Ten Commandments of Hiring Freelancers

1. You may not pay less than a living wage. What’s the living wage? Figure out what a professional supporting a family of four in your part of the country needs to make per year. Divide that number by 1,000. That’s the freelancer’s hourly rate. If that number is your budget for the entire project, don’t call them until you can afford them.

Moses and the Ten Commandments

2. Always set — and have — clear expectations. Make sure you know up front what the freelancer is going to do and not do. If you’re hiring a website designer, make sure you know who’s going to provide the written content. If you’re hiring a printer, make sure you know who’s proofreading everything first.

3. You may not ask a freelancer to do project work on spec to see if you like it, and then pay her if you accept it. You wouldn’t do it with your dentist, a plumber, or a mechanic. You hire them based on their past work and their vision. You work with them to make sure they give you what they want. But you pay them for it.

4. You may not refuse to pay a freelancer just because you decide not to use their work. If you decide to go in a different direction, or abandon the project, tough. He did the work, you have to pay him. You wouldn’t do that to an employee whose project you canceled. (Exception: If their work just downright sucks, you can cancel payment, but you cannot salvage their work and use it anyway.)

5. Pay for “feature creep.” If you hire a company to write copy for a marketing brochure, and you want them to lay it out too, be prepared to pay for that. If you’re getting a new logo created, and you decide you want your business cards to have a new look, that’s going to cost extra.

7. You may not compare the work they do to your nephew’s and expect the same fee scale. Don’t say, “but my nephew who just graduated from college can do the same thing for $500.” If he really can, hire your damn nephew. The fact that you’re having this conversation with a professional means you don’t actually think your nephew can do the work. Otherwise, you’d have called him. You’re talking to a professional because you want pro level work, so be prepared to pay pro level prices. Don’t expect a pro to compete with your inexperienced family members.

7. Trust your freelancers’ understanding of their technology. If you’re hiring an SEO specialist, don’t make him follow the SEO rules you learned in 2005. If you’re hiring a web designer, and they say “no Flash,” don’t make them use Flash. In most cases, your freelancers know more about the technology they’re working with than you do (e.g. There is no “clean up button” like you see on Law & Order). If you’re asking for something they say can’t be done, it can’t be done.

8. You may not dismiss what freelancers do as a commodity. Freelancers have devoted years of their life to honing their skill so they excel at it. Writers do nothing but write, designers do nothing but design. They don’t go to weekly staff meetings and committee meetings, and they don’t file TPS reports. If you think this is something that any schlub can do, hire your nephew. You leave your home’s plumbing and electrical work to trained professionals, rather than hiring your nephew, right? Treat your outsourced work with the same seriousness.

9. Always pay on time. You wouldn’t delay paying your employees or withhold their paycheck because you’re worried about cash flow. Don’t delay payment for your freelancers. You — hopefully — pay all of your other bills on time, pay freelancers on time. Believe me, freelancers give drop-everything service to their best clients. Clients who think payment is optional get when-I-have-time service.

10. Always approve the final product. Make sure you read and okay everything. Test it out. Make sure it works. Freelancers will always send you the final product, but that doesn’t mean it’s done. You have to pay careful attention to all the details, because you know more about the subject than anyone else.

Photo credit: Functoruser (Flickr, Creative Commons)

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency He co-authored four social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (3rd ed., 2017, Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.


    1. Cynthia J. Starks says

      Eric — This is a good one! Thanks for posting.