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5 Ways Southeast Asian Start-ups Can Harness Freelance Talent

Find out how freelancers can help your business thrive with these tips

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BY Cristina Morales - 02 May 2017


PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Freelancers play a vital part in the start-up ecosystem. They’re more affordable than hiring in-house staff, and if you’re enlisting the right talent, you’d be getting the services of a specialist with plenty of experience in their field.

But not all freelancers are created equal. We’ve all heard horror stories of freelancers who don’t deliver on time or according to your specifications—if at all. Similarly, not all start-ups know how to deal with freelancers properly, which could lead to less than desirable outcomes down the road. Here are five tips on how you can make sure that you’re using your freelance talent effectively.


1. Know which jobs you should assign to freelancers

The first step to making the most out of your flexible workforce is actually figuring out which jobs you should do in-house, and which ones you could assign to a freelancer. Factor in your funds, your timeline, and how crucial the job is.

Says Ramesh Krishnamoorthy, founder of, “Businesses with limited resources can delegate non-core functions to freelancers. Functions which are critical to your business, like major coding and database handling, may be better left to in-house staff.”


2. Look at credentials

This may seem like a no-brainer, but so many freelancer-related mishaps can be avoided if only businesses took more care in vetting their outsourced labor. Before you start negotiating any offers, request sample works and take time to go through portfolios to make sure that the freelancer is capable of meeting your needs.

“Our marketing department hires freelancers on our platform on a regular basis,” says Vasa Iamsuri, founder of Thailand-based “The three things we consider prior contact are: 1. The number of times they’ve been hired; 2. The number of ratings they have received; and 3. The quality and style of their previous work. All these are the indicators of a reliable and competent freelancer. Checking all three boxes can save businesses a lot of time and headaches!”

You could also look to your own circles to find pre-vetted freelance talent. In his article on hiring the right freelance talent, Outro founder Bubba Page recommends using one’s connections to find the people you need. “Shoot an email out to your connections, find out if they have used any freelancers recently and if they have one they highly recommend,” Page says. “By asking your connections first, you're saving valuable time and getting references from people you trust.”


3. Communicate effectively

Be as detailed and precise as possible when setting expectations. Meeting face-to-face with your freelancer would be ideal, but if that isn’t possible, there are a multitude of communication tools at your disposal. As much as possible, don’t delegate the task of communicating with your freelancers to someone who isn’t familiar with the project so nothing gets lost in translation.

“What most businesses don’t realize is hiring freelancers is a two-way street,” says Iamsuri. “If businesses want to trust their freelancers to be punctual to their deadlines and consistently deliver quality work, then they must also understand what the freelancers need in order to achieve that.”

“I appreciate it when companies are transparent with what they want from us, and how we figure in the whole equation or flow of the company,” says Katrina del Rosario, a full-time freelancer based in Manila. “This makes the work more efficient, since you don’t see each other daily at the office.”


4. Understand how freelancers work

The way freelancers work is drastically different from the way full-time employees work, which is why you should factor in work styles when you communicate with your freelancer.

“One important thing companies should do is set up work styles,” says Carljoe Javier, editor at Smarter Good. “Do you expect the freelancer to come into your office? If not, do you expect their work to be synchronous? Or can they submit their work outside of office hours? Freelancers are great, but you have to know that they work differently compared to traditional office staff, so an understanding of their work habits is essential to a good work relationship.”


5. Start small and build trust 

Just as in any working relationship, trust plays a huge part in working with freelancers. In general, freelancers don’t want you breathing down their necks and micromanaging every little detail, but what is the alternative when you’re not sure if you can trust them?

“Offer the freelancer a small task first before giving more complicated projects to help you gauge the freelancer’s skills,” Krishnamoorthy recommends. “Keep a database of all the freelancers that you’ve worked with, complete with a detailed profile and history of works.” By documenting the work of your freelance talent, you can know which freelancers you can rely on and continue fostering a good working relationship with them.

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