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Five Simple Steps to Get What You Want from a Freelancer

This is a guest post written by Dina Riccobono

Freelance projects are a convenient way to partner up with talented designers, writers, and tech geniuses for online marketers on a time or budget crunch. As a professional that has been on both sides of the negotiating process, I have come across some situations that have provided insights that need to be shared. No matter which side of the fence you’re on, there are some very clear-cut tips that should be, but often aren’t followed. Here are some spring cleaning tips for your project work.

-Know what you want.
One of the biggest time wasters in any negotiating process is running before you can walk. If you aren’t ready to launch a project until 2015, don’t start shopping for a contractor today. Be ready to rock and roll the first time you start your search. Discussing hypotheticals is useless for you and the freelancer who you just spent an hour devising a plan to open virtual hotel on Mars in the year 3000. It makes great content for Conan O’Brien’s new show, but it’s not going to help you make money, or friends in the industry.

-Know what you can afford.
Big problem with a lot of you online marketers- you’re big BSers. Yup, I said it. STOP LYING! If you have $2/ hr to pay a programmer, Fine but don’t look stateside. There are plenty of sites out there who will find you a freelancer from a third world country for a penny a day. If that’s what you want, great. Quality is probably not important to you, and that’s ok (more on this below).

Sometimes you just need a project done and skill sets are irrelevant. If you want Einstein to solve your math problems, though, expect to pay accordingly. I can’t tell you how nuts I go when unnamed potential clients try to ‘do you a huge favor’ by giving you a 500 page novel to write for $5 or less. It’s great that there are service providers that can meet any budget, but you get what you pay for. Freelancers have to pay their bills just like you do.

-Quality Score Your Project.
This tip will help in almost any facet of your business. Know what you’re willing to sacrifice and what you absolutely can’t live without. Think of your project on a scale of 1-10. Rating relevant aspects of your product, service, or project by budget, quality, deadline, and experience needed will help you find the right person for the job. It will also save you time- you won’t be calling anyone and everyone trying to convince them that your $5/ 500 pager is reasonably budgeted. What does saving time do? Save money! Why? Time is money. Come on, biz big shots, you already knew that.

-Know When to Say No.
Just like every freelancer out there won’t be perfect for your project, your project won’t be perfect for every freelancer. If the initial consult doesn’t go well, or you’re questioning the knowledge or abilities of the vendor day 1, trust your instincts. The issue with the availability of hundreds of thousands of freelancers is some will be more qualified then others, while some won’t be qualified at all. You know how everyone thinks they’re a ‘social media expert’? It’s ok to tell them politely, of course (at first anyway) that they’re not.

-Help Me Help You.
I try to make this a key theme in almost every post I write, because it is so absolutely essential to any project. If you’re difficult to get ahold of, set deadlines that get missed because there’s documents missing, or are never happy but don’t communicate that without flipping out well after you spent $10k but made 10 cents, you are your own worst enemy. Communication is key. It doesn’t matter if you’re a rocket scientist, a marketer, or a CEO. If you can’t express what you want calmly and efficiently, you’re not going to get it. Remember, you hired a developer, not a psychic.

While not everyone has the philosophy of ‘I turn down work because I can’- most freelance workers operate their businesses the same way you run yours. Have the same attitude. While there won’t always be a perfect match, you can pick and choose who you trust your business with. As with any deal, read the fine lines and in between them. A little prep work goes a long way for you and your bottom line.

Dina Riccobono is the VP of Business Development for 1938 Business– a video advertising/production agency. She is returning to the online TV space with a new show, 1938 Cares, launching this month on the 1938 Media platform.

Dina also created the Freelancer Network, a project sharing group for project workers and clients looking to partner together in the online marketing industry.
Published inDoing BusinessGuest Posts


  1. good post, im looking for a wordpress template dev right now, your tips will come in handy

  2. @JerseyDoll Good luck!

    @Kiley- If you want to take the credit, I’ll give it to you…I am actually working on a part 2, getting what you want from a client, just for YOU!

  3. jon jon

    thanks for good tips! I just finished a project with a freelance programmer and made some of above misstakes.

  4. Chad Chad

    Awesome post! Leave the BSers who want free labor to DP.

    What you said about knowing what you want is very true also–so many people will contact a freelancer with an idea in their head, but fail to communicate that idea to the person who is doing the work, until the finished product arrives.

    Keep the great posts coming!

  5. Mike Martin Mike Martin

    Something I’ve noticed as a PHP Freelancer is that clients think they know what they want, but often times they do not have realistic expectations. When I draw out what is required to deliver what they want, costs change. So, if I could provide advice for clients, it would be to be willing to accept that what you think about a project timeline, project requirements, and project steps may not be accurate. So, if a PHP Freelancer doesn’t have a price in your price range — perhaps it’s because he’s logically looked at the problem better than you have done and has a reasonable explanation for it.

    For instance, I once had a client say to me, “I had a previous developer write something for me. He had it about 75% done but it’s got some major issues. When I confronted him about this, he decided to get uppity with me, so I fired him. I just need you to finish the remaining 25%.” But then when I went to look at the code, it was spaghetti code that no senior PHP dev would even poke a stick at, full of database timebombs, speed issues, and other major “duh” moments in the code that it became more logical on timeframe to just rebuild the thing again from scratch than to finish the remaining 25%. So, if the client was expecting it to be done in 2 weeks, doing it his way of working on top the existing spaghetti code would probably mean the task would take about 6 weeks. Plus, doing it that way would mean that I would then ultimately be responsible for the spaghetti code underneath and always pinned to that mess. I had to convince the client that if he would let me have 4 weeks instead of 2, we could rewrite from scratch and have the full 100%. This would actually save him 2 weeks. Luckily my client saw the benefit in that logic and we went forward on the project for 4 weeks and finished it. But an inflexible non-programmer client who thinks he knows everything as well as a programmer would — that’s the kind of client who would not see this benefit and would end up with a cost very large cost overrun with whomever he picked who claimed that it could be done in 2 weeks.

    And it’s so typical for me to see offshore devs saying “yes it can be done” to anything and everything just to get the gig. Do you know why they say that? They say it because you’ll give them the business. And if they fail to deliver in the timeframe you wanted, they’ll just give up on you because they know it would cost you a fortune (or be impossible) to sue them in court.

    So, clients — please consider that some PHP Freelancers may actually know what they’re talking about when they say something would need to come in at a higher budget than what was proposed.

  6. I like eLance a lot cause I can drill down to the best in my category and then find a couple that do good work and continue to use those few freelancers.

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