Freelancers and agencies go together like peanut butter and jelly. It's a frequent and familiar combination. Unfortunately, finding quality freelancers sometimes feels like fighting an uphill battle.
If you're looking for insider tips on skipping the headaches and finding those diamond freelancers in the rough, you've come to the right place.
I've hired them all, from writers to web developers to virtual assistants at uSERP. Some were terrible. Others are the hardest workers I know. So I invite you to learn from my mistakes.
Here's your hard and fast (no fluff) guide on how to find quality freelancers to grow your agency.
What Are Freelancers?
If this is your first time hiring freelancers, this section is for you. If this isn't your first rodeo, skip to the next section.
Thanks to the gig economy, there's a freelancer for every nook and cranny of the internet. Think of freelancers as individual contractors specializing in a certain skill, like search engine optimization, accounting, or copywriting.
These hires are your linchpins for getting your agency off the ground without breaking the bank. Why?
The advantage of hiring independent contractors is that they don't have the same tangled web of requirements as full-time employees. You avoid the cash vacuum of paid time off, healthcare, and other traditional benefits. And you can let them go anytime (without any explanation).
You can hire them contractually, like a blog writer, for twelve months. Or you may only need help on one simple project, like building your website.
I love hiring freelancers at uSERP because I can access diverse talent pools from around the globe without having to deal with (or worry about) complicated legal, tax, or visa requirements. Plus, I can protect my profit margin by avoiding the costly overhead expenses of full-time employees.
However, that doesn't mean I avoid full-time employees altogether. The secret to our growth success is hiring a team lead (like a senior SEO writer) to oversee quality and strategy and half a dozen freelancers (PR writers) to fulfill the production.
So, what are the most common roles within your agency that you can fill with freelancers? Here's a quick list:
Social media specialist
Step-By-Step: How To Find and Hire Quality Freelancers
Now that you know what freelancers are, use this simple step-by-step guide to find the right freelancers for your agency (the first time around).
1. Determine Your Hiring Needs
Like any hiring process, you need a clear understanding of your hiring needs.
The goal isn't to hire for the sake of hiring. It's a strategic decision. Too early, and you throw cash out the window. Too late, and you miss out on growth opportunities.
Start with a front-to-back audit of your workflows to find your bottlenecks. Look out for these warning signs:
Your current team members are working overtime.
Your team lacks the necessary skills for a project.
The quality of your work takes a nosedive.
Project delays lead to missed deadlines.
No capacity to take on new clients.
An increase in client complaints.
If your agency is experiencing any (or a few) of these dreaded scenarios, it's time to hire in the areas where you're falling short.
2. Ask Your Network for Referrals
You've spent months (maybe years) building your network. So put it to good use.
The odds are most of them are agency owners like yourself, and they've already dabbled in the world of hiring freelancers. This should be music to your ears.
It's no secret that referrals work wonders in speeding up the hiring process. Dozens of data points support this claim. And it takes out most of the legwork — another win.
Reach out to your professional network (via Slack, LinkedIn, or email) for vetted recommendations. A simple, "Hey, do you know of any good freelance web developers to help me redo my site?" via a direct message on LinkedIn does the trick.
Insider tip: Don't be afraid to tap into their networks when you find a top-notch freelancer. I've had great success hiring additional headcount by simply asking my freelancers if they knew of others in the same niche looking for a new opportunity.
3. Scour LinkedIn Using Advanced Filters
Let's be honest. You spend hours on LinkedIn every week. Turn these mindless scrolling sessions into productive searches.
You can find a handful of candidates that meet your needs with a few simple clicks. Use keywords around specific industries (B2B, Fintech, HRtech, etc.) or skill sets (graphic design, writing, accounting, etc.) to retrieve the best results.
For instance, here's a simple search for a B2B SaaS freelance writer. Two out of the top three results indicate they're open to work. It's that easy.
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
Send a direct message to introduce yourself and explain your hiring needs. And voila. You're off to the races.
Pro tip: Sadly, you can't send direct messages to people outside your network without a LinkedIn premium account. As a workaround, send an invitation to connect with a quick message explaining your hiring scenario.
Or you can leverage LinkedIn export tools to find verified emails.
Not sure what to send? Steal my go-message below:
Hi [name]! My name is Jeremy, and I'm looking for [open freelance role], and I'm impressed with your profile. Do you have the capacity to take on new clients this month? Let me know if you're interested, and I'm happy to send over some more information about the opportunity!
