Red Flags to Look Out for When Hiring a Freelancer

by on November 5, 2014

Never pay until the project has been completed to your satisfaction.

hiring a freelancer

If you have a task that needs to be done, – something urgent, or a one-time project that requires knowledge or experience that you just don’t have – then you might want to look at hiring a Freelancer.

Perhaps you need a new brochure for your business or a catchy advertisement. Or maybe you need a new ad campaign because”Eat at Bob’s – Our burgers are the best” just isn’t bringing them in the door anymore.

Whatever the reason, a Freelancer might be just what you need. The upside is that you will get a good product at a reasonable rate without having to use your valuable time (or hiring a new employee).

Are there potential problems that might arise with this arrangement? Unfortunately, there are. But if you know a few simple things to avoid, you can get the help you need without getting burned.

When hiring a Freelancer, go to a reputable company (, elance, or oDesk, to name a few). You can post your project on these sites and wait for a Freelancer to contact you. After the freelancer has made contact, you need to do a bit of investigating before you hire that person.

If any of the following “red flags” appear, you should not commit your time and your money.

Some basic Red Flags:

1. The Freelancer has a bad reputation

Most sites have a feedback section – a place where former employers can rate the Freelancer and share their experiences. If one former contractor gives bad feedback, then that may be a fluke (or someone being cranky).

If ALL the feedback is negative or, at least, unenthusiastic, then this is not the Freelancer for you.

2. If all the feedback sounds the same (or is over the top)

Sad to say that some Freelancers have their friends and family provide feedback. If you see that the person who contacted you has done tons of small jobs with glowing reviews, this could indicate that the jobs did not exist, and they were just a vehicle for providing untrue feedback.

This is a major red flag.

3. A low completion rate

If your Freelancer only has a 50% completion rate (or even an 80% completion rate) then they are not reliable. It is immaterial whether their problem is that they are disorganized, taking on too much work, or simply being unprofessional.

Whatever the issues are, you don’t need to make their problems your problems.

4. They lack experience

If you are looking for someone to write an ad campaign and the Freelancer only has a background in proofreading, then they probably cannot do your task.

“Even if they are the best editor in the industry, they will be of no use to you if they do not know anything about flame-broiled burgers or how to market onion rings.”

5. An unrealistic delivery time

If you have asked for twenty articles of 700 words in a week and you receive a bid that says they can deliver that in a day, then pass that person by.

There are two main reasons to run away fast.

The first is that the “bidder” might be someone (or even a company) who employs other writers, often paying them very little for their work. Unlike the “bidder“, these other writers have not been vetted by you.

If you have signed a contract, you may end up with inferior work. If you do not like the work, you will have to go through a dispute process, and you are out your time and, in some cases, your investment.

The other reason to pass on this bidder is that they probably will not be able to deliver on time, and will ask for an extension. If you are under a tight schedule, you will not be able to afford the delay.

6. Grammer and speling errors in the bid or correspondence (ok- that was on purpose)

If their communications are not perfect, their product will likewise be flawed.  Many writers might be very good in their native language, but that does not necessarily translate (no pun intended) into proper English. Likewise, even “native” speakers can have poor composition habits.

They might spell badly, confuse” it’s”, it’s” and “its'” and sentences with prepositions. And if they rely too heavily on Spell Check, they may never catch their own mistakes.

As an employer, you do not have the time to correct the mistakes of someone who is supposed to be a professional.

7. Asking for payment up front

As a savvy business person, you can see the problem with this.  A freelance writer asking for payment up front is simply not professional. Asking for “milestone” payments is fine, but otherwise, do not use this Freelancer.

Hiring a Freelancer can be very useful and economically prudent, as long as you are cautious. If you avoid the “red flags” listed above, it should be a good experience for all parties.

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