June 7th, 2022

An Employer’s Guide to Scoping and Budgeting Freelance Projects

Category / Agency

Freelance projects don’t always go to plan because employers may fail to plan correctly.

Hiring freelancers to deliver work beyond the capacity of your current staff helps you stretch the limitations of your budget. When done right, you can maximize the success of your outsourced freelance projects and save money. 

Unfortunately, business owners may self-sabotage their projects with unrealistic expectations, and budget frugality. They may fail to recognize the full scope of work and ultimately, select the wrong partner.

With Communo’s help, this won’t be you.

We’ve created this guide to help you unpack how to define an accurate scope, and set a reasonable budget for any freelance project. This is a critical foundation for attracting qualified talent.

We will cover:

  1. How to assess what skills you need to hire.
  2. How to set project scope and deliverables.
  3. How to budget time and select the appropriate experience level.

How to assess what skills you need to hire

Depending on the project type, you may require multiple niche skills—a.k.a. hiring several freelancers or a single, more experienced candidate to deliver the full scope of work.

One of the main reasons to hire freelancers is that they focus on projects that will cause minimal distractions to your existing teams, enhancing your operational capacity to execute more work simultaneously. This makes small, isolated projects and workflows attractive to outsource. However, it also makes sense to hire freelancers on larger projects that demand skills your internal team lacks.

Let’s look at three types of projects that require different skills:

  1. Simple project: A single-skill project one freelancer can fulfill. For example: Create blog posts – completed by a content writer with experience in the appropriate area of expertise.
  2. Complex project: A multi-skill project one freelancer can fulfill. For example: Website copywriting – completed by a copywriter who has creative direction, conversion copywriting, search optimization, and technical writing skills.
  3. Cross-functional project: A multi-skill project that requires one or more types of freelancers. For example: Website design and development can either be delivered by a single freelancer who has writing, design, front-end, back-end dev, and IT skills (also called a unicorn), OR hiring multiple freelancers or an agency are also popular options.

For your more complex projects, you should increase either the number of freelancers working on the project, or hire someone more experienced. Both situations come at a greater cost. 

Pro Tip: 

Don’t fall into the trap of selecting a single freelancer without ensuring their portfolio includes examples of work that demonstrates the necessary experience to deliver on more complex projects.

Pro-Tip: 

If you don’t understand the skills needed to deliver a project, you may struggle to scope and budget freelance projects. The drawback is hiring the wrong freelancer and not getting the desired work outcomes. Consider a time and skill-based approach to working with freelancers. 
Communo can provide assistance. Email [email protected] for help.

How to define the project scope

Defining your project scope and setting an accurate budget will contribute to overall success.

A scope of work is essentially a plan to outline the necessary steps/requirements to create the finished product and accomplish specific goals. It includes: objectives, priorities, schedule/milestones and deliverables, phases, revisions, etc.

To make sure you’re setting your project up for success, chart the deliverables/milestones and align on the allocation of resources. If you’re confident enough to develop these components, complete an inventory to see the total scope that can be budgeted against.

The components of a scope of work explained:

After you identify the different types of activities and deliverables of the project, you will inventory the quantity and revisions. The table below is an example of an inventory scope for a website homepage redesign project.

Table 1: Inventory Scope for Homepage Redesign

Pro Tip: Spending more time up-front scoping project milestones reduces the risk of surprises later when executing the project. When discussing the scope with freelancers, adjust the inventory as needed during a collaborative scoping process.

How to set the right budget for your project

The relationship between time and money required to complete a deliverable is directly proportional to the experience of the freelancer(s) you hire. 

After you define the scope of work, you need to start thinking about time allocations and talent rates to estimate project budget. Time allocations should be bracketed to provide some flexibility in your budgeting and avoid over or under budgeting. 

If you’re new to hiring a freelancer, estimating the hourly rate of a job requires a learning curve. Spend some time thinking about all of the variables, then suggest a reasonable amount per hour.

Budgeting for time

How much time will the hired talent need to complete the work? Table 2 below examines the same scope inventory chart and illustrates what’s changed (the columns “Low” and “High” represent an estimate of the minimum and maximum number of hours it will take the freelancer to complete the work).

Table 2: Revised Inventory Scope for Homepage Redesign

Budgeting for experience

Calculating a rate for a role and understanding how much to pay for freelance work is a complex task. It depends on the type of role, supply and demand of talent, the labour market, and level of experience. These are all important factors to consider when estimating the budget.

Not sure what to pay freelancers based on their experience? Check out our article on how to assess the level of seniority your project requires. Table 3 provides an example of the typical rates for various experience levels:

Table 3: Typical Rates for Experience Levels

How to ensure you’re not over or underpaying

What’s the most important thing right now in your business? Is it lower costs or faster delivery? When you interview freelancers and discuss the scope of work, relevant experience and market rates, think about the benefits of:

Whatever you decide, make the choice that best accommodates the needs of your business. 


Pro-Tip: The amount of time a freelancer takes to complete a deliverable will often be adjusted based on their level of experience. While more inexperienced freelancers will often have lower rates, remember they will take more time to get work done.

Creating options for modern marketers

We get it, you have a limited budget, an aggressive timeline, and an expansive scope.

In the world of modern marketing, we are all trying to do more with less. Many employers don’t feel like they have options to create value for their business. Others understand the importance of innovating the way they hire and are embracing open talent.

Toptal suggests one of the main reasons to hire freelancers is that they focus on projects that will cause minimal distractions to your existing teams, enhancing your operational capacity to execute more work simultaneously. This makes small, isolated projects and workflows attractive to outsource. However, it also makes sense to hire freelancers on larger projects that demand skills your internal team lacks.

Learn how to create options for your business by engaging freelancers so you can do more with less. If you need help, email [email protected] for help.

Topics

4 Freelance projects 7 Freelancers 3 How to budget 2 How to scope

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