Do you know what AppSumo, Skype, and Google have in common? Each relied on freelancers to build and scale their operations. And many more entrepreneurs also choose to hire freelancers over full-time teammates.
But where do you find the best freelance people?
In Europe! The world's second-smallest continent is home to a sizable workforce of independent professionals, operating in every industry imaginable — from app design to videography.
In this guide, we’ll examine exactly how you can find and hire EU freelancers for your projects while staying on the good side of compliance.
Some 13 million digital freelancers live, work and play in the 27 EU member states. Geographically speaking, Europe provides access to an even larger talent pool (which is also harder to count).
So whether you are looking for a data science consultant with a background in B2B e-commerce, a UX designer, familiar with the French finance industry, or a Portuguese-speaking photographer, you’ll find your pro.
Accessing a large multilingual talent pool is great. But there are even more reasons to work with EU freelancers:
To sum up: the EU is a destination to scout for skilled workforce across a broad spectrum of professions and price points.
Already sold? Great, then let’s get you up to speed on how to hire and manage EU freelancers.
Hiring the right freelancer feels like a needle in a haystack situation. First, you need to find a suitable candidate. Then sift through tons of confusing information — about payments, taxes, legal paperwork — and question your decision a couple of times.
To help you out, we've put together this guide with clear-cut steps and tips to hire international freelancers.
To hire the right fit, you need to determine what they’ll do. Duh, easy! They’ll do the work I’ll assign to them. Well, hold that thought.
Freelancers are not full-time employees — they are independent contractors. And this assumes several differences in compliance and day-to-day management.
Some EU countries have regulations, aimed at curbing false self-employment. Essentially, such laws put limits on how much work a freelancer can do for one company before being considered its employee. If you are from the US, the premises are similar to the recently passed California Assembly Bill 5.
In Germany, the anti-false-self-employment policy is called “Scheinselbstständigkeit.” Spain, the UK and the Netherlands also have a series of similar laws. So do other EU countries.
Should you be worried? In most cases, no. Just remember that when you hire EU freelancers, don't try to negotiate a semblance of traditional work arrangement i.e. a 9-5 schedule with no finite employment date and a fixed monthly payment, but no benefits.
A freelancer is someone you hire to do scoped, well-articulated tasks for your business, rather than cross off any task off your to-do list.
So before you go onto a hiring spree, create a short project overview document — a high-level summary of what you expect the person to do.
To make things easier for you here’s a quick checklist to determine the scope of work a freelancer could cover for you.
Pack the above information into a document you’ll share with prospective freelance hires.
You have the project specs, now you want to figure out how much it will cost you to get it done.
As the data above shows, experienced freelance talent isn’t cheap. Still, the cost can be lower than keeping the same person on the payroll as you don’t have to worry about taxes or social security contributions. These are paid by your freelancer (and often bundled into the price of their services).
To research how much hiring an EU freelancer will cost you:
But remember: as the project management triangle principle says the quality of delivered work is always constrained by the budget, time, and scope. So you can only have two out of the cheap, fast, or comprehensive equation.
As you compare quotes, think about how you’ll pay your overseas freelancers.
Here are several important caveats to keep in mind:
So there’s a lot of freelance talent in the EU. But how do you connect with your next best hire?
Here’s where to find EU freelancers:
So you’ve got a roaster of candidates. How do you zero down on the ideal choice? Here are several quick and effective ways to vet a freelancer:
Contract signing is an important part of onboarding international freelancers.
A formal freelance work contract gives legal protection to both parties and prevents misunderstanding or disputes. The most standard type of contract for freelancers is a work-for-hire agreement.
A solid freelance work contract covers:
Special provisions can include a non-disclosure clause or a separate non-disclosure agreement (NDA). NDAs are a common industry practice. Freelancer management platforms like Xolo provide access to pre-made templates for such legal documents, including work-for-hire contracts, NDAs, intellectual property rights agreements, etc.
Technically yes. Practically, it’s complex.
Most freelancers have a niche (e.g. they specialize in working with ecommerce or FinTech companies). Asking them to NOT work for any of your competitors for a set number of months/years puts them at a major disadvantage. So negotiating a non-compete clause can be rather problematic.
But if you are worried about sensitive information disclosure, an NDA should have you covered. Also, most freelancers build their business on their reputation. They practice integrity and avoid behind-the-back discussions of private client information.
All legal formalities are done and this means you are ready to kick off your partnership.
Some freelancers will have a client onboarding process in place. Others prefer you to take the lead.
If that’s the case, here’s how to effectively onboard a new freelancer.
Effective communication is essential for building a strong rapport with your freelance team. It helps build trust by establishing expectations on both ends. So that you don’t resort to micromanagement and the freelancer doesn’t have to endlessly follow up for details.
A cool way to reduce this “learning curve” is to create and exchange a “How to work with me” manual — a quick document, explaining your traits, quirks, and communication preferences. It can help the freelancer better understand your way of work and vice-versa.
Here’s a sample document from the Monzo team:
P.S. You can turn all of the above tips into a standard onboarding checklist and manage all the steps via Xolo.
You did the first project together with our new freelancer. It was a blast and you are ready for more! Here’s what you can do next:
Put your freelancer(s) on a retainer. Retainers are long-term agreements for collaboration. You book your freelancer to do X amount of work for a Y period. They are a win-win for both. You get a fixed chunk of work covered while the freelancer receives regular pay and can block a fixed number of hours on their schedule to prevent overruns.
Hire a bigger freelance team. Consider what other roles could you fill in with freelancers? Chances are quite a few. So ask your original hires to make some referrals. A freelance designer probably has a developer friend or knows more awesome industry people. Or test out other hiring strategies we shared earlier!
It’s a wrap. You now know how to contract international freelancers from the EU and onboard them to become a driver for your next big project!
Just remember: freelancers are your partners, not your employees. Treat them as equals. Respect their work preferences and be proactive in communication. Build a dynamics where their efforts are valued and their opinions are accounted for — that’s how you get the best assets for your team!
Note: The information contained in this document is for guidance only and cannot be considered financial, legal or tax advice.
Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.
Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.
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