The Top 1%: What We Learned From Vetting Thousands of Freelancers

FreeUp’s freelancer vetting process is, in a word, thorough.

We’re not the only ones who think so. In fact, an LA Times article about FreeUp said that, if onboarded, freelancers have access to a wealth of well-paying jobs.

It also compared our screening process to “going through airport security.”

But when your promise to your clients– your value proposition– is access to the top 1% of freelance talent, applicant screening is crucial.

Thing is, what we look for when we onboard freelancers is what any business owner should look for when hiring their own.

And we know how many questions you have– we work with thousands of clients, who know they need to find great freelance talent, but aren’t sure where to start.

That’s what I’m here to talk about today– every single thing FreeUp does to make sure we’re only bringing on the best of the best. I want you to do exactly what we do, because it works. I also know that hiring qualified freelancers is a cost-effective way to massively grow your business.

Grab a notepad, get those copy and paste keys ready, bookmark this blog. Steal our methods for your own hiring purposes (of course if you hire through FreeUp, we’ve already done the heavy lifting for you).

Either way, it’s time for a crash course on how to hire the world’s best freelancers.

This is the True Story of 7,000 Freelancers, Picked to Work in a Marketplace

FreeUp’s onboarded 7,000 freelancers (and counting!).

They’ve all gone through our applicant screening process (which means we’ve screened about 700,000).

Here’s everything we do, step by step:

  • Resume Review
  • Client Reviews/Proof of Experience
  • Questionnaire
  • Communication and Culture Course + Quiz
  • 20-30 Minute Video Interview
  • Document Collection

I’m going to break down each of these steps so that you can use what makes sense for your business and your freelance hiring process.

Require and Review Freelancer Resumes

A resume is not enough evidence to hire a freelancer, but it’s a good starting point to determine if you should move forward with a candidate.

I use freelancer resumes not as reasons to throw an applicant into the yes pile, but as a disqualification tool.

Here’s what you should look for when reviewing resumes:

  • Initial Scan for grammatical errors
  • Freelancer’s location
  • Relevant skills/qualifications
  • Freelance-specific experience
  • Depth— a brief resume either shows the freelancer doesn’t care that much or that they don’t have relevant experience for the job

One of my old bosses shared this creed with me when we were hiring together: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a hell no.” That’s my M.O. when reviewing resumes.

Find Past Client Reviews/Proof of Experience

This tool is an absolute game-changer.

One, because it helps you determine whether or not a freelancer has had good experiences with former clients. Two, because it shows you whether or not they’ve had freelance experience. Three, because, well, people can fudge their resumes (I know we want to trust that everyone’s telling the truth, but it happens).

Here’s what we do:

  • Every single FreeUp candidate must provide an active freelance profile from another marketplace, and they have to have excellent ratings and reviews
  • We also check for (freelancing-related) reviews on sites like LinkedIn
  • When applicable, we review portfolios

This hack also allows us to know we’re only bringing on quality, but at scale. I particularly recommend it if you’re hiring for a position you’re not familiar with. If you don’t have experience hiring a UX designer, reading positive reviews from former clients can help with your decision.

Also, freelance experience is crucial (we learned this one the hard way). There’s more to successful freelancing than expertise in an industry. Communication, time-management, project updates, setting up a Scope of Work— these are all vital parts of your working relationship.

An experienced freelancer will be old-hat at these. You won’t have to worry about navigating new waters with a novice.

Send a Questionnaire about Their Freelance/Work Experience

There are necessary traits I need in FreeUp freelancers, and some won’t always come up in a resume or cover letter.

That’s why I love (and encourage you to use!) questionnaires when hiring freelancers. They allow you to hone in on these things right away, and you don’t waste resources interviewing an applicant who won’t be a good match.

We include ours in our Job Postings. Even LinkedIn has a feature for this, so people are catching on.

