By Katrina Olson

Occasionally, you may need to outsource some aspect of your marketing. Maybe you're down a staff member or there's just too much work. Hiring a writer, graphic designer, developer or researcher—or a specialized or full-service agency—can get you through a rough spot or provide needed expertise.

(To learn more about why, when and what to outsource—plus how to choose between hiring a freelancer or agency, and where to find them—see my article in the March issue of tED magazine.)

Hiring an agency is a little easier than hiring a freelancer. Agencies are used to pitching accounts and selling themselves. Choosing a freelancer is more like hiring an employee. You want someone who is talented, easy to work with, communicates well, meets deadlines and understands your business or is willing to learn, quickly.

So how do you screen potential freelancers? Well, the good news is, I've compiled this list of questions for your next round of interviews.

About the interviewee:

  • How long have you been in this line of work?
  • What positions/jobs have you held?
  • Why did you choose to freelance?
  • What types of projects have you worked on?
  • What clients have you worked for?
  • What types of industries have you worked for?
  • What are your favorite types of projects?
  • What are you passionate about outside of work?

About the project:  

  • Can you meet our deadline? Is it realistic and reasonable?
  • What skills do you think are most important for this project?
  • Of those skills, which is your strongest? Which is your weakest?
  • Can you describe how you'll approach this project? 

About their experience:

  • Do you have an online portfolio?
  • "Tell me about this project." (Ask about portfolio projects.)
  • Tell me about a project you're particularly proud of.
  • What would your clients tell me about what you're like to work with?
  • Tell me about a project that didn't go so well.
  • What could you have done differently?

About logistics:

  • Tell me about your work process.
  • Describe how you like to work with clients.
  • Do you have time to take on additional work?
  • What hours are you available for phone calls or meetings? (Check time zone.)
  • What will be the first thing you do after I award you this project?
  • Do you see any potential problems or issues?
  • How often do you see us communicating?
  • What tools do you use to manage your work?
  • Tell me about a time you missed a deadline, and how it happened.
  • What did you do about it?

Business practices:

  • How do you charge for your services?
  • What information do you need to provide an estimate? 
  • Do you require a deposit?
  • Do you bill for work in progress or at completion of the project?
  • What are your payment terms?
  • What if I'm unhappy with your work? How many revisions will you do?

The wrap-up:

  • Do you have any questions about the project or our company?
  • Is there anything else you'd like me to know about you?
  • What's the next step if we choose to work with you?

When making your decision—all other things being equal—trust your gut. Especially if your needs may be long term, choose the person you "click" with and whose company you enjoy.

What questions do you ask? Add them in the comments section!

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Olson is a marketing and public relations consultant, and principal of Katrina Olson Strategic Communications. She has written for tED magazine's print edition since 2005, judged tED magazine's Best of the Best Competition since 2006, and emceed the Best of the Best Awards ceremony for a total of seven years. She can be reached at Katrina@katrinaolson.comor via her website at katrinaolson.com.