Once authors understand what should be outsourced and what shouldn’t (see our previous blog post – How the 3 List System Can Boost Author Productivity), they should learn HOW to outsource it in order to get the best value for the money they’ve invested. In our profession, we see a lot of our clients try to outsource components of their self-publishing process and – to be perfectly honest – fail miserably.

It doesn’t matter how big their budget is, a $5 cover sourced on Fiverr can be executed just as poorly as a $500 cover from 99designs if the author doesn’t know how to effectively convey what they’re looking for. More often than not, when clients are dissatisfied with a freelancer, the problem isn’t with the freelancer themselves – it’s about a lack of communication!

Our team members at Happy Self Publishing work remotely, and I hired each and every one of them as a freelancer initially. In my eyes, they’re all star players – but I began to notice a trend as our business grew and we worked with an increasing number of clients. The majority of our customers were happy with what we delivered, but some were occasionally not. For instance, ten clients in a row would rave about how brilliant our editor was, while a week later we would receive feedback that another was unhappy with the final product.

It got me thinking – how is it that the same freelancer can perform so drastically differently in the eyes of various individuals? What is differentiating a good job from a bad one?

Once again: communication.

Through trial and error, our team learned that in order to satisfy our clients and deliver projects that they were repeatedly happy with, we had to develop a pattern of working that got to the very bottom of just exactly what our clients wanted. In other words, we had to extract as much information from them as possible.

As an author looking to hire freelancers to help yourself out in the self publishing process – you too can do the same! Now that you’ve learned about what you must outsource, what you can outsource and what you absolutely cannot outsource in our blog post last week – it’s time to actually get around to doing so.

Having hired our fair share of freelancers before building an entirely remote permanent team, here’s our five point check-list for outsourcing anything like a pro.


1. Gain total clarity on exactly what you want

As an author, you need to know what exactly it is that you’re looking to get out of a particular job. What are you expecting the final product to look like? If it’s a cover design, you can’t just provide a freelancer with a description of your book and ask them to do something with it blindly. You’ll be setting yourself (and your freelancer) up for failure. Try to foresee the cover clearly in your mind – who is your reader? How should the reader perceive the book if they’re only able to look at its cover?

Drill down deep and understand what you’d like your cover to look like so that you can convey your vision to the freelancer. Consider conducting a brainstorm session in order to come up with an action plan, vision board or even just bullet points to share with them. Keep in mind that a third party has no clue about what your book is all about – they haven’t read it and don’t know much about you besides what you’ve told them. Give freelancers as much information or insight as possible for them to be able to execute your project properly!

2. Provide references and samples

There is no better way to help a freelancer understand exactly what you want than by providing them with references to explain your vision. For example, if you read a bestselling book and really enjoyed its formatting, take photos of it and send them to your freelancer to give them an idea of your preferred style. Sharing links to other sites will give your web designer a clear vision for the site he or she is building for your personal brand, and so on.

We’re not suggesting that you copy somebody else’s work by any stretch – rather, you’re providing concrete examples of what you like so that your freelancer can gain an exact idea of what you’re going for. Referencing other work is the best way to describe what you like if you’re unable to find the words to do so.

3. Check quality of work 

So your freelancer says that they’re up to performing the task – but how can you be sure? Much like how many employers check references, you’ll need to verify the quality of work your potential new hire can produce. Many people are often in a hurry to hire and do so quickly without conducting the proper legwork. If you’re hiring from a freelancing platform such as Upwork, make sure to check the freelancer’s past reviews from previous clients! This is where you’ll really be given a true indication of the quality of their work. If you’re hiring off of those platforms (and even if you aren’t) – ask for work samples.  It’s important to see what they can produce before agreeing to hire them.

The method that I’ve found most effective is to offer potential new hires a paid trial project. If you’re searching for a freelance editor, ask them to edit a sample of 1000 words from your upcoming book before awarding them the full novel. Paid trial projects are one of the easiest way to see if you and a freelancer are compatible – and quickly. You’ll also be able to gain a deeper understanding of their style and how they work.

4. Test communication skills

Communication is key when it comes to outsourcing! We’re not referring to a freelancer’s understanding of the English language –  we’re talking about whether the freelancer will understand what you’re trying to say. Given that you won’t be working together in an office, they’ll need to be able to decipher every detail of your project in order for it to be completed successfully. Write an e-mail to them and see how they respond. If they’re quick and are able to convey that they’ve understood your book project – it will ultimately show how they handle timelines and what their working attitude is like. Better yet, you can Invite them to a Skype call to have a quick chat and see if you like their vibe.

Communication plays an enormous role in the freelancer/client relationship. The quality of their work might be great, but if the communication between the two of you sucks – what’s the point?

5. Discuss timeline & payment terms

Discuss your project’s timeline and payment terms in advance so that there’s no ambiguity later on in the process. If you’d like a project to be done within one week but the freelancer is accustomed to delivering work in ten days, you’re going to run into some issues. Put payment and deadline details down onto paper (contract, e-mail, etc)  so that both parties can refer back to it at a later date in the event of miscommunication or misunderstandings. Solidify payment terms from the get-go to make sure you’re both in accordance. Will you be willing to pay in parts or do you feel more comfortable issuing payment at the end of a project? How much will the freelancer charge for an extra round of editing? And so on.

Hiring a freelancer certainly isn’t an easy process – let alone hiring an entire team of them to help you publish your book. By following the five step checklist we’ve outlined above, you’ll lower the risk of hiring the wrong talent and increase your chances of working with contractors who are bound to get the job done, and get it done well. Clients who perfect the art of communicating their needs clearly have better working relationships with their freelancers and higher success rates when it comes to completed projects.

Interested in working with us on your next book? We at Happy Self Publishing have adopted clear processes and forms for our clients to fill out to gain complete clarity before starting a project. We constantly work towards improving our systems so that we establish clear communication with clients and can deliver results they’re happy with. Check out our list of services here

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