Here are examples of what ours includes:

  • How long you’ve been in this industry
  • How long you’ve been freelancing
  • What you do if you think you might miss a deadline
  • Advice you’d give to new freelancers
  • Tools you use the most

Green flags:

  • Answers that emphasize communication, which is a huge part of freelancing
  • Mentions of a Statement of Work, which all freelancers should be familiar with
  • Storytelling– recounting an experience with a past client to answer a question
  • A range of industry-specific tools is a decent indicator of experience

Red flags:

  • Saying something like, “I would never miss a deadline”– well, okay, but what would you do if you did?
  • Short answers that indicate they don’t have actual experience
  • Short answers that indicate they don’t really care
  • Grammatical errors

The questionnaire has given us the ability to hire much more efficiently. We’ve got an amazing crew of recruitment specialists on FreeUp. I’m not going to waste their time interviewing unqualified candidates.

FreeUp Communication and Culture Course (and Quiz)

Gil Allouche, CEO of said on Forbes that, “You can have a fully functioning business with a poor company culture, but I’ve found that a company’s longevity and enduring success will depend on the people.”

Companies with happy employees also beat their competitors by 20%. There’s hard evidence that you need to be focused on your company culture.

This applies to your freelance hire. A good fit for you or your company is based on more than experience and skill. You also want a “culture match.”

Your freelancers will be integrated into your teams and their processes. Don’t hire someone you’ll dread communicating with (or who isn’t good at communicating in the first place).

That’s why we send every single freelancer who gets to this stage a “Community and Culture Course,” with an accompanying quiz.

Things we include:

  • Our company values
  • That we treat each other with respect
  • That we’re proud of our “feedback culture”
  • How much time it should take a freelancer to respond to us or a client
  • How freelancers should communicate with clients

I see people make this mistake all the time– they think freelancers exist as an island. They don’t. Make sure your freelancers know, and respect, your culture.

(Plus, if the freelancer makes it to the interview, they’ll already have a good idea about what you represent, which generally leads to a more meaningful interaction).

Do a 20-30 Minute Video Interview

If you take anything from this article, please let it be this: do not skip the interview process.

As mentioned before, soft skills are important. So is your ability to communicate well with the freelancer. Having a video interview (we use Zoom) is the best way to get a gauge on how well you’ll get along, and how they’ll get along with the team.

Here are freelancer interview green flags:

  • “Storytelling” with positive past client experiences/success
  • Demonstrating they know how to communicate when there’s a challenge
  • Demonstrating they know how to course correct when necessary
  • Someone you enjoy talking to
  • Someone you feel comfortable trusting with your business

Here are freelancer interview red flags:

  • Talking crap about former clients
  • An inability to share a story about a former client can mean they lied about their experience
  • Refusing to turn on the camera (but let them know ahead of time that you’ll require it be on)
  • Someone you don’t enjoy talking to, and wouldn’t hire in-house
  • Someone you aren’t sure about (remember, if it’s not a “hell yes” it’s a “hell no”)

Here are some freelancer interview questions, for reference.

This isn’t fun to mention, but, unfortunately, it’s relevant. There are people who apply to freelance jobs who “pose” as other, more successful freelancers. A video interview helps weed these candidates out, keeping your business secure.

Collect Documentation (The HR Stuff)

This is a quick list to get an idea of some things you should think about collecting.

You should either work with your HR department or seek legal counsel regarding the above if working with freelancers is new to you.

Hiring Freelancers Will Help Your Business Grow

If you’ve read this article, you probably have some needs for your business that need to be met. And you’re considering hiring freelancers to help meet those needs (awesome!).

This step-by-step guide will help you make sure you’re not only bringing freelancers with relevant experience, but freelancers who can seamlessly integrate into your team.

And if you don’t want to go through this hiring process, let FreeUp do the work for you! We’ve done the vetting already. All you need to do is put in a job request, and we’ll send 3-5 pre-vetted freelancers who are a perfect match right over.

Need some personalized help? You can also book a call with us here!

You’ve got a lot on your plate, and we can help take it off, including finding the help you need.

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