Vinay’s note – Businesses whether starting out or wanting to scale will often turn to freelancers to carry out tasks, rather than full-time employees. This strategy can be quite appealing given that it tends to be cheaper, requires less paperwork and onboarding time.
But how do you successfully land the perfect freelancer for your project?
In this post, hiring expert Eric Conley walks you through a proven 4-step system to hire “unicorn” freelancers who can help you grow your business to the next level.
Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak.
Bill Gates and Paul Allen.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Here’s the truth: The most brilliant minds of our time didn’t create their businesses by themselves.The most successful people of our time didn't create their business by themselves Click To Tweet
Every step along the way, they had support. They had a team. And with your own business or side hustle, a team can take your business or hustle from “doing alright” to “exploding with growth, tons of revenue, and can’t keep up with sales.”
Best of all, hiring doesn’t mean you have to go out and hire a massive team of 15 people tomorrow. It means that even just adding 1 part-time, project-based freelancer can boost your business.
To help you get started, today I’m going to show you the exact strategies, step-by-step systems and tactics you can use to hire amazing freelancers and grow your biz.
Let’s dive in.
The entrepreneur paradox
We pour our blood, sweat and tears into our business. Why would we hand over the decision-making to anyone else?!
It’s no surprise that, as an entrepreneur, it’s easy to default to doing everything ourselves. We know where we want the business to go, we brought the business idea to life…and we want to control every part of it to make sure nothing goes wrong.
But there’s a dark side to controlling and growing our business alone.
Doing everything ourselves means it’s easy to fall into common solopreneur traps. We might experience…
- Slowed growth. We can’t keep up with the demands of our business, and there isn’t enough time in the day to do everything we want. We turn away clients, put business growth on the backburner, and tell ourselves, “I’ll get to that later.”
- Exhaustion. On top of responsibilities and wanting to spend time with family and friends, we’re working like maniacs on our business. We’re sleeping less, our health is suffering, and we’re experiencing symptoms of burnout.
- Relationships falling apart. We sacrifice spending time with friends and family, and focus on our business instead. But this backfires horribly (trust me, I know) — and our friends and loved ones feel neglected.
Worst of all, we might even recognize what’s happening, but we don’t do anything about it! We see our business is stuck, and with the answer staring us right in the face — we need help to grow our business! — we deny it.
We come up with excuses like: “I’m just a small business, so I can’t hire someone” or “I’m super busy and hiring will just take up too much time and money.”
Clueless what to do next, most entrepreneurs get overwhelmed and say, “Screw it.” Then, they go back to trying to grow their business themselves. Ouch.
The truth is, even if you’re a small one-person business, hiring is one of the best decisions you can make. Here’s what one of my past clients had to say about how hiring helped grow her business to the next level:
“To grow into a 7-figure business, you need the right team. We now have people we expect to stay with us for years to come, and grow our business to the next level.”
-Selena Soo, business and publicity expert
Instead of stumbling down the path to stagnated growth and burnout, I want to show you 3 proven ways to hire the right freelancers who can help grow your business to the next level.
Step 1: Identify where you need help (and not in the way you think)
I’m a big fan of the Pareto principle, commonly known as the 80/20 Rule.
When I think about hiring, I like to focus on the biggest wins. In other words, what decisions can I make for my business that will have the biggest positive effect?
It sounds simple, but a surprising number of businesses never ask themselves this question. Instead, they get caught up on the minutiae and spend extraordinary time looking for 1-2% wins, instead of those massive 10%+ wins that can change a business’ trajectory forever.
For example, some companies might…
- Focus on designing a beautiful HTML5 website with parallax scrolling and cool animations to increase conversions 1-2%…instead of building and nurturing an email list that will increase sales 50%+.
- Hear the phrase “viral videos” and spend hours creating a new online web series…only to see it flop with their users because they didn’t do the proper research in understanding what their target market actually wanted to watch.
- Talk about changing the colors on a call-to-action button on their website, instead of focusing on more enticing opt-ins that would increase sales 30%.
This is true of hiring too.
An “average” company might read an article about social media and decide they need a social media manager. Or they might read an article about the importance of personal assistants, so they decide they need a personal assistant too.
