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4 Tips to Hire Your Very First Freelancer

4 Tips to Hire Your Very First Freelancer
Written by Lex DeVille

The first time I hired a freelancer was a doozy of an experience. I had so many questions and way too few answers. Ultimately I spent over $1,000 on someone who couldn’t get the job done, wasted weeks of time, and had to hire a second freelancer to fix the mistakes the first one made. Hopefully I can help you avoid those mistakes with these four tips to hire your very first freelancer.

1. Know What You Need and Be Able to Explain It

Depending on your needs, this part can be tricky. For my first job I needed an app developer to create a custom plugin for my website. Not only did I not know what that required, but I also didn’t know how much it should cost.

So I hired a freelancer who seemed like he could get the job done. Unfortunately, he produced very little. Soon he messaged me and said he couldn’t keep doing work without more pay. At this point I was pretty frustrated because I hadn’t seen any real progress. I’d dropped $1,000 which was a big deal for me at the time, and yet had nothing to show.

Eventually I ended the contract and moved on with someone else, but not before wasting time and money.

A big part of the problem was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I should’ve spent more time learning the fundamentals of development so I could clearly explain my needs to the freelancer.

Today when I hire here’s what I do:

  1. Create a clear picture of exactly what I need done
  2. Clearly state my total budget in the job post when possible
  3. Give freelancers clearly written, specific instructions
  4. Confirm that they can finish the job within my budget

Assuming those four things happen, then we can usually get the project without too much trouble.

2. Don’t Settle for the First Freelancer Who Comes Along

On freelance platforms like Upwork, PeoplePerHour, and Fiverr there’s a lot of competition for every job. These platforms are designed to bring freelancers from around the globe together in one place so clients have the pick of the litter.

The problem with competition is it triggers race wars. No, not the Civil War-causing kind. I’m talking about a race between freelancers to be the first person to apply to your job.

Freelancers think that being the first is how you get hired (and sometimes they’re right). But you shouldn’t hire the first person who comes along, because there’s a good chance that person is a poor fit for the job.

Usually the freelancers who apply the fastest offer low-quality work

Usually the freelancers who apply the fastest offer low-quality work. They’re fast because they copy and paste proposal templates across several jobs to see if anyone bites. If you look closely you can easily spot a copy/paste cover letter.

As a client you want the best possible freelancer you can hire for your money. So you have to be patient because it takes those freelancers longer to apply.


Because they take their time to craft custom-tailored proposals that are designed around your job, your needs, and showing you how they will solve your specific problems. That’s the person you want to work with.

3. If They Don’t Speak Fluently in Your Language…Move On

One of the biggest hurdles I faced with my first freelancer was a language barrier. The freelancer was from Pakistan and though his profile claimed he was fluent in English, that just wasn’t true.

Initially he spoke well enough that I gave him a chance. But once I had to explain what I wanted done, suddenly the gap in language comprehension became a big problem.

All of this could’ve been avoided if I would’ve spent more time waiting on the exact right freelancer to come along. It also could’ve been avoided if I listened to my gut when I got a bad feeling.

When freelancers say they speak fluently in your language, but it’s clear from their proposal or messages that they don’t, then don’t hire them for your job. Go with someone else and save yourself time, energy and money.

4. Give Them a Test Project

The last and best of my tips to hire your very first freelancer is to set up a test project. Before you go all-in with any particularly person, you should confirm they have the skills and abilities they claim to have.

A test project will cost you money. Don’t make the freelancer work for free because that sucks. Instead, create a low-paying, low-stakes project and just see how they do.

Yes, you risk extra cash, but the freelancer also takes a risk by putting time and effort into the test project.

The benefit is that you get crystal clear about whether or not the freelancer is the right person to do the job. If it turns out they’re not a good fit, then you pay them and send them on their way.

If I would’ve done this with my first freelancer I probably would’ve lost $100 instead of $1,000. It makes a difference.  So today I use test projects for nearly every job, and they’ve saved me loads of time and cash.

So those are my top tips to hire your very first freelancer. If you’re a client then I’d love to read your tips too. Comment down below to let us know the steps you take to ensure you hire the exact right people!

About the author

Lex DeVille

Lex DeVille is a copywriter and freelance instructor who has trained more than 10,000 freelance students across 133 countries to start and grow profitable freelance businesses. If you'd like his help with that, then click the link in the bottom right corner to visit his website.