Hiring freelancers: A fast way for startups to bring in expertise

Most startup owners will consider taking on a freelancer at some point. Whether it’s to plug a skills gap, manage a sudden spike in demand or free you up to focus on growing the business, freelancers bring in targeted help when you need it the most. 

As of February 2022, there were around 4.23 million self-employed workers in the UK. With so much choice, there has never been a better time to find the skills you need.

Benefits of hiring a freelancer include:

  • The chance to tap into specific skills or experience
  • The ability to recruit at short notice and for short periods of time
  • Less time spent on admin – you don’t need to arrange tax or pension contributions 

Freelancers also don’t require the same training and onboarding an employee would. That makes them a great fit for founders who are short on time and need someone who can hit the ground running.


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Where can startups find freelancers?

Online marketplaces

One of the best places to find freelancers is online marketplaces like Fiverr. These marketplaces make it easy to find freelancers with a broad range of skill sets and to suit different budgets. It’s also possible to post adverts on these marketplaces, stating your requirements, and let freelancers contact you. 

Your network

It’s also a good idea to reach out to your network. Word of mouth recommendations are a useful way to find top freelance talent, particularly if you need someone with specific experience. If peers can vouch for a freelancer, there’s often a higher level of trust on both sides too. 

Social media and job sites

Since LinkedIn caters solely for people looking to advance their careers or find new opportunities, there are lots of people who will want to interact. 

There are countless community groups to join as well, all focused on a certain industry or shared interest.


Using an agency can help you find talent quickly and easily. However, if you’re keeping a close eye on cash, bear in mind that agency costs can significantly stretch your budget.

Plus you might find yourself dealing with an intermediary, which can prevent you from forging a lasting relationship with the person doing the work.

Know what you’re looking for

It’s essential to know exactly what you want before beginning the search for a freelancer. This will make the task of finding the right person much easier. 

Assess the skills you have in-house and then look to plug any gaps with freelancers. What work are you struggling to complete? What expertise is missing? How many hours per week or month do you need somebody? What experience level do you require? 

For example, you might need a freelance content writer with at least two years’ experience to write one SEO-optimised blog per week on the freight shipping industry. That will really help you to narrow down potential candidates. 

Define your budget 

Before taking on a freelancer, it’s important to set your budget. The level of experience you require will affect how much a freelancer’s time costs. 

Figure out how much you want to spend, as well as additional costs that may be included (for example, if you’re hiring a web designer, you might also need to pay for things like stock photo credits). 

You should also decide whether you want to pay per project, use a day rate or an hourly rate, or hire on a retainer basis.

Set a clear brief

Setting clear instructions to freelancers is essential for quality control. Ensure briefs are detailed yet concise. Be sure to include goals with measurable metrics. 

Some things to include in your brief:

  • The requirement of the project
  • The timeframe for completion
  • Project budget
  • Any other details the freelancer might need to know to get the job done

Sharing resources with freelancers is an important part of giving clear instructions. Things like templates, examples of previous work, ‘how to’ presentations and any relevant internal documents can help freelancers to understand what’s required of them. 

Resources such as style guides – which decide things like spelling, grammar and tone – will also keep work consistent if you have lots of different contributors.

Communicate regularly

Regardless of how clear your instructions are, there will always be questions from freelancers. Keep communication channels open so you can resolve any issues quickly and prevent bottlenecks. 

Things like Google Chat, Slack and Microsoft Teams are great for quick questions as they arise. It’s always a good idea to make sure that yourself or other members of the team are available for video or phone calls too – especially in the early days or at the start of a new project – to ensure that freelancers are on the right track. 

Research and interview candidates

Hiring a freelancer that’s passionate about your industry and has the right skills and experience can make all the difference. Once you’ve got a shortlist of potential freelancers, visit their website and LinkedIn pages, check out their portfolio and read their bio and client testimonials. 

A freelancer might not be a permanent member of staff but arranging an interview is highly recommended. If you’re going to be working together regularly, you want to check that you’re compatible and will get on well.

An interview will also give you the opportunity to find out more about past projects and what the freelancer could bring to your business. Depending on the work, you could even commission a test piece (which you’d typically pay for). 

Draw up a contract

Contracts are the best way to protect yourself as an employer and the freelancer. A contract lays out the details of the working relationship between you and the freelancer, including the status of things like confidential information. 

When freelancers work for you, they retain the right of ownership of intellectual property they create automatically. If you want the right of ownership, this will need to be agreed upon in the contract.

How to pay freelancers

The most common way to pay freelancers is through invoices. They submit an invoice to you at an agreed time (this could be the end of the project or on a certain calendar day). Make sure all parties agree on a timeframe for the payments.

If you’re using one of the bigger freelance marketplaces like Fiverr, then you can easily pay them through these sites. 

Treat freelancers well

While this goes without saying, treat freelancers like a valuable member of your team. A one-off commission could evolve into a lasting mutually beneficial relationship. 

Be open and communicative. Give constructive feedback on their work. If necessary, offer training. Pay fairly for the job and do it on time. Freelancers often have to chase late payments and will always be loyal to companies who pay within the agreed timeframe. 

Finally, stick to the brief. You should not demand extra work from freelancers if it’s not in the brief or is unpaid.

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Holly Sawyer

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