A woman in a minimalist room sits at a table and looks at a laptop. One hand is on her chin and she looks thoughtful.
The process of hiring freelancers differs from hiring full-time workers in many important ways. — Getty Images/Ridofranz

Once you’ve decided to bring in a freelancer, how do you go about finding the right person? What are the best sites for finding independent contractors, and what paperwork do you need to bring someone onboard? Here are some steps for finding a freelancer who is a perfect match for your needs, and how to set them up successfully to work for your enterprise.

[Read more: What to Know Before Hiring Gig Workers]

Develop a scope of work

The first step in finding a freelancer is to write a scope of work. A scope of work is similar to a job description; it will let prospective freelancers know the skills, time commitment and project deliverables for which you’re seeking to hire.

Use your scope of work to really get into the nuts and bolts of your needs. Include details such as:

  • The duration of the project (start and end dates).
  • The required skills.
  • Deadlines.
  • Your proposed budget.

Be specific about what the job entails; by providing detail upfront, you can manage expectations and let freelancers decide whether they can make the necessary time commitment.

It’s also a good idea to consider your budget while creating your scope of work. Freelancers’ rates vary widely depending on factors such as level of expertise, location and how in-demand they are. Freelancers often have a higher rate per deliverable than regular employees, since they are self-employed. Build your budget with this in mind. If you’re not sure what a typical fee structure or hourly rate should be, ask your professional contacts for a reference.

Look for a freelancer

With more and more businesses hiring contractors in recent years, there are plenty of sites made to serve as matchmakers between the two parties. Popular sites like Upwork, Freelancer and Guru are all great places to post your job ad. If you’re looking for a specialist, try niche sites such as Envato Studio, which focuses on creative professionals, or Behance, which showcases graphic designers.

Freelancers’ rates vary widely depending on factors such as level of expertise, location and how in-demand they are.

Be aware that sites like Upwork will be competitive. If you need a specific level of expertise, you may want to consider working with an agency who will vet freelancers for you. One popular option is Toptal, a network of highly trained, vetted freelancers who specialize in areas such as web development, design, project management and more.

Don’t be afraid to cast a wide net to aid your search. Post your opening on social media, ask your professional network for references and keep an eye on job boards to find gig workers.

Vet a few freelancers

Once you’ve found a few freelancers you’re interested in, set up a phone call, video interview or skills assessment with your top two or three individuals. This is your chance to make sure these are the right people for the job. It also gives you a chance to tell your candidates more about the project.

If you haven’t already seen a portfolio, ask your potential freelancers for a few work samples. You could also give them a sample assignment to assess whether they deliver quality work in a timely manner before making the arrangement official.

Do the paperwork

Once you’ve found the right freelancer and agreed on the terms of the project, create a contract. This contract will outline expectations and protect both parties in the event of a disagreement.

Some sites, like Upwork, can save you time by generating a contract between you and your new freelancer based on the information listed in your job posting. If you choose to create the contract yourself, make sure you include information such as payment terms, ownership of the work produced, confidentiality (if applicable) and termination terms.

[Read more: W-2 vs. 1099 Contractors: Tax Differences Explained]

Hiring a freelancer requires different tax forms from a full time employee. Here are the forms that you will need to have ready after hiring a freelance worker:

  • IRS Form W-9: This form is used to request the correct name and taxpayer identification number (TIN) for the person with whom you are contracting. You’ll need to keep this form on file, but you won’t need to submit it to the IRS.
  • Form 1099-NEC: Rather than a W-2 associated with full-time employees, you will need to fill out and file IRS Form 1099-NEC (short for “non-employee compensation”) if you pay your contractor more than $600 in a year.

Once you have a signed contract and the right tax forms, your freelancer will be ready to get started.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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Published June 22, 2021