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One question I get from clients a lot is,

“how can I find a good freelancer for [INSERT FIELD HERE]? I tried hiring people on UpWork recently but I just couldn’t get a decent bite… Do you know somebody who does [Web design/programming/analytics/etc]?”

As a freelancer, I always had a hard time relating to this.

Anybody can see that online freelancing is  a buyer’s market. Simply put, there are more people trying to get hired than there are people hiring. As freelancers, we find it hard to relate to clients who say they can’t find someone.

“What, out of the 126 proposals you received, you mean to tell me you couldn’t find a SINGLE qualified candidate?”

What I realized after finally experiencing life on the client’s side of the desk, is that it’s this very abundance of choice that makes it hard to find a decent freelancer online.

Typically, if a client posts a listing on a site like UpWork or  Craigslist, they will get so many replies that they won’t know what to do with them, and end up hiring nobody; or, worse, shopping by price, which always results in lacklustre quality.

As Liam Veitch of FreelanceLift writes,

“[Clients’] time is limited and ability to pay attention severely exhausted. This is compounded by the fact that there have never been so many easy ways to seek answers for the pains and problems they have (that your service would ultimately remedy).”

As a client who is thinking about hiring a freelance, this is the main problem you face:

Too many options, not enough ways to differentiate between them.

With that in mind, here are the top 5 ways you can efficiently find your dream freelancer–without having to comb through a haystack.

1. Know Where To Post Your Listing (Or Don’t Post One At All).

Online freelance markets are, as a rule, pretty cluttered.

If you post a listing on Craigslist, UpWork, Freelancer, or any of the other usual suspects, you will receive dozens of low quality replies and won’t necessarily know how to tell them apart.

A much better route is to post your listing to more exclusive markets, or seek a referral from a trusted professional you already know. This is an excellent way to cut the riff-raff out of your potential candidate’s list.

2. Do A Google Search.

A Google search is a great way to find potential freelancers, for two reasons:

One, if someone is on the first page of Google, they are probably there for a reason. It’s not easy to get the SEO Juice needed to rank first on Google; as Jenny Munn writes on The Well Fed Writer, it takes effort and dedication, and a lot of patience. As it turns out, these are qualities everyone wants in a freelancer.

Two, Google helps you find people who are relevant in their field. If somebody ranks highly for the term ‘copywriter,’ there’s a good chance that he or she is respected highly by other copywriters; mutual respect and admiration typically lead to backlinks.

3. Know What You’re Looking For.

There’s a world of difference between what one business needs and what another business needs. By the same token, the same business might need one thing one day, and another thing another day.

A common question for clients is, “how much should I pay for an ‘x’ (article/website/logo/etc).”

The answer is, it largely depends on what you need.

Consider an article. How much is the right amount to pay for a 500 word article? In all honesty, it’s all over the place. If you expect this article to actually persuade people and start a conversation, then probably not less than $100. If, on the other hand, you’re just looking for keyword-stuffing for SEO purposes, you might pay as little as $15.

The ‘right price’ is always relative to your objective. The best freelancers know and understand this, and will price services to reflect the actual complexity of the task, as opposed to mere length or character count.

4. Go Local.

One trick for finding great talent is to look for somebody locally. This perhaps seems a little passe, but meeting someone in-person can tell you a lot that you wouldn’t be able to tell over the net (or even the phone). According to psychological research, between 60 and 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. This makes offline communication particularly valuable for finding out what someone is like.

As a Toronto copywriter, I routinely seek out work locally, through Toronto meetup groups, trade shows, etc. It’s a complete win-win. Clients love the fact that I am based locally, and understand the local culture (this is particularly relevant when writing for real estate agents). I, for my part, get the benefit of easier lead generation; since I am to show up and actually meet my clients in person, I make a stronger impression, and am more likely to get the gig.

5. Never Award A Project Without Interviewing The Freelancer First.

Last but not least, always do a discovery session with a prospective freelancer BEFORE hiring him or her.

I can’t tell you how many times, as a freelancer, I have had clients willing to pay me a significant sum of money after nothing more than a short email exchange. When working as a freelancer, I certainly appreciate it; but frankly, were I in the client’s side of the table, I would never let this happen.

Before you hire ANYONE, you need to know this:

There is NO substitute for actually getting to know someone. The book is not the cover. The world’s prettiest website, best portfolio, the highest Yelp reviews, etc, don’t necessarily mean anything. A pretty website doesn’t tell you anything about a client who isn’t a web designer. A great portfolio could be made up of samples stolen from someone else. Great reviews could be gamed or paid-for. You never know what’s behind what you see on the internet.

Doing an interview or discovery session may take a little time, but it’s well worth it. It clarifies the project requirements to the freelancer, it lets you know who you’re working with, and it helps establish a pattern of rapport and open communication.

All in all?

It’s a no-brainer.

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