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How to evaluate a freelance job offer.


How to evaluate a freelance job offer. How to evaluate a freelance job offer.

Key Takeaways

  • A freelance job offer involves much more than just evaluating the pay rate.
  • Clarify whether you will be classified as an independent contractor (1099) or a temporary employee (W-2), as this will impact your relationship with the company and your eligibility for benefits and protections.
  • When looking at benefits packages, review eligibility, coverage, and costs for health insurance, retirement plans, and other benefits like flexible spending accounts (FSAs), dental insurance, supplemental insurance plans, and employee discounts.
  • Examine policies related to time off from work for holidays, vacation days, or sick leave.
  • Consider the value of the role—will it help build skills or potentially lead to a full-time job offer?

Listen: How to evaluate a freelance job offer.

In the world of freelancing, getting job offers can be a mixed bag of excitement and uncertainty. You've probably done your research and thought quite a lot about your pay rate. But what about all the other aspects of a freelance job opportunity? 

Your potential new role is about more than just the work you will be doing or the pay you will be receiving in return—it's also about the terms of the engagement, the employee benefits (or lack of benefits) available to you, and how the role will contribute to your overall career. 

Every year, we help thousands of freelance talent evaluate offers and find jobs they love. In this blog post, we break down the things you should consider and the questions you can ask to determine if an opportunity will meet your needs.

What is the work arrangement?

Understanding the work arrangement is a crucial step when considering any freelance opportunity. The term “freelance” can refer to a variety of non-permanent work situations, which is why it's vital to get clarity on the specifics of the role. A key question is whether you'll be classified as a temporary employee (W-2) or an independent contractor (1099).

As an independent contractor, you'll maintain greater control over your schedule and work methods. But you won't be eligible for employee benefits or protections. In addition, you'll need to manage invoicing your client, potentially facing delayed payments, and will also need to independently handle your taxes and invest for retirement.

On the other hand, if you're classified as a temporary employee, you'll qualify for employee protections and benefits offered to temporary talent. You'll also receive a regular paycheck with taxes already withheld. As a potential employee, it's important to inquire about the degree of flexibility in the workplace, especially regarding the company's stance on remote work. To prevent long-term disappointment, be sure that the company and your future manager respect what you want with your work schedule and location.

What benefits are available to W-2 temporary employees?

Navigating the labyrinth of employee benefits can be daunting. The benefits offered to talent working through staffing companies can vary significantly in terms of coverage, quality, and cost. To thoroughly evaluate a job offer, you need to delve deeper, scrutinize the specifics, and ask pertinent questions. You can accomplish this by requesting documents like the temporary employee benefits booklet, summary plan documents (SPDs) for health insurance plans, 401(k) plan documentation, and by consulting with your staffing company recruiter or someone in their benefits department.

When examining your potential benefits package, focus on these key areas:

Health insurance: Does the company offer major medical insurance that covers things like ER visits, specialist consultations, or diagnostic tests to temporary employees? Find out when you would be eligible for major medical insurance and what types of care are covered. Consider the costs associated with accessing care, prescription coverage, and vision coverage. If there are multiple plans, weigh the differences in premiums, cost of care, and provider choice / networks. Also, check if your preferred providers are included in the network and if there's an employer subsidy towards premiums.

Retirement plans: Does the company offer a retirement plan, and when would you be eligible to contribute? Check if there's an employer match, whether you'd be eligible for matching, and what the vesting period is (you might not be 100% vested in the employer match when your assignment ends).

Other benefits: Ask about other benefits like flexible spending accounts, dental insurance, supplemental insurance plans, and employee discounts. Make sure you understand the eligibility requirements, coverage, and costs.

Remember, not all benefits are created equal, so you need to evaluate them carefully when considering a freelance job offer.

Are freelancers eligible for paid sick leave, holidays, or vacation?

Understanding the policies surrounding time off is also important when evaluating a freelance job offer, especially for full-time, long-term, temporary engagements. Knowing these policies beforehand can help you determine your pay rate needs to account for any unpaid time off and plan your finances accordingly.

Consider sick leave, for instance. Will you be eligible for paid sick leave if you're going to be working in a state or municipality where it isn't required by law? At Aquent Talent, we provide paid sick leave to all hourly talent in the U.S. and Canada, but this isn't common in the staffing industry, so it's an important question to ask.

Similarly, for holidays and vacation time, you need to understand if you'll be eligible for paid holidays or Paid Time Off (PTO) in long-term engagements. Are there specific eligibility requirements or accrual rules?

Even if you need to take some unpaid days off, you can make it work with careful planning. Say you're considering a 12-month engagement at a pay rate of $50 per hour, and you're eligible for paid sick leave and holidays but not vacation pay. If you want to take three weeks of vacation during the year, you can break down those three weeks into a per paycheck amount and set that aside each pay period, thus ensuring you have funds during your time off. Alternatively, you could factor these three weeks into your pay rate negotiation upfront. Planning strategically to take time away from work can significantly contribute to a positive freelancing experience.

What is the value of the role to your career progression?

When evaluating a freelance job offer, understanding what truly piques your interest about the opportunity is paramount. If your motivation lies in performing specific types of work or enhancing your skillset, will the role offer you the space to achieve these? Probe into these aspects during interviews with the hiring manager.

Another critical factor to consider is whether you're aiming to add a prestigious brand name to your resume or if you're exploring the company for a potential long-term fit. If your goal is to secure a permanent position within the organization, ascertain whether the freelance job could serve as a stepping stone toward that objective.

Inquire about the likelihood of the role converting to full-time permanent employment and if there have been instances of other freelancers transitioning from temporary to permanent positions. While nothing is guaranteed, having this information upfront can avoid feelings of being misled or strung along later. If the role is intended to convert to a permanent position in the future, consider asking about a formalized ‘temp-to-perm' status rather than a more flexible agreement. Your clarity on these factors can significantly impact your decision-making process when assessing a freelance job offer.

Don't hesitate to ask questions to make the right decision about an offer

It's important to keep in mind that the hiring process is a two-way street. As a candidate, you should feel empowered to ask questions and seek information that helps you decide whether the opportunity is right for you just as much as the recruiter and hiring manager are deciding whether you are right for the job. 

The goal is not just to land a job, but to find a work arrangement that meets your needs, provides fair compensation and benefits, contributes to your professional goals, and provides a fulfilling freelancing experience. Keep these factors in mind when assessing your next freelance job offer, and you'll be well-equipped to make an informed decision.