Contrary to the view of many freelancers, I believe that sites like oDesk, Elance, and others can be very helpful in introducing a freelancer to a market that he or she may not have otherwise had access to. This particularly holds true for the new freelancer. A new freelancer who might be testing the waters or working on building their business during nights and weekends is not going to be able to invest the time and effort necessary during normal business hours. Having access to a global marketplace full of people looking for particular skill sets can make a tremendous difference – especially when that marketplace is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

At the same time, the freelancer who already has a steady book of clients and no issues finding new work may use these platforms on occasion to simply see what else is out there. Networking, referrals, and other methods for finding, and keeping, work certainly have their place. But, frankly, there is nothing wrong with opening the laptop every so often and just taking a peek at what is available. You may find a dream client that wanted to give using freelancers a try and that was the only way they knew how at the time.

The flip side of this, however, is the employers’ side. Spend enough time looking through various job postings on freelance marketplaces and you’ll see posts that run quite the gamut. And, it will become painfully obvious that some employers, quite honestly, just have no idea what it’s like to work with a freelancer. They insist on applying classic business principles and ideas to a non-traditional method of getting work done.

To help resolve this quandary, I’ve created a short list of dos and don’ts for you to follow the next time you decide to wade into the freelance pool in search of the right person to get your project completed.

Do state the actual task in the listing. If you are looking for someone to write content for your website about growing catnip, then state that you are looking for someone to write content for your website about growing catnip. Don’t be vague. “I need someone to write content” is a brilliant statement of the obvious – you wouldn’t be posting a job if you didn’t need someone to write content for you. The question is what kind content do you need written? Does it fall within my skills, abilities, and interests?

If I don’t have the answers to those questions I won’t know if we can work well together and I’m not going to apply to your posting. Instead, I’m going to invest my time in reaching out to posters who clearly state their needs because I’ll know, from the start, that I can make an impact on their business.

Do understand that you are hiring a freelancer and not a full-time employee. The freelancer who views your post may be working with one, two, or ten other clients at that particular moment. Regardless of the number, however, the freelancer operates in this arena because they do not want to be an employee.

I saw one job listing a while back that stated that the freelancer needed to be available on Skype for all 9 hours of the business day. They were required to attend every morning meeting and afternoon wrap-up. Tardiness to these meetings would result in immediate dismissal. Repeated failures to answer Skype messages would result in immediate dismissal. Taking too long to respond to an email would result in immediate dismissal.

Not only is that a company that I would never freelance for, it is a company that I would never work for. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are hiring a freelancer to solve a specific problem for you. Our days can be incredibly varied. Some days may mean that I’m at my desk from the time I wake up to the time I realize that I haven’t eaten yet and my cats want dinner. Other days, I may have errands to run or want to get out for a while and go for a bike ride or spend the afternoon de-stressing at the gym. Still others may mean that I don’t work that day but have planned to tend to client work that night.

If you want to know the key to working with a freelancer it is this: Give me a task and tell me when you need it completed. How that happens, however, is up to me.

Don’t be grandiose in your posting.  “We are only looking for the very best. If you’re not the best, don’t even bother applying. If you’re mediocre, we don’t want you. We’re the best and we only work with the best.”

Just stop. The reason that you’re not hearing from people on your post isn’t because there’s a limited amount of talent available – it’s because those of us who are good at what we do have no desire to work with someone who would make this their introduction.

Don’t ever ask for free work. Look, I get it. There are a lot of bad freelancers out there. And, there are a lot of people out there calling themselves freelancers who are basically just trying to turn a quick buck at your expense.

But asking for free work as a trial is not how get around this problem.

As a freelance writer, I have no shortage of work that I can present to you as an example of what I am capable of. They are called writing samples and every one of us has them. I will gladly go through my writing samples and I will find something that presents my skills in a way that shows whether I am a match for you or not. If you want something that shows my ability to research, ask for a sample that involved a lot of research. If you want something that shows my ability to evoke emotions, ask for something that I wrote for that purpose.

But, my time, and my skill set, is valuable. Producing free work for you in hopes of getting your job is simply not an option.

Do be responsive. If a freelancer that you are interested in gets in touch with you, provide them the courtesy of a timely reply. It will show that you value their potential impact and that you are serious about the work you need done. It will also increase the possibility of you booking that freelancer before they find work elsewhere. If you found their reply to your post appealing, odds are that a few other companies did as well. The odds that they replied only to you in their last search session are incredibly low.

Lastly, don’t forget that you get what you pay for. If you’re a bargain-basement client looking for 2000 words for 10 dollars, then understand the caliber of work you are setting yourself up to receive. If you want quality, then you’re going to have to be willing to pay for it.

with a little preparation, hiring a freelancer can be easyCome on in, the water’s fine….

As the number of freelancers continues to grow(we’re already over a third of the total US workforce), the odds that you are eventually going to try to hire one grow every day.

Hiring a freelancer is not the journey into the unknown that you think it is. By understanding just a few key differences, you can increase the odds of setting a relationship in place that will pay for itself tenfold, for you and for the freelancer. And, when both sides are incredibly happy with their arrangement, amazing things can happen.

So, how about it? Have you tried hiring a freelancer? How did it go? What challenges did you face and how were they overcome? Freelancers: Tell me about the worst ad you’ve ever seen. What about the best?