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Employing Freelancers – The Pitfalls

Most web professionals will consider hiring a freelance at some point. Usually it’s due to a lack of ability or lack of time. Or in some cases their entire businesses model may revolve around outsourcing and hiring freelancers. Regular businessmen rather than “tech guys” tend to adopt this approach. Regardless, whatever your reasoning, there are certain things you’re going to need to watch out for if you want your freelance hiring experience to be a favourable one.

Personally, I’ve been hiring freelances for a number of years. From web developers, to writers, designers and everything in between. Sure there have been some great experiences and I’ve met some fantastic professionals but there are also those experiences which I’d choose to forget if I could.

In this article I’m going to run through some of the key pitfalls you’re likely to encounter should you hire a freelancer. Hopefully you’ll never run into such issues, but it’s always best to be aware.

False Advertising

I’m starting the list with this as it is undoubtedly the most common. In simple terms, people claiming they can do things they can’t. In some cases, this isn’t their fault as freelance marketplaces for example don’t tend to grade any kind of skill level or even allow the freelancer to do so either. So if someone has a ridiculously basic experience of PHP or JavaScript for example they could still list it as a skill. That of course is all well and good, but when you come along wanting a highly experienced developer to carry out your 3 month long coding project, these developers are most definitely not going to be the best fit. So in reality you’re going to need to take the “quoted skills” with a pinch of salt and verify their credentials by viewing their previous works or devising your own skill test of sorts.

“Tell Me Your Budget?”

If you’re asking for quotes for a given job, a common response you’ll receive is the dreaded “tell me your budget”. Freelancers typically say this when they have a price in mind for the job, but expect you’ll be able and willing to pay more.

Sure, you do probably have a budget in you’re serious about your project but if you ever receive this response you’re better off trying your luck and going in much lower. You can then negotiate right up to your ideal rate rather than divulging your true budget and paying much more than you would have been quoted originally.

The Start Date

You should always define a specific start date for any task you lay out. Do not under any circumstances assume that when the freelancer has accepted the job that they’ll be starting immediately. In truth, they’ve probably applied for a ton of jobs that same day and if they’re of any kind of standard they’ll have jobs they’re currently working on too. So avoid the confusion and get a specific start date outlined before you full agree terms.

Lots of freelancers like to stack up work as they’re worried about turning down work when they’re busy and having nothing when they’re through with their current projects. This is great for them, not so great for you. So it’s something you need to be wary of.

Missed Deadlines

The odd missed deadline is inevitable. It could be down to the reasons above or the freelancer might just have underestimated the job. It happens. Unfortunately it’s going to be down to you to determine if the worker hasn’t started when they said they would, if they’ve been slacking or genuinely underestimated what is required.

As I say, it happens as nobody can truly know how long something is going to take specifically – especially when it comes to the larger jobs. But usually you can tell what’s going on by the progress made. For example, if the job is pretty much done on deadline day and just needs some final tweaking, you should allow the time for completion. However, if the freelancer is unable to show you any progress whatsoever on deadline day then you can probably assume they’re messing you around. Particularly if there has been false promises and missed deadlines already.

Work Quality

Work quality is always a worry when hiring an untested, new freelancer. Sure their resume looks great and as does their portfolio but we all know people save their best work for their portfolios and in truth there is no guarantee at all that the work undertaken will be carried out to your desired standard. In this case there isn’t a whole lot you can do other than work with your freelancer to get the work to a reasonable level, chalk it down to experience and move on or cut ties completely and hire someone (hopefully better) to finish things off.

Revisions

You need to be cautious when asking for revisions. You need to know where you stand on this front before undertaking the arrangement as lots of freelances can throw their toys out of the pram if you even hint at them carrying out something in addition. Most freelancers will work to spec, they don’t think outside of the box, they’ll do what you ask them to in a somewhat robotic fashion. So with this in mind you need to make your spec crystal clear. Include absolutely everything. Do not rely on the common sense of the freelancer as that will be a mistake.

Their Way of Doing Things

One of the core issues when it comes to outsourcing work, particularly for those with the ability to do the work themselves if it wasn’t for lack of time is the age old problem of people doing things in their own way. In web development in particular this is often a major issue. You’ll have your own way of coding, how you like things layed out in terms of formatting and design and a freelancer will come in and do things in their own way entirely. Sure it will probably (hopefully) work, but when you come to want to make changes yourself at a later date, you’re going to find a challenge and probably end up doing the entire thing yourself. So keep this in mind if you’re hiring someone for something you’ll want to work on later.

Success

Freelancers wouldn’t exist if people did not enjoy at least some level of success. Most of the time it does result in a smooth fee for work transaction but alas there are times when it doesn’t.

By understanding the above I hope you’ll be able to avoid such issues on going and even if you can’t at least you were somewhat prepared for it so it isn’t a complete shock to the system.

There isn’t much else to say other than good luck in your freelancer sourcing endeavors!

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