Hiring a contractor: Finding the right fit

First, ask your friends

The fairly straightforward process of finding an employee usually goes something like this:

  1. Post job listing in any number of places.
  2. Review applicants’ résumés.
  3. Conduct interviews.
  4. Check references.
  5. Make an offer.

You generally can take your time to choose that perfect employee. That’s often not the case if you’re a small business owner looking at hiring a contractor.

Because you’re likely looking for someone for a shorter-term assignment, it rarely makes sense to invest a lot of time and money in your search — but you almost certainly are looking for someone with a specialized skill set. After you write an amazing job description, here are few ways to find the perfect fit for your contract project:

Start with your own network

Choosing the right contractor isn’t just a question of finding a freelancer whose portfolio you like. Because you need to be able to trust a contractor to work independently, as well as generally take more responsibility than the average employee, you need someone who you know is able to handle the work you’re handing to them. The more information you can get about a potential contractor in advance, the better.

A contractor who has already worked with someone you know and trust is far more likely to work out than a contractor you find in any other way.

Contact your fellow business owners to see if they have any recommendations. If you know of other companies that have recently needed similar work done, ask who completed the project and find out:

  • How reliable was the contractor in question?
  • What sort of budgets does the contractor work with?
  • How does the contractor communicate?
  • How quickly does the contractor work?
  • Does the contractor have any specialties?

The more you know about a particular contractor’s process, the better equipped you’ll be to work with them. Once you find a contractor or two who you enjoy working with, ask them for referrals.

Look for work you like

Especially with creative projects, you’ve probably been paying attention to what’s going on in your niche or geographic area. You have an idea of the website design or marketing copy that you already like — so use that information to guide your hiring process. There’s nothing wrong with turning to the people who completed the work you admire.

You can also browse a variety of portfolio sites to get a feel for contractors’ work before diving into a business relationship with them. You can check out different types of design work on Dribbble, for instance, to fine-tune the feel you’re going for and help you find the pro to make it happen.

Consider contractor marketplaces

The Internet offers access to a wealth of talent worldwide, organized into marketplaces where you can quickly find contractors of all stripes. Many marketplaces even specialize in connecting you with specific types of contractors, and offer benefits like handling payments and providing escrow services that ensure that all necessary work is done before payment is released to a contractor.

Marketplaces are split between two approaches: either contractors will charge a flat rate for any work done through the marketplace or they’ll place bids on individual projects. Many of the largest online marketplaces are bid-based, in part because lower prices do make contractors more affordable for the average business.

However, you should approach marketplaces with some caution. Make sure you understand who you are working with and what you can expect before you agree to a project’s terms. Do your research: check contractors’ portfolios, talk to their previous clients, and write out clear project descriptions.

Happy hiring!