4. Tap Into the Right Freelance Platforms
If the first few avenues don't fill the gap in your freelancer search, don't worry. There's always the option to dive into the abyss of freelancer platforms.
Although, based on my experience, this is the most painful way to hire (good) freelancers. It's time-consuming. It's daunting. And you get hit-or-miss results. But when you're in a pinch, it's a solid plan B.
On the plus side, each database has its niche. Here are some of the most popular freelancing platforms to help you with your search:
Fiverr: useful for finding freelancers for small, specific tasks.
Upwork: a platform with a broad range of freelancers and skill sets.
FlexJobs: great for finding freelancers for larger projects.
Contently: excellent source for professional writers and content creators.
Guru: known for its variety of skilled freelance professionals.
99designs: the go-to platform for freelance graphic designers.
We Work Remotely: a great source for remote professionals in various fields.
Freelance Writing Jobs: an excellent resource for finding writing and editing professionals.
Follow the same approach as LinkedIn by honing in on the appropriate keywords. The more specific, the better.
5. Don't Underestimate the Power of Twitter
Twitter, or X (you're welcome, Elon), is integral to my hiring process.
With nearly 90,000 followers, a simple tweet that my agency is hiring opens the floodgates of applicants.
Are they all qualified for the role? Absolutely not. But there's power in numbers. It also takes a huge burden off my shoulders to perform cold outreach or spend money to post on a job board.
When you establish yourself as a thought leader, freelancers will turn to you for lesser-known industry tips. You want to hire these people because it shows dedication to improving their craft.
For example, when I'm ready to hire a freelance copywriter, I can turn to the first ten people that commented on my viral copywriting tweet. These are agency owners (who can provide me with referrals) or serious copywriters who can take on the role.
Of course, if you don't have the time to build your following on Twitter, keep a close eye on the industry leaders you trust. Then leverage the same tactic as above.
Actively seek out users that are commenting and asking questions on the topics you're hiring for.
6. Read Your Favorite Publications and Seek Freelancers Directly
Ok, you get the point by now. There are a ton of resources available to help you find freelancers. But my last tip will help you in your quest for the best content writers on the internet.
If you find yourself admiring one specific publication, take a scroll down to the author's bio. Is there one particular author writing their blog content? If so, that's your golden opportunity to reach out.
Sometimes these writers have a packed calendar (they are the cream of the crop, after all). But there's always a chance they have an opening for a new client. So shoot your shot.
I used this tactic to hire one of our best freelance writers, Juwaria Merchant. I loved her content on everything lead generation and knew I needed her on my team.
Here's the exact outreach message I sent her:
Screenshot by Jeremy Moser
And the rest, as they say, is history. After nearly fifty flawless articles, it's still smooth sailing.
Pro tip: Streamline the entire outreach process with tools like QuickMail. This software helps you manage cold email campaigns, keeping track of all your freelance outreach conversations in one convenient location.
7. Check Portfolio Sites and Previous Work For Vetting Qualifications
Finding qualified freelancers is only the first step in this 1,000-piece puzzle. Before going all in, it's worth measuring twice. When you hire with precision, you'll avoid the drain on time and resources.
Take these steps for the best results:
Dig into their portfolio. Ask for samples of their previous work to gauge the style, quality, and credibility they bring to the table.
Check for testimonials from previous clients. Hop over to LinkedIn or a personally branded website for testimonials or customer reviews for evidence of professionalism and reliability.
Here are a few LinkedIn recommendations that led to the hire of Ioana Wilkinson, another top freelance writer at uSERP:
Why bother with all this? Simple. You're adding another member to your team, even if temporary. Freelancers must align with your quality standards. It's not a checkbox task. It's an investment in the growth of your agency. Take it seriously.
8. Offer a Paid Test Project
I saved my best hiring tip for last: offer paid test projects. You'll attract driven and curious people to work at your agency.
Test projects help you understand work style, attention to detail, and how they think. If they don't put in 110% to make a good first impression, the rest is all downhill.
Use paid test projects to assess their ability to meet deadlines, communicate, and adapt to your feedback. It's a new and improved way to assess a candidate's qualifications.
Pro tip: Keep it short and sweet. For instance, at uSERP, I've found success with smaller projects that take 2–4 hours of actual work.
Anything more, and it's a bit too extreme for most things.
9. Communicate Your Expectations Right off the Bat
Freelancers thrive on structure. They don't know the ins and outs of your agency like full-time employees. So kick the mantra "less is more" out the window.
