How to Hire a Freelance Consultant

Increasingly, business leaders who are faced with mission-critical projects are opting to outsource work to freelance consulting specialists. Cost-cutting measures have persuaded many of these leaders to reduce the size of company payrolls and call in freelancers to work on specific assignments for a fixed amount of time.

When introducing workers who are not company employees and do not often know company values and culture, it is vital for business leaders to create conditions that promote the achievement of project outcomes and advantageous to build a relationship with a skilled professional who will help the business remain competitive and profitable. It is worthwhile to pause a moment and consider procedures that ought to be followed when planning to hire a freelance consulting professional.

1.) Determine what work needs to be done. This should be obvious, but a surprising number of project managers do not have a clear idea of the scope of the job. They may furthermore have an unrealistic view of the time, resources and information needed for successful project completion. There are managers who hire a freelance specialist to work 10 hours /week for 4 weeks, when 20 hours /week for 8 weeks is what the project requires. Accurate project budget development begins with identifying what needs to be done and a realistic estimate of the time and resources likely to be needed.

2.) Determine the qualifications needed to do the job. Resist the temptation to gratuitously demand degrees and certifications simply because in a tight economy it is possible to do so, under the mistaken notion that this will ensure that the best candidate will be hired. Pieces of paper do not necessarily correlate with ability. Experience is a much more reliable indicator of competence and therefore should be the primary qualification sought.

3.) Research the price range for freelance consultants. This information is also necessary for accurate budget development. Verify that adequate funds will be in hand, so that invoices can be paid on time.

4.) Interview three or four candidates if the project has not been outsourced previously. Gauge the level of available talent and learn to recognize candidates who are able to do the job. In this economy, there is a large pool of high quality talent available within most specialties. These individuals can bring skills and insight to a project that a hiring manager may not have considered and they may be able to effect a better outcome than was originally envisioned. Some candidates may have a better understanding of what is needed to successfully complete the project than the manager.

5.) Clearly describe the project specifications to candidates. This, too, seems obvious, but a disappointing number of project managers fail to disclose certain specifics of the project. Inevitably, this results in disappointment and frustration for all concerned. Failure to accurately describe project specifications leads to unmet expectations.

6.) Confirm the availability of the candidate you plan to hire and speak with one or two of his/her clients as a reference check.

7.) Develop a written contract/proposal that details project specs, expected outcomes or deliverables, hours /week, project start and end dates and pay scale. In some situations, the freelancer hired will provide this document. Both the project manager and the freelancer should sign the document.

8.) Require the freelancer hired to sign a confidentiality/nondisclosure agreement. This will allow staff to feel comfortable when candidly discussing pertinent business matters in the presence of the freelancer. Find a template online or ask an attorney to prepare a standard template that can be generally used for consulting needs.

9.) Introduce the freelancer to those with whom he/she will regularly interact. It is a good idea to inform employees that a freelance consultant will be onsite to work on the project and lay the groundwork for a positive work experience for all concerned.