IES Blog

3 Tips for Successfully Hiring International Freelancers

Posted on September 12th, 2018 Read time: 4 minutes

International Freelancers

By: Trevor Foster, former VP of Finance & Innovation at IES and current CEO & Founder of Fulcrum

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Once upon a time, in a market far, far away, employers only had two options for recruiting talent: word of mouth and the local newspaper. Today, however, the hiring process isn’t limited by any geographic scope. The best person for the job might live in an entirely different state or country than your brick-and-mortar business, and that’s OK.

Telecommuting is quickly becoming the new normal and might even be the answer to the so-called talent shortage affecting today’s job market. The U.S. shortage alone could lead to 85.2 million unfilled jobs by 2030, which would translate to nearly $8.5 trillion in lost revenue over the course of 12 years.

Opening up your talent pool to the global workforce often makes it easier to hire for specialized roles. And with consulting firms predicting that 50 percent of the U.S. workforce and 30 percent of the U.K. workforce will be freelancing by 2020, you will have plenty of candidates to choose from. International freelancers could also provide the necessary expertise to move your organization into a foreign market — and offer a high level of skill at a more affordable rate.

So What’s the Catch?

Where does this leave you, the employer? Freelancing overseas sounds enticing, but before you venture into international waters, at least as far as recruiting goes, there are a few things to consider. To protect yourself from hiring the wrong person or violating international policies for freelance workers, follow these steps:

1. Thoroughly assess each candidate’s work.

When looking at international freelancers, evaluate prior performance to get a good sense of their work’s quality, and pay special attention to feedback from previous employers. After all, past behavior is the best predictor.

But good referrals and samples alone don’t always equal a good fit. To ensure a successful partnership, you should set up a system for holding your freelance employees accountable. An online freelance platform could provide this accountability system, as well as access to freelancers’ prior work and feedback. Depending on the platform, you might also gain some visibility into the freelancer’s current workload.

Take Toptal, for example. This freelance marketplace’s screening process turns away 97 percent of the freelancers who apply to join the network, leaving the top 3 percent. It also actively works with employers to find the freelancer who’s best suited for the job and provides visibility into the freelancer’s current capacity.

2. Keep up with current guidelines and follow them.

A platform can only do so much, so you’ll need to supplement at least a portion of the screening process. Use in-house resources or a third-party vendor to collect information on potential candidates and conduct background checks.

But be aware that the laws concerning what you can and can’t ask candidates overseas are complex. The General Data Protection Regulation in Europe gives consumers control over their personal data, so if you ask a potential hire something he or she could interpret as intentionally intrusive or vague, your company could be in breach of the regulation.

What’s more, certain countries forbid running background checks or require the candidate to sign a consent form — by hand — in his or her national language. Suffice to say, you should err on the side of caution when screening candidates, and make sure that the data you collect is not only following the law, but also in accordance with the candidate’s country of origin.

3. Pay freelancers quickly and correctly.

Just because the worker is freelance doesn’t mean you can wire U.S. dollars whenever you want. You must ensure the work is paid in the correct currency, at the correct time, and with the appropriate taxes withheld. You also need to decide whether or not you’ll treat the hire as a freelancer (i.e., independent contractor) or an actual employee. Keep in mind that your responsibility for benefits and taxes will vary from country to country.

Consider a payment escrow service, in which a third party holds the funds owed to the freelancer until the job is done and safeguards both parties. If the freelancer completes an assignment by the agreed-upon date, he or she gets paid, and if the freelancer bails or doesn’t deliver as promised, you get your money back.

Enlist the help of a company with a solid reputation that can help you understand the implications of working with international freelancers. CXC Global, for instance, is an option with the ability to “employ” these workers for you, allowing you to skirt the need to become an international employer.

Companies all over the U.S. are choosing to look outside of national borders for qualified freelance talent and finding lower costs, a wider talent pool, and localized skill sets. These benefits are giving them an advantage over companies that still only consider talent in their own backyard.

Fortunately for newbies, all companies utilizing international freelancers have one thing in common: They all had to figure out how to hire their first international freelancer. The best way to do that is to partner with a company that can help you along the way and then jump into the international talent market. Billions of talented individuals from outside the U.S. can not only fill your skills gap, but also help you stay agile and competitive in the future.

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