It’s always a little risky handing important tasks over to people outside of your company. But if you have a one-time need for help with graphic design or an email newsletter that your employees can’t handle, it’s time to call on freelance assistance. So where can you find qualified and experienced help at a reasonable price? Here are a few options.
1) Through your own network – “It seems so simple, but small business owners may not realize the power of their networks,” says Amy Harcourt of Definitive Marketing. She recommends sending an email to friends and colleagues with a description of your needs, as well as posting status updates in reference to your needs on Facebook and LinkedIn. Finding a freelancer who’s been pre-vetted by one of your contacts is a great way to ensure quality.
2) Craigslist – This giant online marketplace is free and widely used, even among experienced professionals. However, because it’s such a large site, you’re likely to receive dozens, if not hundreds, of responses to your listing — and many of the applicants won’t be remotely qualified for your needs. Business owners can and do find qualified help through Craigslist, but if you use this method, be prepared to spend a considerable amount of time digging through your responses to find just a few suitable candidates.
3) Elance, Odesk, Vworker, and Guru – These sites all have similar models: They’re online platforms where business owners can post projects and allow freelancers to bid on them. Each site provides a rating system, so that you can see what previous clients think of a freelancer’s work. “The mere existence of a rating system makes providers eager to do well for fear of receiving bad reviews,” says Tom Harnish of Telework Research Network. However, the quality of candidates is still mixed: Because the sites’ competitive bidding atmospheres encourage low rates, most experienced professionals rarely use them.
4) Solvate and MediaBistro – These sites tend to attract more experienced professionals in creative industries like writing, web development, and graphic design. You can search for candidates using a variety of criteria, and view freelancers’ work samples and client lists. You’ll probably pay higher hourly wages for these freelancers than for those on bidding sites, but since you’ll be able to handpick the talent who’s right for your project, you may save a lot of aggravation by taking this route.