Each project your company undertakes with freelancers (sometimes referred to as agile talent, 1099s, consultants, contractors, etc.) is a two-way street. As a manager, you need to be prepared to hire freelance talent and provide specific guidelines and metrics for the project at hand. On the other side, the talent that you bring on-board has to meet expectations and deliver the project on time.
When you’re trying to find the right person for a project, going that extra mile for greatness is well worth the effort. As the founder of 10x Management, the first tech talent agency, I’m often asked how to distinguish between good and great when it comes to high-level contract talent. We all know that the delta between good and great is huge — and it’s worth its weight in gold every time.
Here are some ways to separate the great from the good:
Do they ask the right questions?
- Good freelancers come prepared with a proposal.
- Great freelancers will inquire about the goals, culture, methodology, and the project’s details before preparing a proposal. The more effort the freelancer puts into understanding the customer’s needs, the better the freelancer can meet them.
Of course, projects can change during engagements, but a great freelancer will ascertain all of the important details before getting into a contract. #MeasureTwiceCutOnce.
Err on the side of too much information
- Good freelancers tell you that they are right for the job and that they have relevant experience.
- Great freelancers explain HOW their relevant experience will make them perform well for you. The freelancers who are best for the task can relate their past experience and explain its relevance to the current project.
Not every freelancer is right for every engagement and the right person for the project may not have prior experience doing exactly what needs to be done. After all, projects often attempt to do something novel.
Step outside your network
- Good managers find talent through familiar and comfortable places.
- Great managers find talent by looking in a variety of places:
- Open marketplaces require more stringent due diligence and carry a larger degree of risk (think Upwork).
- Curated marketplaces remove some guesswork because they usually sift out the lousiest parts of the marketplaces, while still allowing the customer to make the right match.
- Dev shops can be great. The one flaw in their model is that the less the shops pay their talent, the higher their margins. That’s why you’ll find a fair number of unhappy employees in their midst. And there’s nothing worse than being billed out at $250/hour and going home with just $60/hour. Resentment can build fast.
- Agencies vary. Some act more like personal shoppers or matchmakers and work hard to understand your needs and identify the right fit for the role. The good ones can save you tons of time.
Reference checks are more than screening
- Good managers check references to investigate a candidate’s background.
- Great managers check references to find out the best way to manage their talent.
What are their superpowers? What are their weaknesses? What type of management yields their best results?
There is also the fit that goes beyond tech. We have had many of our freelancers come back after an initial meeting and say, “I am perfect technically for this engagement, but I don’t think it will be a good fit (culturally, personally, temperamentally) and I am going to pass.”
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The difference between good and great
When the fate of your project rests in the hands of agile talent, don’t make the mistake of coasting on discovering and managing that talent. Make an extra effort in the onboarding process, and the positive outcome of your project will pay for itself — even in ways you won’t expect.
Be specific in your requirements and ensure that you look at more than just the skills of a freelancer. You’ll always have a better outcome when you can find great talent.