5 myths and facts about professional freelancers

This is my personal view on experience I have had with small, through medium businesses up to big corpos. Remember that this applies to dedicated freelancers, working on short term contracts for years, not casual contractors who takes a break between another fulltime job.

1. Freelancers are much more expensive.

You might think that spending some amount of money per hour for contractor is a lot. But it’s not. There are multiple reasons starting from basics – freelancers don’t have annual leave, you don’t pay ACC for them, they don’t get sick (well they do, but you don’t pay for it) and if you don’t have work for them temporarily – you just don’t pay for that time. Most of the freelancers come with their own equipment, you don’t have to pay for it either. Also if contractor works from home, you don’t pay for… well all of office expenses per 1 person, food, power, water, internet etc. If you’ll calculate all of that factors it will turn out that the expenses you have per hour for your full time employee are not that much lower. Sure they will be lower but then consider another facts. If you don’t have a lot of work coming, firing an employee is really hard. With contractor the story is completely different. Both sides makes sure that if the cooperation is not going well you can terminate the contract in reasonably short time.

2. I need to test freelancer before I will hire him.

This is very common problem for us freelancers and most of the time very upsetting. Unless you are a beginner (which is hard to become freelancer then) you come with experience in multiple companies, multiple projects and most likely multiple recommendations. Then you try to get another contract and you got basic knowledge test in front of you. Sometimes even humiliating. If you want to hire freelancer, you don’t get one from the street. Get one with confirmed experience, with good background and proven skills. And then don’t doubt that he did what he and his referees says he did, because good contractors are moody (I’m moody!). This is not employment agreement, this is a contract – you have to be happy with freelancer but freelancer has to be happy with you as well. There was a time when getting a contract was a hassle, freelancers had to work for small money and had to make ends meet. But these days are over, with IT being so advanced, used basically everywhere, good contractor can be moody because there is way more offers than their capabilities to do the work. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t check freelancers portfolio or recommendations (or even test knowledge test if experience is really short). But remember that testing a contractor is a way of being tested yourself “are you worth working for”. In here credits to a company in Auckland which tested me with “create a function checking if number is prime number” with 3 minutes time limit.

3. I need to spend a lot of time with freelancer.

This is not a rule but most of the professional freelancers are self-managing. All you have to do is to tell us what the work is and we’ll find out how to do it. Of course at first we’ll ask a lot of questions, because it’s your (clients’) environment and we don’t know it. But once we know what to look for and where, we can do our work ourselves. In fact I personally don’t like being controlled what do I do and how. This is freelance, I trust you that by the end of the project you’ll pay me, you have to trust me that I do know what I’m doing. And I will update you with details very often, even daily if it’s Agile development. Just please don’t sit behind me and don’t look over my shoulder what am I doing.

4. Freelancers are solution to all my developing problems

Surely hiring a freelancer will speed up your development process. It will also help your team with experience and knowledge from across the industry. But freelancers are not robots. Because we work in various environments and do a lot of things doesn’t mean that we know every single programming language in the world or every project management technique. Remember a jack of all trades is master of none. So when you’re hiring a freelancer imagine that you have just one more person of your team doubled for the contract period of time. He/she can be way better and more experienced than each member of your team and you’ll end up with work done earlier and better. But don’t expect miracles because we’re just humans.

5. Freelancers are not friendly and can’t adapt to the team

This is very common from my experience. Sure, I don’t have to be a party animal and I’m usually not (underscore usually 😉 ). But if your team goes for a beer or out on Friday evening why do you think freelancer won’t adapt? Because we’re new and we’ll be gone in a month or two doesn’t mean that we don’t have exciting stories to tell, big experience to share or know a good joke. And if some freelancer just told you in the past that he’s got to be home early, think of it this way – we’re freelancers, you’re for 99% not the only client we have and we need to do more work. But in general we love being taken for a free company beer 🙂 (or two!)

All above proves how much has to change on freelancer’s market. Freelancers fight for their image for years and companies have to learn it. Remember, there’s a big freelance market to choose from, and you can be picky. But if you’re not going to be fair with freelancer, you might find yourself in position where you can’t find any. We, freelancers have our own community, we communicate as well. If you’re bad for freelancers, none of good freelancers will come to you..

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