Instead of taking recommendations for who to hire at face value, I urge you to think of your business. A good way to get started is to get out a piece of paper and write down every bottleneck you can think of in your business.
What you write doesn’t need to be perfect. It can be really simple: “I’m sick of spending so much time trying to understand my website traffic. I need someone to tell me what these damn numbers like bounce rate, time on site, and page views actually mean for my business.”
Or, “I spend too much time trying to make sure my balance sheet adds up every month. I need someone to come in and run these numbers for me monthly so I can focus on more important things, like growing my business and coming up with new products.”
Instead of obsessing about what you read online (or what others saying about a role you “absolutely need to hire today!”), writing down your business needs helps you honestly see where you’re stuck and where’s the best opportunity for growth.
Step 2: How to pick the most important bottleneck using the Perfect Hire Matrix
It isn’t always easy to define the biggest hiring win using the Pareto principle. Thinking about your bottlenecks might lead to a long list of bottlenecks and uncertainty where to even begin.
Thankfully, there’s a solution. To cut through the overwhelm and pick the right freelancer, check out the Perfect Hire Matrix below.
The Perfect Hire Matrix helps you break down your business’s biggest needs for growth using a specific formula.
There are 4 main quadrants in the Perfect Hire Matrix. In order from top left to bottom right:
- High Value, Low Cost. High value hires add an immediate impact to your business. Plus, their low relative cost means they’re affordable for businesses of all sizes — whether you’re a one-man show or have money to spend. For an example of a high value, low cost freelancer role, think of a WordPress developer at WP Curve. Fixing technical issues or improving your website could be a huge ROI for your business.
- High Value, High Cost. Similar to above, this quadrant is defined by hires that add a ton of value to grow your business to the next level. Typically, these are extreme bottlenecks costing you lots of money and growth right now. However, unlike low cost roles, high cost means these roles can be extremely expensive. For example, a Data Scientist with a Ph.D. can help you analyze all the analytics you don’t understand, but that might be offset by their hiring cost of $200/hr or more.
- Low Value, Low Cost. Looks can be deceiving for low-cost hires. They’re cheap, so they seem like a good deal. However, if you stop and analyze your business, you realize they won’t solve your urgent bottlenecks and help grow your company. For example, a recent college graduate who wants to help with your social media presence is cheap — but if you have more pressing needs, they’re a waste of a hire.
- Low Value, High Cost. Hires who add little to your business (and cost an arm and a leg). For early-stage entrepreneurs or small businesses, this can be hiring an entire in-house development or design team. They might be important when you start growing into a larger business, but initially they can cost more than they’re worth.
Going back to the business needs you identified in step 1, where do each of your business bottlenecks fit in the Perfect Hire Matrix?
Immediately, you can disqualify any roles that are low value regardless of if they’re high or low cost.
This might seem obvious, but it’s easy to get distracted by advice from friends and think we need to hire someone we probably don’t.
(Btw, it’s important to note that some low value roles can become high value down the line when you grow your business and run into more bottlenecks, but I suggest you focus on your most urgent bottlenecks right now.)
With high value hiring opportunities, the simplest place to start on the quadrant is with High Value, Low Cost. These roles offer the most “bang for the buck” and can help you rapidly grow your business for a low cost.
If you have multiple needs that fit in the High Value, Low Cost quadrant, I recommend you pick the one your gut says will add the most to your business. It’s better to get the ball rolling than to sit back and wait for the “perfect” answer to appear. When in doubt, make a decision.Being a business control freak = lame. Follow 4 steps to hiring a 'unicorn' freelancer to 10x your biz Click To Tweet
Step 3: Where to look for the best candidates and freelancers
Most entrepreneurs overwhelm themselves when looking to hire a freelancer or team member.
Instead, I want to show you the secret to attract the top talent who can grow your business to the next level. There’s a really easy way to get exclusive access to top-notch freelancers: your network.
Everyone has a network. It can be your friends, college alumni or even your connections on LinkedIn.
When you start looking for a freelancer, the first place I suggest you look is LinkedIn. You can search for your hiring need (e.g. “accounting”) in LinkedIn, and then narrow down by 1st connections. This way, you can see everyone in your network who has accounting experience.
