers to sign one.

Pitfall No.8: Unclear Expectations

This can be a pitfall for both you and your unsuspecting freelancer! If you give vague instructions and the project turns out a disaster, you’ve really got no one to blame but yourself. So make sure you go in knowing what you want the freelancer to do, and crucially, that they also know. That way you’ll avoid any nasty surprises that will leave you both feeling very unhappy.

Pitfall No.9: You’re a cheapskate

This one’s all on you to be honest. If you’re paying a ludicrously low amount, expect the work to be of cheap quality. Be willing to pay what the work is worth, and have realistic expectations when setting a budget. Don’t keep trying to undercut your freelancer either. Most freelancers have rates and prices they’ve set for a reason and it’s not fair on them if you refuse to pay them properly.

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Becca is the Marketing Executive at Twine. She loves literature, music, film and make-up. She spends a lot of time complaining about the mismatched angles of her winged eyeliner and stalking drag queens on Instagram. Otherwise, she’s helping Joe by writing blog posts and keeping Twine’s social media running.