As someone who deals with content on a daily basis, I can’t recommend freelancers highly enough. It can be difficult to predict the volume of work and at times you simply need to offload. For example, we recently received an urgent, 70,000-word translation due the next day. A translation of this size takes a lot of work to get to a high standard. The only way it was possible was by asking freelancers from other timezones to translate part of the text during the night, leaving us free to edit the next day.

But not everyone you speak to will praise them as much as I do—and I completely understand why. There is a risk associated with hiring freelancers. They can be unreliable, the quality might not be to the same standard, or they might not understand your projects like you do.

Like with any resource, making proper use of freelancers involves good planning and having a reliable system in place to ensure quality control and a mutually beneficial relationship. At the company where I work, VeraContent, freelancers are absolutely essential to completing large-scale projects in multiple languages. So I sat down with HR director, Eva A. Movilla, to find out how they came up with the system we currently use.

The common problem

Before you can work with any freelancers, you need to find them. There’s no shortage of freelancers out there. It’s easy to post an ad on popular sites such as Upwork, Fiverr,, or even on Facebook groups, and applications will start flowing in. 

However, that’s just the first step. Eva warns that it’s not as easy as hiring the first seemingly qualified person who replies to your ad. “They’re not always reliable. Someone can drop out at the last minute and there’s not much you can do. You either have to quickly find another linguist or work extra hours in-house. To prevent this, we put a lot of effort into cultivating relationships of trust with our ‘go-to’ freelancers,” she says.

Creating a system

We began by simply rating freelancers based on our experience working with them. And, as Eva goes on to explain, “We are also always open to renegotiate our rates if the collaboration is satisfactory from both sides.” Trust, of course, is a two-way street. 

When everything goes well, this simple rating system is surprisingly effective—but it does leave you vulnerable in one area. If your trusted freelancers are busy and you need someone new for a project, you’re in the same potluck situation as anyone without a system. If the work isn’t up to the necessary standard, you lose out on valuable time and risk missing the deadline.

Refining the system

For VeraContent, Eva developed a more robust system when hiring freelancers, which she explains to me in detail:

  • Anyone interested in working as a freelancer needs to fill out a form on our website. We ask applicants to attach their updated CV and some work samples (preferably published ones). 
  • After an initial assessment, we send the short-listed candidates a linguistic test. Our in-house editors review the test and add successful candidates to our freelancers database
  • Once approved, we test them with some small projects, which turn into bigger assignments if their performance is good. The project manager then rates their performance in our internal CRM and adds some notes of relevant info for internal reference.
  • When we have a suitable project, we reach out to the freelancer, who has the opportunity to accept or reject the assignment. Throughout the whole process, we remain in communication to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Eva’s advice on looking for freelancers

Over the last few years, Eva has helped find countless freelancers, from all over the globe and in myriad languages. In that time she has learned to identify key characteristics of what makes a good freelancer, and how businesses can make the most of this incredible resource.

What makes a good freelancer?

When beginning your search, knowing what to look out for can help speed up the process. According to Eva, a freelancer should have “pretty much the same qualities as any good employee: professionalism and a passion for what they do.”

This means you should look out for more than just the quality of their work. Since it’s a relationship based on trust, factors such as level of communication and reliability should be taken into account. A freelancer may produce excellent work, but if you spend the whole time before the deadline wondering if they’re going to deliver, it doesn’t make for a very stable relationship. 

“I would add ‘seriousness’ as a desirable quality in the case of freelancers. The lack of face-to-face contact can be risky as they may not fully commit.”

How do you judge quality?

One of the most difficult aspects of hiring freelancers is judging the quality of the work—especially when it’s in a language you don’t speak. Generally, this goes hand-in-hand with the qualities that make a good freelancer:

“Independently of the languages they work in,” Eva says, “there are some common features that act as hints. The quality and thoroughness of their letter of motivation, the number of attached samples and the time invested in the application tell us a lot about their professionalism and level of commitment.”

This should be the initial filter. It won’t guarantee quality work, but an application that’s professional and free of errors is a fantastic starting point. From there, you should rely on the processes you have put into place and the opinion of writers and editors you already trust. As Eva explains:

“When we have shortlisted a candidate, we evaluate the quality of their sample with VeraContent linguists who are native in that language. Afterwards, we ask them to complete a test in the skill they have applied for, whether writing, editing or translation. We share the feedback with the candidate, even if they are unsuccessful, as we believe it’s an opportunity to help them grow.

For languages that we don’t cover in-house, we rely on an extensive network of trusted freelancers and editors. We follow exactly the same procedure and our trusted freelancers need to justify their evaluations of the candidates.”

Trust: the bottom line when hiring freelancers

In the end, Eva continually returns to the importance of trust. She affirms that “the fact that you’re not working in the same room doesn’t mean that you’re not in the same boat. With regular contact and by making them feel part of the project, you assure a higher level of performance and engagement.” When the trust gets to a certain level, it can be worth putting the expectations of both parties in writing. Although not legally binding, it can help make sure both sides are on the same page and keep the relationship strong. 

While hiring freelancers requires a certain amount of compromise, it’s worth putting in the effort to establish close relationships. It affords you the freedom to navigate the industry’s varying influxes of work and can be mutually beneficial for all parties involved.