As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a significant amount of educational content is created, revised, or reviewed by freelance professors, instructors, and other subject matter experts working actively in their fields. In this article, I’ll share with you a step-by-step process for how to find the perfect candidate to take on your unique educational project—whether that’s writing high-stakes engineering test questions, rendering a PowerPoint deck compliant with WCAG 3.0 guidelines, accuracy checking core course materials for a brand-new business course your university wants to roll out quickly, or anything in between.
Let’s start with an assumption that you know what you need, in terms of the work to be completed, your available budget, and the level of expertise you want your freelancer(s) to have. Now what?
Step 1. Start your search off right.
One of the key benefits that Lumina’s ExpertSource Pro provides for freelancers interested in working on educational products is that it provides them with a smaller, more targeted audience. This same benefit applies to employers looking to find the right contributors. While major freelance platforms have millions of users, finding the right freelancer for your specific project can be akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Instead, start your search in ExpertSource Pro, where you can more quickly and easily find freelancers with a proven history in educational content.
Step 2. Refine your search.
Fine-tune your search with the parameters of your project and the qualities your ideal freelancer would have, for example:
- Field of expertise, and level of expertise (professional knowledge only, level of degree, teaching experience)
- Skills, or the task you need completed
- Any system or platform knowledge required (e.g., ChemDraw, Canvas, InDesign, Adobe Photoshop, etc.), and the level of expertise needed to complete the task
Doing so will give you a short list of the most closely matched candidates. From there, you can more closely consider only those candidates that best meet your needs.
Step 3. Shortlist your top candidates.
Now that you’ve established a pool of potential candidates, it’s time to consider each more closely. Be sure to keep in mind what matters most to you. While that will reasonably differ based on your unique needs, some factors to consider might include:
- The number of projects a freelancer has completed, particularly those are similar to yours
- Past historic ratings: Here, you may be interested in composite scores on quality of work, adherence to schedules, and communication, or you may be interested in those ratings for only the particular skill you’re interested in. You can consider one—or all—of these angles within ExpertSource Pro.
- Whether the individual has listed applicable experience within their résumé or curriculum vitae, which can be accessed from their profile. For example, if you’re looking for a current professor to conduct an accuracy review of an Introductory Business course, you may be particularly interested in instructors who’ve taught the course a minimum number of times.
- Whether the freelancer has provided samples or a link to an online portfolio. When considering a freelancer for a graphic design project, this is particularly of interest.1
- The freelancer’s typical hourly rate vs. what you have available in your budget. Within a freelancer’s profile, you can see the freelancer’s target hourly rate. If this doesn’t fit within your budget, you likely would want to consider other candidates, which you can do easily with Lumina’s unique “matching profile” option, which will provide you the top 10 aligned candidates, based on whatever parameters you identify and our unique predictive testing.2
Step 4. Evaluate your final candidates further.
At this point, you’ve considered budget, background, skills, etc. Let’s assume you’re down to your top two or three candidates, all of whom look amazing on paper—seems manageable, right? Now it’s time to establish which candidate is the best choice for your unique project needs. You can do that in a variety of ways:
- First, consider whether the freelancer has previously completed any training and testing relevant to your project. ExpertSource Pro currently includes skills-based testing for copyediting only, though a proofreading test will be deployed in late 2021. The site will soon also offer specialized training videos and testing for a particularly challenging task, assessment (question) writing/revision, as part of the Smart Assessor program (estimated release July 2021). For other tasks, such as project management, consider whether a candidate has any relevant certifications (e.g., PMP).
- Next, consider whether you’d like candidates to complete a sample specific to your project—for assessment writing, that may mean asking each candidate to author 5-10 questions at various levels of complexity. Keep in mind that you should never expect freelancers to complete samples for free—you’re looking for good candidates, and good candidates know what their work is worth.
Step 5. Work hard to retain your top freelancers.
After you’ve identified and hired the best candidate for your project, it’s easy to think your work is done—but that’s not the case. Your final task is to ensure that your freelancer knows that they are a valuable member of your team. The best ways to do that are to:
- Set them up to succeed. Establish a positive relationship from the beginning by creating open channels of communication, and giving them the project details in the most efficient way possible. Sometimes that will mean sharing documentation and resources, and sometimes that will mean having a meeting or phone call to review details and expectations.
- Answer questions quickly and thoroughly. A great freelancer will inevitably have lots of questions designed to more precisely define the work. Answering those questions quickly, and in detail, will lead to a higher-quality first draft and improved freelancer satisfaction.
- Share feedback promptly. It’s normal for the first deliverable to be less than perfect, simply because this is the period in which both sides are ironing out the nuances of what’s expected. Be sure to carefully review all work and let your freelancer know what they did well and what needs revision. The vast majority of freelancers expect and appreciate this—they want you to love the end product.
- Pay your freelancer fairly…and on time. Freelancers are professionals who rely on the income their projects bring in. Make sure that you offer a fair rate for what you’re asking, and that you review and approve all invoices quickly. ExpertSource Pro makes doing so fast and easy, with direct deposit payments arriving in a freelancer’s designated bank account within 30 days of invoice submission.
- Celebrate excellent work. Finally, make sure to let your freelancer know that you appreciate their efforts—first, by way of applying performance rating for the project (which benefits not just you, but also your colleagues using the system in the future, in addition to the freelancer themselves), and secondly, by simply sharing your feedback via phone or email. Freelancers work hard to deliver the best work they can, and acknowledging that effort is always appreciated.
Finding and hiring the right freelancers doesn’t have to be difficult, time-consuming, or painful, when you consider the above process as a basic framework. But don’t feel as though you have to go it alone. If you’re interested in learning more about how our teams can assist you with this process—please let us know! The Lumina team can handle all recruitment, vetting, and testing of candidates on your behalf. Or, consider how ExpertSource Pro can help you find, hire, and retain your own talent pipeline.
- Caveat: Keep in mind that the absence of samples is not necessarily a cause for concern. Most educational products are completed as work-for-hire, with the employer retaining exclusive rights to the final, published materials. In many cases, a freelancer may be able to point you to work they’ve completed in published products, even while they are unable to list them explicitly within their profile.
- Don’t let cost by your sole deciding factor, though. Many freelancers will have noted their target rate, but will be open to negotiation. When in doubt, ask!