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Learn to Recognize These 7 Major Red Flags In Freelancers Before Hiring

red flag
Photo by Ravi Kant from Pexels

You found a freelancer to work with. They seem to know what they're talking about, and they have one or two tricks up their sleeve to charm you. But the moment you start working together, like a bouquet of roses, red flags start lighting up.

After days (if you're lucky) of wasting your time, the freelancer in question delivers very little or nothing. And now you need to start all over again. But maybe this time, you won't hire a freelancer, but instead, look for someone you can always check on in the office.

That's one of the ways great opportunities are missed. Many companies that once hired a lousy freelancer and got burned never look back at hiring freelancers again. That takes away work from freelancers and stops you from finding reliable and efficient help.

Yes, I am a freelancer myself, but I've heard many horror stories after talking with my clients and friends who hire freelancers.

'One day, he just stopped replying and took the advance money.' 'She wrote one unreadable article and didn't even try to fix it before rudely quitting.'

It can be frustrating to work with someone you have never seen before. And it's very easy never to try to find the right fit again after having a bad experience with a freelancer.

That's why I decided to make a list of the most common freelancer red flags to look out for when hiring. In the end, I put a bonus tip on how to find a reliable freelancer.

Of course, you might think, 'Why are you writing this when you're a freelancer.'

I think freelancers often get a bad rap just because of a few bad apples. That limits the opportunities for those who are willing to put in the work and make your business shine.

What is a freelancer?

Before we go any further, let's define who a freelancer is. If you have never worked with a freelancer before, it's a professional (content writer, web developer, tailor, designer, etc.) who works on their own. In other words, anyone can be a freelancer when they work independently and not for one employer.

Why should you hire a freelancer?

Hiring a freelancer can be an excellent way to save money while getting top-notch work, save up on hiring in-house staff, get the job done faster, and get insights from an outsider.

So, by being discouraged from hiring freelancers, you might lose many great opportunities to advance your business.

7 Red flags in freelancers that you should pay attention to

1. The way they approach you and communicate

You decided to hire a freelancer, and now you have to find one. There are a million places online to find freelance professionals. But that also means a million unqualified workers, scammers, poor communicators, etc.

The first impression matters a lot. Regardless of where you find each other, pay attention to how they approach you. I follow some freelancer groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, and what I often see are terrible responses to someone asking for help with work.

A potential client writes that they are looking for someone to do, for example, a design work. And there are many replies like 'I can do it,' 'DM me,' or just 'DM.' Or they drop you a message saying 'I can do it.' If they write like that, probably, they can't do sh*t.

A freelancer should respectfully contact you, introducing themselves and their services. Even if you contact them first, their reply should be professional.

What can you do? Ignore the ones who reply with one word or unprofessionally. How they communicate with you can indicate their outlook on work and work ethics.

2. They don't demonstrate previous work or testimonials

A portfolio is crucial for any freelancer. A portfolio is their credentials and the strongest proof that they can deliver the work you expect. Even as a new freelancer, you can build your portfolio by doing unpaid work or just doing it for the sake of the portfolio.

But if your potential freelancer doesn't have anything that shows their name attached to a piece of work, I would avoid them. That shows they have no merit and are too lazy to build even a small portfolio. That says they will be too lazy to meet your demands.

Another thing is testimonials. They aren't always indicators of professionalism because there are many great freelance workers who just are starting their careers. However, it can be a red flag if they've been in the field for years and have no one to recommend them or write a review on freelancing platforms.

However, if you find someone who is eager to work for you and seems trustworthy, you can ask for a test task. Unpaid test tasks should be short and simple and only given if there's no proof of previous work.

3. No social media or a website

In this day and age, it's more than easy to have an online presence. And if a freelancer is looking for clients online and not sending flyers, then they must have some proof of their digital existence.

A simple one-page website, Instagram, or an account on a platform like Medium or Behance is enough to showcase a freelancer's work. If your potential hire has nothing to imprint them in the digital world, I would say it's a no-no.

Scam alert
Photo by Thirdman from Pexels

4. They aren’t asking questions

You managed to avoid these 3 red flags above, and now you found someone who has a portfolio and a showcase of their work. Seems pretty legit? The only way to find out is to give them a task and see how they react.

At first, I also don't ask many questions because I want to get as much information from a client, listen to their needs, and then digest it to formulate appropriate questions that would lead me to better execution of the task. One way or another, a professional freelancer will have some questions.

But if a freelancer you're talking with doesn't ask anything even after starting on the task, they probably have no intention of making it good or even finishing it. Unless they really understand and magically meet every requirement, even the ones you haven't told them, it's almost impossible to deliver quality work without figuring out details along the way.

In the best-case scenario, you might expect several rounds of edits and revisions to develop the final work. But more often than not, such a freelancer just doesn't care to deliver a thing and wants to take the advance money. Which often leads to the following red flag.

5. Freelancer disappears

That's an obvious one. But you can avoid losing your money if you notice the first signs of a disappearing personality. Before setting anything in stone, talk about their experience, ask for their opinion, and whether they have questions. Try to notice if they reply on time and their communication style.

Of course, some scammers are masters of their craft and can pull up a great show just to get away with your money. However, you can notice some cues before they take your money or waste time and disappear.

6. Poor communication

Even though freelancers are professionals who have their own working time and rules, it's good to keep communicating during the project. This advice is handy when you start working with new people. Keeping in touch allows you to understand the freelancer's working process and get the feeling of their communication style.

If they don't reply for a few days and don't respond to your questions or inquiries, that signals unprofessional and unreliable. Even if they eventually deliver work, it might give you peace of mind to work with someone you can count on to reply.

7. They are always pushing your deadlines

It's okay to miss a deadline once or twice. We all are people, and sometimes deadlines just aren't realistic. But if your new contract keeps pushing them all the time and always asking to postpone a deadline, that means they can't plan and prioritize work.

Missed deadlines also harm your business because other people depend on the work to be delivered on time. For example, if you work with a freelance content writer to create your blog posts, a missed deadline can harm your whole content plan.

Pro tip: know the best way to find and hire freelancers

There are many more red flags in freelance workers, but these are the main ones I keep hearing of. You need to be aware of the red flags to protect your business from slackers and scammers. But that doesn't mean you can't find reliable freelancers.

Many great professionals are willing to transform your business for the best if only given a chance. You just need to know where to look for them.

I wrote a more in-depth article about hiring freelancers and communicating with them. But the main takeaway is to know where to look for qualified workers, make sure they have work to prove their credibility, and maybe people who can recommend them. And last but not least – always trust your gut, in my experience, most of the time, your intuition is right.


Being a freelancer can be challenging, especially in the beginning. You need to walk many miles before clients can trust you. It gets even more complicated when the market is flooded with unprofessional workers who give the whole type of employment a lousy reputation.

But if you pay attention to these red flags, you are more likely to separate the wheat from the chaff and find the best freelance fit for your projects. Working with a freelancer can bring great benefits to your business. Learn how to hire a freelancer for your company to start saving money and getting faster results.


Hi, thanks for stopping by!

My name is Egle, I’m a freelance content writer and strategist living in the Canary Islands.  

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