You can tell a lot about a potential provider by the information you find in their online profile, their employer reviews, and your first communications. These are all valuable indicators of both the quality of the provider’s work and the provider’s level of professionalism. And while first impressions are not enough for you to base a hiring decision on, they will steer you toward the most promising candidates and make your employee search less complicated.

Online Profiles

The first thing you should look at is the provider’s profile, which lists skills, experience, and education. The profile is like a digital résumé, only better, because each freelance website has a standard format for profiles. The universal layout makes the profiles easier to read and the providers easier to compare. A good profile should include applicable experience and skills, any certifications the provider has achieved, and examples of the provider’s work. Profiles for providers of technical and other specialized services should be specific as to the systems and software the provider knows. Simply put, the profile will tell you whether or not the provider has the basic qualifications to handle your project.

Employer Reviews

Employer reviews are one of your most valuable resources. While their profiles can give you excellent insight into the providers’ skills and experience, their reviews can tell you a variety of things that the profile cannot. For example, reviews will indicate if the providers are good communicators, if they stay on schedule, and if they really do have the skills they claim to have. 

The thing to keep in mind, however, is that reviews may also affect how much the provider expects to get paid. A provider with excellent reviews is likely to demand more money than a provider with average or poor reviews. You’re better off steering clear of those with bad reviews, but your budget may not allow you to hire the most highly recommended providers.

In these cases, keep an eye out for providers with excellent profiles but no reviews. These providers are often new to the website and will be more than willing to take a lower wage in order to get their first job. Having no reviews is far better than having bad reviews, so don’t necessarily avoid the newcomers.

Initial Communication

When freelancers bid for your project, pay close attention to how well they communicate. The bids should be professional, free of typos, and clear indicators that the providers understand what you need. 

One indication of a good provider, which you may find surprising, is whether or not they ask questions and how targeted those questions are. For example, a graphic designer who asks about style, concept, usage, file formats, and resolution shows that they know a lot about what they do, because they know which questions to ask.

Not asking questions is a red flag; however, use your best judgment in these situations. A provider who doesn’t ask questions up front may simply lack good strategy for applying for jobs.

Russell is looking for a copywriter who can bring life to a new sales approach. He’s posted a project online and has begun to receive bids. He takes the time to review each applicant’s online profile, looking for the proper experience and skills.

He also notes the applicants’ employer reviews so he can avoid spending valuable time interviewing unreliable providers. Finally, he pays close attention to the applicants’ communications.

Bids that come in with grammatical errors and typos are immediately set aside, along with those providers whose profiles and reviews indicate inexperience or unprofessionalism. What he’s left with are the providers with the most potential to meet his needs.

When you start to receive bids on your project, you will first want to review the providers’ online profiles, employer reviews, certifications, and whatever other information is readily available and indicates both the providers’ skills and their reliability. Pay close attention to these details and make sure that potential hires  are qualified “on paper” for your project. Indications of the proper experience along with good employer reviews will point you toward the freelancers you are most likely to have success with.

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