A couple of years ago, I decided I needed a helping hand to boost my brand. So I started the hunt for a professional photographer and a graphic designer. Later on, I felt the need to hire a VA. Being a freelancer myself, I decided I’d look for like-minded solopreneurs. And so there I was, busy finding a freelancer. Searching for the perfect candidates.
At first, having been firmly on the freelancer side of the freelancer-client relationship for over a decade, it was strange to suddenly put myself in their shoes and be the one finding a freelancer. This process made me reflect on the criteria that were important to me. And what might make clients choose to hire me.
But fast forward a couple of years and my business has grown. TAGS Language Solutions is now a boutique translation agency and our natural next step was to set up a small pool of freelance translators so we can expand our services and language combinations. With a decade of PM experience under my belt, I’d already developed some techniques for finding the right professional for each specific project. So I had to tune into my inner project manager to find the best new members for our close-knit team. But when it comes to a recruitment process, you need more than just good instincts.
So I thought I’d share my top tips for finding freelancers. Whether you’re busy finding a translator or another freelance professional, or you’re a freelancer yourself, I hope you’ll find it helpful.
Finding a freelancer – where to look
To come up with a shortlist of potential freelancers for a particular project, I do what most people do. I check on LinkedIn. I ask my freelance network if they have any recommendations. But I don’t usually advertise on social media or other freelance platforms, like Fiverr, or Proz for translation.
Normally, there’s no shortage of search results and recommendations. So my next step is applying the following criteria to decide who to choose.
Top 10 criteria for hiring a freelancer
1. Personal connections and professional associations
As mentioned, I don’t often advertise on freelance platforms. Instead, I prefer to contact people that I either know personally, or who come highly recommended by trusted colleagues. For translators, I’ll also check if they’re a member of a professional association, such as APTRAD for translators working with Portuguese. All this demonstrates they take their work seriously and gives me confidence that I can trust them.
2. How, and how quickly, they respond
The nature of freelancing means that we’re pretty much constantly online, so I interpret prompt replies to my enquiries as a sign of enthusiasm for the project. It also shows me that they’d respond quickly should I have any questions once I’ve made my selection.
I don’t expect instant responses, as we’re all busy with projects, but anyone that takes more than a day or two to respond is normally scratched off the list.
The way that they communicate is also important. It’s a way of assessing how easy they will be to work with, and if it seems like we’ll get along. And it gives me an idea of their writing style and skills.
3. The kind of questions they ask
Before I started looking for freelancers, I hadn’t realised just how important this would be.
I lean towards the freelancers that ask the most relevant questions. Because this shows they have plenty of experience in responding to enquiries just like mine.
4. Website, social media presence, and testimonials
I always quickly check out the online presence of all candidates before getting in touch, but when I receive responses, I take a deeper dive into their online profiles.
I’m looking for freelancers with professional-looking websites or social media profiles. They should include well-written content and testimonials, recommendations and referrals from previous clients or colleagues. What’s more, their social media profiles indicate how they communicate with others – are they friendly, approachable and professional?
Depending on what I’m looking for, some aspects may be more important than others. For instance, if I’m looking for a translator, written language skills will be top of the list. But when I was hiring a photographer and graphic designer, the visuals were especially important.
5. A structured offer
The strongest candidates are those that give me examples of other projects they’ve worked on that were just like mine and tell me how they went about doing that job.
I’m particularly interested in freelancers that detail exactly what a service will include, complete with revisions and time frames, and explain precisely what the process would be and what they’d need from me. That way, we both know where we stand should I choose to proceed.
6. Enthusiasm about the project, friendly approach
A friendly tone makes a huge difference to my interest in hiring someone, and I always enjoy hearing back from freelancers who express enthusiasm in my specific project.
Generic, unenthused responses that don’t reference my specific project don’t make the cut.
7. A good fit
When it comes to looking for freelancers for long-term collaboration, it’s important that they’re aligned with our culture and values. For instance, here at TAGS, we’re all about positivity. We celebrate our successes and those of our colleagues. And we share our knowledge to help others grow and learn. We want to work with people that share these beliefs and demonstrate them in the way they work.
To get a sense of this, it can often be helpful to schedule a face-to-face meeting.
Of course, as wonderful as some freelancers may be, they sometimes aren’t available when I need them. This is often the case when I’m looking for support with a specific project. For instance, when I was looking for a photographer, I needed someone that was available when I was physically able to attend the shoot.
9. Performance and feedback
When it comes to working with translators, it can be hard to assess the quality of their work until you see it on a real project. But at TAGS we don’t ask people to sit translation tests for free. Instead, we suggest a slightly discounted rate for the first job. Then I personally review their work and provide extensive feedback.
The translation itself and the way they respond to feedback are both invaluable for determining if we should continue to work together. And this applies over the long-term too. In fact, we use LSP.expert, a project management tool that includes an evaluation feature with several categories. This allows us to easily provide regular feedback to our freelance translators. It’s important to us that the people we work with are receptive to feedback, take it on board, and implement it on future projects.
The clincher, in some cases, is price. Of course, I believe in paying a fair price for quality work. But the price needs to be reasonable and a reflection of the value of the service to me.
I always decide on a rough budget before I start my search, so it’s the freelancers that tick all of the boxes above and quote an amount within my budget who get the gig in the end.
I don’t usually negotiate prices. So for freelancers that are outside my budget, I simply let them know. (And honestly, I’m quite happy to see my fellow colleagues charging high rates!)
At TAGS, we try to set an example. Contact us and ask for a quote and see if we tick all these boxes.