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Should You Hire a Freelancer at Your Association?

Association jobs can be challenging to fill. After all, most employers are on the lookout for association experience, institutional knowledge, and a ton of other related criteria.

Once you find a good fit for the position and make an offer, the weight of the world is off your shoulders.

What happens if you find someone who looks great on paper but doesn’t make the cut  after 3 months on the job?

Not only do the hiring managers look bad, bringing on a new association employee who doesn’t work out can impact the bottom line. Plus, once that happens, you’re back to square one with filling the position.

You could start looking for another full time employee.

OR you could avert your attention to an option with much less risk and opportunity cost.

The freelancer.

A freelancer is someone with a particular expertise who works for one, and sometimes several different organizations.

There are freelancers for nearly every type of job including marketing, customer service, writing, editing, recruitment, sales, IT services, design, business development, telemarketing… the list goes on and on.

Not every position can be replaced by a contracted freelancer.

However when searching for a candidate, consider this: There are several job positions that make perfect sense to outsource to an association freelancer.

Hiring? Check out our job board packages.

How to Hire a Freelancer for Your Association

An office that would suit an association job or freelance association professional.

So now that you’re curious about a freelancer, where do you start looking for one?

There a a bunch of  websites like Upwork and Freelancer – these are an OK place to start.

Both websites give reviews on frequently used freelancers which is nice. In my experience though, services like Upwork are better for one off gigs.

Hiring a freelancer isn’t an easy way out of filling a job position. You should put the same time and work you would finding a full time candidate as you should a freelancer.

A great freelancer will stick with your organization and add value to your association.

The key is to find the right one.

Hiring a Freelancer? Search Local First

The first thing you should do as an association recruiter is go to Linkedin.

Search for freelancers in your area. It’s as simple as typing “DC Freelance” in the search box.

It took my 5 seconds just now to perform that search, and I found results for freelance marketers and email copy writers right in my backyard.

Finding  local association freelancers is the best place to start.

The reason being is because you’ll likely get real facetime with them. Bear in mind though that most freelancers enjoy remote-work, so keep office visits minimal.

If you’re office is in an expensive area like DC or New York City, it may be wise to look elsewhere for a freelancer. Freelancers tend to charge more in high cost areas.

Key Questions to Ask When Interviewing a Freelancer for your Association

Once you have some candidates in your freelance job pool, now it’s time to qualify them.
The very first thing to ask is if they have current clients. Find out if they have a portfolio and request sample writing and work.

Narrow your search based on quality and relative work. Once you do this, set up a phone interview and get a feel for how they communicate.

Communication is the most important job quality in a professional freelancer.

If they have a great skill set but are crummy communicators, look elsewhere.

Hire someone who has a proven track record of communication and accountability with other organizations.

Next, find out how much work they are willing to put into your association.

Many freelancers have other clients and you need to find out how much time and energy they are willing to give you. Once you have narrowed your search based on the above criteria, now it’s time to go live.

Well, not completely live. Yet.

Make your freelance candidates go through a trial run. Identify a task for each one and have them complete and submit the work.

After the trial run, evaluate the quality and timeliness of their work. Also keep in mind how they communicated to you throughout the process.

If you choose to use/publish their work, pay them for it even if you don’t end up hiring them.

After the trial run you should have a pretty good idea if you have the right freelancer.


A handshake that is typical after an association employer hires a candidate for an association job


How to Compensate a Freelancer

Since freelancers are contract workers, you can get creative with compensation.

The best way to compensate is based on work completed. For example, if you’re hiring a freelance blogger, pay them $75 per 1,000 word blog post.

Another way is a set monthly amount. For instance, if you hire a freelancer marketer to  manage email marketing, agree to pay them $500 per month.

If you choose to pay a fixed monthly amount, make sure you have defined exactly what services you need from the freelancer.

The more specific the better.

The last thing you want is to lose ROI on your freelance marketer because they are unsure of their responsibilities.

Avoid paying an hourly rate at all cost. Hourly rates create distrust among employers and freelancers.

Even if they produce great work, the following question will always linger: Did they actually take X hours to complete Y task?

Paying a contract worker hourly creates a ton of completely avoidable problems.

Overall Pros and Cons of Hiring An Association Freelancer

Hiring a Freelancer–The Good

  • Your association can reduce hiring and employee costs
  • Less internal resources spent on employee management
  • Reduces business function work loads
  • Minimal onboarding and training costs
  • Flexible with hiring and service/compensation structure
  • Lowers risk of hiring a “bad employee”
  • Opens opportunity for outsourcing different association tasks


Hiring a Freelancer –The Bad

  • Geographical constraints
  • Freelancer may lack communication skills
  • Freelancer may not be as passionate about work as standard employee
  • Hiring a freelancer may be difficult if you’ve never done it before

All in all, freelancers can add a ton of value to your association.

Remember – not every job can be outsourced. It’s best look look for a specific function for a freelancer; e.g. blogging, writing web copy or IT services.

If you are considering hiring an association freelancer, make sure to qualify them. Ask them for previous work samples, figure out how they communicate and find out if they are a good fit for your association.

Once you hire a freelancer, maintain the relationship! Set up a monthly call to communicate. Add them to your association’s Slack as a limited user.

If they do a great job and you want them to stick around for awhile, offer them a pay increase.





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