When I talk with nonprofits about hiring freelancers, I suggest they focus on four questions when making the decision. Put yourself in the nonprofit’s shoes for a moment and consider how they might answer these questions about you.
1. Is this freelancer a good listener?
As important as creative skills are, the ability to listen to a client’s needs and to incorporate them into the project are critical. Freelance projects will include many variables, such as audience, message, and tone, all of which require that the client and the freelancer work together to get it right. You should treat this relationship as a partnership, which requires that you both listen well.
2. Does this freelancer seem flexible?
Much of communications and marketing is subjective. While some elements, such as correct grammar and word count, are objective, whether the piece meets the client’s needs in terms of style is highly subjective. A good freelancer knows this and will work with her client to get the style right, even if the first draft is way off.
Also, as the project progresses, a client may very well change her mind about how she wants an issue handled or what elements should be emphasized. Your ability as a freelancer to “go with the flow” and adjust accordingly is important — within reason. Be clear about the number of drafts and the scope of work upfront and ensure that your clients understand how much they can change before a different payment structure kicks in.
3. Do I like this freelancer’s portfolio and client list?
I suggest that nonprofits who are hiring freelancers for the first time review portfolios looking for experience with a similar project or with a similar organization in subject area, size, or some other meaningful measure. All professional freelancers should provide work samples and client lists and testimonials on their websites.
4. How do this freelancer’s other clients describe their relationships?
I tell nonprofits to check references. What they see on a website is a good start, but I suggest they make at least one phone call before hiring a new freelancer. Speaking directly with another client is one of the best ways to judge how well a freelancer works with people. I encourage nonprofits to look for freelancers who have received multiple projects from the same client. Repeat business is always a good sign.
If you work for a nonprofit, what questions do you ask yourself before hiring a freelancer? If you are a freelancer, do you think these questions are the right ones to ask about you? Share your thoughts in the comments.