Using teams of freelancers on agency project work has many advantages. You’ll keep your cost base low, minimise the risk of overspends, and have access to the best talent on the market.
However there is one area in which a freelance workforce can’t match a permanent staff - convenience. If you use teams of freelancers you’ll be hiring on a per-project basis, meaning each gig involves a period of recruitment up-front so you can find the very best people to get the work done. There are no employees waiting to be told what to do - you need to go out and find your workforce.
Agencies which use flexible workers regularly will have a roster of talent - trusted professionals they can call on time and time again - but even if you’re a veteran at building freelance teams there will be times you need to go out and find someone with new skills.
Whether you’re building a freelance team for the first time, or hunting for that elusive niche skill to round out your roster, there are a few tried-and-tested methods to find the people you need.
Referrals from people or businesses you trust are the very best way to find freelance talent, and often the fastest. If you have an existing pool of freelancers they should be your first stop - freelancers are highly-networked individuals (they have to be to keep their business going), and most will have go-to people in a huge variety of disciplines.
Freelancers are unique in the business world in that they are often have productive relationships - or are even friends - with their competitors. Working closely with peers is a good way to keep skills sharp, and freelancers often team up to pitch for larger projects. Veteran freelance web developer Paul Silver estimates that almost three quarters of his work comes from fellow freelancers. Industry connections are the lifeblood of the freelance economy - if you can tap that vein you’ll be able to find just about anyone.
If you can’t make the connection you need through your professional network, it might be time to cast your net a little wider. Any freelancer worth their salt will have their own website, so turn to Google and search for the skills you need.
For many search terms (photographer, graphic designer etc.) Google will assume you are looking for someone in your local area. If you’re happy with a remote freelancer then change your location settings by clicking Search tools, and entering your location of choice by country or city.
You can also use a tool like Recruit’em to search LinkedIn, Github, Stackoverflow and more for a freelancer with the skills you need.
You probably already know all the talent you need
The biggest advantage of hiring freelancers is getting the exact skills you need at that moment, including knowledge of industry trends, emerging technologies and best practice. Building your team of freelancers should happen right at the beginning of the project, so you can take advantage of their expertise at the planning stage.
Think beyond just LinkedIn and your email address book. Former colleagues, friends and family, and online freelance networks (entire websites or something as simple as a Facebook group) can all be valuable sources of freelance talent, or at the very least will put you one degree of separation closer to the person you need.
Psychologist Robin Dunbar theorised that the maximum number of relationships an individual can maintain is around 150. That means there are 22,500 people in your extended network (friends of friends), and 3.4 million people who those people know. Another psychologist, Stanley Milgram, birthed the six degrees of separation theory by asking participants in a study to forward letters until they reached a specific person. Facebook updated this theory in 2011 and found the degree of separation from one individual to another (on their network, at least), had narrowed to four, or three if they lived in the same country.
Suddenly tracking down the right person for the job doesn’t seem quite so challenging, does it?