Sometimes, you’ll get lucky and find a few connections who could be the perfect freelancer for your business.
Other times, you’ll have to expand your search to include 2nd connections. A lesser-known benefit in including 2nd connections is, with the right words and approach, you can get an intro from a 1st connection you both share.
To help you get in touch with a potential 2nd connection hire, here’s a word-for-word script you can copy and send to your 1st connection for an intro:
SUBJ: Hi, [1ST CONNECTION NAME] — would you mind introducing me to [2ND CONNECTION NAME]
Hi [1ST CONNECTION NAME],
Hope you’re doing well.
I’m really excited (and a little nervous) to reach out to you today. Business is great, and I’m looking to hire a [ROLE YOU WANT TO HIRE].
I noticed you’re connected to [2ND CONNECTION NAME]. Their LinkedIn profile looks amazing, and they seem like just the fit.
Do you mind putting us in touch?
To make it really easy for you, I can send you a preformatted email you can forward directly.
P.S. If you have anyone else you recommend for with this role, I’m all ears.
Sometimes, we get unlucky and we don’t hear back from any of our 1st or 2nd connections (or none of our 1st or 2nd connections fit the bill).
Instead of giving up and going back to doing everything ourselves, there are a few good backup options to hire a freelancer or team member.
First, if you’re looking for WordPress help, WP Curve is a fantastic choice. Starting at $79/month, you’ll find reliable and highly-rated WordPress developers.
Step 4: How to find the “unicorn” candidate who can
10x your business
Once you’ve managed to get a list of candidates through your network or a job board, it’s important to make sure they fit you and your business philosophy. The best way to do this is through a trial project.
Trial projects work great for a couple reasons:
- You’re double-checking a candidate fits your business before jumping into a longer-term business relationship. A mistaken hire can be worse than hiring no one at all. When you hire the wrong person, it can set your business back months. Plus, you’ll have to start the hiring search all over again.
- You’re getting help on the exact bottlenecks you need solved to grow your business. The worst-case scenario with a trial project is the person doesn’t work out and you wasted a bit of time. And, even when the candidate does a half-hearted job, they usually still help push a bottleneck a little further than it was before.
To get started creating a successful trial project, look at your main bottlenecks related to the role you want to hire.
For example, let’s look at one of the earlier bottlenecks I mentioned: “I’m sick of spending so much time trying to understand my website traffic. I need someone to tell me what these numbers like bounce rate, time on site, and page views actually mean for my business.”
If we were to distill the above bottleneck to a key sentence, it might look like: “understanding key traffic and success metrics.” This sentence can be the skeleton for your trial project.
Once the skeleton is ready, it’s time to create the trial project. 1-2 hours is the optimal time for trial project length, with a turnaround within 72 hours.
Any shorter time length and you won’t get a good understanding of how the candidate can actually help your business. Any longer and many candidates will ignore the request and focus on other things (candidates are likely trying to grow their businesses too).
Aiming for 1-2 hours will help you build the skeleton into the trial project scope.
For example, here’s what the skeleton of “understanding key traffic and success metrics” may look like as a trial project scope:
- “Here’s a screenshot of my web traffic from the last month. Please spend 1-2 hours analyzing these traffic numbers, comparing them to where you think I should be, and offering 3-5 suggestions on what you think I should do next.”
- “I’m one year into my business. Here’s the link to my website: ericconley.com. Roughly, revenue is 5-figures per year and I see 1,000 website visitors per month. After looking at my website and hearing these high-level metrics, what are other metrics do you think I should be aware of? Please write 3-5 metrics I should track in my current position, how I can do it and why.”
Typically, as I’m setting up the trial project, I offer to pay the normal consulting rate for my candidate. To make sure the candidate’s rate isn’t above what I’m expecting or industry norm, I’ll cross-reference freelancer rates with a site like Glassdoor, Payscale, or this helpful post from CreativeLive.
After the trial project scope is defined, I’ll “polish” it up and send as an email to my candidates. Once they complete the project, I’ll analyze their work and make a decision on who I want to hire for longer term projects. Mission success!
Hiring your first freelancer or team member is just the start of building your business. Once you make your first successful hire, you can use the same principles above again and again.