When in doubt, communicate early and often. Too many details are better than not enough. Be clear about your project needs, timelines, and payment terms from the start.
For instance, if you only offer payments via certain payroll software, clearly mention this in your contract before everyone signs on the dotted line. The last thing you want is to set up (and verify) a Wise account at the eleventh hour. Trust me. It's not fun.
Your freelancers hate late payments. It starts relationships off on the wrong foot. And now you're adding another software to your existing tech stack (read: another ball to juggle).
Are you still trying to figure out what's worthy of communicating? Use this cheat sheet:
A clear project description, including the target audience and key objectives.
Key milestones and deadlines to adhere to the project timeline.
Preferred channels of communication and frequency of updates.
Tools and software they'll be using (share explainer videos).
Tone, style, and brand guidelines for any content.
Payment rate, schedule, and invoice submission process.
Confidentiality and any non-disclosure agreements (if applicable).
Submission process, including expectations for revisions or deadline extension requests (minimum 24-hour notice).
Points of contact within the organization for additional support.
Confirm the understanding and agreement on all points.
10. Track Freelancer Performance
The only way to know if your freelancers are crushing it is to measure their performance. An organized staff scheduling with your freelancers can help manage your team’s daily assignments; boosting productivity and providing insights with a daily checklist. You can set deadlines in your project schedule and check if they are completing their projects by then.
You can focus on things like project delivery metrics:
Task completion rate
Or quality metrics:
Adherence to project scope
Quality of work
There's no one-size-fits-all approach. Choose the metrics that are most important to your agency.
At uSERP, we have a lot of interdependent workflows. On-time delivery and quality of work are our most important metrics. Nail those, and we're happy campers.
11. Build Long-Term Relationships With Quality Freelancers
Finding quality freelancers is a dime a dozen. I hold on to them for as long as possible. And if I part ways, I always recommend them to others. As you can tell, this process isn't for the faint-hearted.
The key to long-term relationships?
When to Leverage Freelancers
Here are the best scenarios for hiring freelancers.
The Need for Specialized Skills
As a business owner, you wear many hats. But you have specific areas of the business where you thrive. And other areas where your skillset might fall short.
Maybe you're not the best writer. Or you know nothing about bookkeeping.
Don't worry. There's a freelancer out there who can fill in those gaps. But it's up to you to identify those gaps and invest accordingly.
When Scaling Quickly
Scaling your agency is thrilling. It's exciting. And maybe scary and chaotic. So you'll need a team to help you along the way.
That's where freelancers come into play. Whether launching large-scale projects or having access to a talented pool of individuals, freelancers are your strategic growth partners. They step in when you need them the most.
To Improve Cost-Efficiency
Let's talk numbers. Hiring freelancers can reduce overhead costs by a significant margin. How significant?
By leveraging an HRIS system, you gain the insights needed to make informed decisions about hiring an internal team or opting for freelancers. This saves you from a huge drain on cash and resources. Outsourcing to experts becomes a clear and sensible choice, as it ensures efficient utilization of funds. It's a no-brainer.
Exploring New Ventures
Are you considering launching into a new market or offering a new service to potential clients? You'll need the right pioneers to help lead the way.
Freelancers with specific experience in your new endeavor can be the compass you need to guide you through uncharted territory.
And that way, you don't bog down your existing team and disrupt the equilibrium you've spent months (or years) perfecting. You'll accomplish your goals in record time with more hands on deck.
Filling Temporary or Seasonal Needs
Here today, gone next quarter. That's the beauty of hiring freelancers for temporary or seasonal needs.
Freelancers are your flexible friends when you need to ramp up for the holiday rush or bring in specific expertise for a short-term project: no long-term commitments, just the right skills at the right time.
Pro tip: Learn from your past trends. If Q3 is a busy season for your agency, hire accordingly.
At uSERP, we typically see an increase in client demand in the second half of Q3 and a slowdown leading into the holiday season. We hire proactively, giving ourselves at least a month to onboard new freelancers.
And when the seasons change, there are no hard feelings. No loose ends. Just a friendly goodbye.
There you have it — a complete roadmap for finding and hiring top-notch freelancers straight from the uSERP playbook.
We've hired (and fired) dozens of freelancers. We've doubled-downed on what's worked and tossed out what didn't. We’ve done the hard work, so you don't have to. These simple steps should set you on the right path to hiring the best freelancers for your agency's needs.
Whether scaling up, diving into new market opportunities, or needing a special touch, skilled freelancers are the flexible power players that can take your agency to the next level.