Freelance projects don’t always go to plan, because employers often 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, a lot of business owners self-sabotage their projects with unrealistic expectations, budget frugality or ignorance. They fail to recognize the full scope of work and ultimately, select the wrong partner.

But with Communo’s help, this won’t be you.

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

We will cover how to:

  1. Assess what skills you need to hire for
  2. Set project scope and deliverables
  3. Budget time and experience

Let’s get to it.

How to assess what skills you need to hire

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

One of the main reasons to hire freelancers is that they operate with minimal distractions to your existing team, reducing the operational overhead of executing the work. This makes small, isolated projects and workflows attractive to outsource. But, 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, e.g: “Create blog posts” done by a content writer with technical writing skills.
  2. Complex project: A multi-skill project one freelancer can fulfill, e.g. “Website copywriting” done 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. “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). Better yet, multiple freelancers or an agency are popular options.

For your more complex projects, you should increase either the amount of freelancers who work on it, 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 checking they have the proven experience to deliver on more complex projects.

Concierge Pro-Tip: If you don’t understand the skills needed to deliver a job, you will probably 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.

How to define the project scope

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

A scope of work is essentially a plan that walks you and your team through the necessary steps to create the finished product or accomplish specific goals. It includes a list of activities, milestones and deliverables, as well as revisions.

To make sure you’re setting your project up for success, chart the milestones and measure allocations 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:

  • Activities: A clearly defined series of processes of what needs to be done that can be measured with a report. (e.g. Market Research)
  • Deliverables: A clearly defined list of what needs to be delivered that can be measured as either complete or incomplete. (e.g. Design Concepts)
  • Deliverable revisions: Feedback and edits applied to a creative deliverable to ensure alignment with the project expectations of the final deliverable.

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

TypeDeliverable / Milestone:QuantityRevisions
ActivityCompetitive Assessment1N/A
ActivityExecutive Team Interviews4N/A
DeliverableMood Board Concept13
DeliverableHomepage Concepts35
ActivityExecutive Team Presentation1N/A
DeliverableFinal Homepage Mock-up32
Pro Tip: Spending more up-front time 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 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 the hired talent will need to complete the work? Let’s look at the same scope inventory chart and see what’s changed:

ActivityCompetitive Assessment1N/A612
ActivityExecutive Team Interviews4N/A68
DeliverableMood Board Concept13812
DeliverableHomepage Concepts351418
ActivityExecutive Team Presentation1N/A23
DeliverableFinal Homepage Mock-up32812
42 hrs65 hrs
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.

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. Here’s a quick example:

Atlanta$15 – $20$20 – $30$30 – $50$50 – $100$100 – $150
New York$20 – $30$25 – $50$40 – $75$75 – $125$125 – $200

How to ensure you’re not over or under paying

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: 

  • Lower cost but a longer milestone or,
  • higher cost but faster delivery. 

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 limited budgets, an aggressive timeline and an expansive scope.

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

Learn how to create options for your business by engaging freelancers, so you can do more with less too.


  • APOLLO Business Spotlight

    Read post
  • Communo Business Spotlight

    Read post
  • Why references improve your chances of landing your next job—and how to get yours

    Read post