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  • Marij Staessens

Checking references of potential freelancers: this is how you do it.

Updated: Sep 24, 2023

In today's business environments, hiring freelancers has become a common practice. These independent professionals bring a wealth of expertise and flexibility. Still, determining their suitability for a specific job can be challenging. It's not as simple as requesting references from former employers as you do when hiring a permanent employee. So, how can you ensure the freelancer you consider hiring is the right person for the job? In this article, we will discuss different methods to check the suitability of your potential freelancer.

1. Ask for a Portfolio

An experienced freelancer can usually present a portfolio of his best work. This is especially valuable for creative freelancers, such as graphic designers, copywriters or content creators. Study the portfolio thoroughly and ask specific questions about the projects that align with your project. For example, ask how they arrived at certain results, who they worked with and what challenges they overcame. This gives you insight into their creative process and working style.

2. Check their online presence

Presenting a portfolio can be more difficult for freelancers in fields other than creative professions. In that case, checking their online presence is a good idea. LinkedIn is a helpful tool to see which companies or clients they have worked with. If a freelancer collaborates regularly with international companies, you can assume that they have been tested for competencies and qualifications at a high level. Still want to know more? Major corporations typically maintain an HR department that you can readily reach out to. Alternatively, you may search for the previous client(s) or company and send an in-mail. However, it is crucial to obtain consent from the freelancer before contacting a former client.

3. Checking references with previous clients

Although references can be subjective, they can provide valuable insight into the person behind the applicant. As with online reviews, multiple positive references can indicate reliability and quality. To ensure you get helpful information, it's essential to prepare well-thought-out questions before reaching out for references. Questions you can ask to gain more insight:

  • How long has the candidate worked for your company?

  • What was the nature of the work the candidate performed?

  • How much did the candidate earn?

  • What was included in the salary, such as bonuses or overtime?

  • How would you describe the candidate in terms of qualities and work style?

  • Would you consider hiring the candidate again in the future?

4. For a long-term assignment: consider a test case

If you are planning a long-term collaboration, you may want to consider giving the freelancer a short trial assignment. This can help assess their skills before committing to a long-term contract. However, it is essential to act honestly and respectfully, as freelancers' time is as valuable as yours. Keep the assignment reasonable in size, comparable to a task you would give to a permanent employee. Make sure the assignment is relevant to the position and allow enough time to complete the work. Remember that you will receive valuable ideas and insights from professionals without paying for them. Consider a paid assignment if you want to use the content or solutions from the test.

5. Keep the contract flexible

One of the advantages of working with freelancers is the flexibility of contracts. Agreements with self-employed freelancers can usually be terminated quickly and with minimal financial commitment. If you are not satisfied with the freelancer's performance, you can end the collaboration without lengthy notice periods. If the services provided do not meet expectations or show defects, you can dispute the invoice and refuse payment for the services.


Checking references of freelancers takes a careful approach, but it is an essential part of the selection process. You can decide on the freelancer that best fits your needs by evaluating portfolios, reviewing online presence, consulting references, and considering test assignments. It is an investment in finding the right person for the job, and this will ultimately contribute to the success of your project.

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