I’m writing this article as a result of a huge amount of my time being wasted.

You might likely be familiar with the scenario – you need some online support (design, web development, etc) so you create an account with Freelancer, or Upwork or Air Tasker, in the hope you can find someone, possibly overseas, who can support you with your work…and if they are good, the relationship could be ongoing.

…but what you get is cheap solution, the person has lied through their teeth about their capabilities and experience and you are left with having wasted hours of time and are no closer to getting the job done.

Read this article before you go in search of support online…I promise it will save you hours of your time and money.

So, step one – what websites do you use to find ‘talent’?

Well, there are a few key players, with the most famous/prominent being www.freelancer.com, www.upwork.com, www.fiver.com and www.airtasker.com

As I write this article, in late 2022, over the past month I have created new accounts on each of these platforms and have personal views as to which are better, although all of them suffer from the same ‘false overcrowding’.

What I mean here, is that when you post your job on one of these platforms, you are immediately responded to, within seconds usually, of a dozen or more profiles which seem to fit the bill.

‘Hello Mr Andrew, I have read your brief and we are ready to start work right away…’ etc.


Be very careful before engaging with any of these people – I my experience, the vast majority of immediate respondents are utterly useless.

They make their money by precisely this approach – getting their foot in the door first.

Of course there are exceptions, but the following steps will help you.

Firstly, wait a couple of hours. This will give you a better spread of applicants. Ideally I would suggest waiting 24 hours – simply post your task then log back in the next day.

Filter. Again…filter. Use. The. Filter. Function. This action alone is what has saved me hours – all of the platforms I’ve mentioned about have this filter function

When you select filters you are presented with the below screen – I won’t bother going through each filter setting as you can work this out, but this is where you fine tune your applicants and it is invaluable.

I remove any applicants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh.

I have plenty of very good friends from these countries, but I have found over the years (and over many, many job postings) that these countries represent a significant number of scammers…that is to say, profiles originating from the above countries more often than not are unable to fulfil the brief and my time ends up getting wasted. As well as my money.

Now read the reviews. Read them and note the % score of the profile AND also the number of jobs.

Its important you do both here – a profile with a score of 100% job completion sounds great…but if they have only completed 3 jobs (for their close friends).

I ended up finding this guy below on Freelancer, who looks good – a large number of reviews (which I checked) and 5 stars, plus some other good stats.

Now you should be almost ready to assign the task.

In Freelancer, once you have made the ‘award’ you will be taken to a screen to create a milestone payment – here is where I create a test.

Now, this test has nothing to do with the original posting – I’m actually going through the website now whilst I write this and my original advert was for ‘Junior Designer Wanted’…but the first milestone payment I have created is for a ‘Design Test’.

This is exactly what it sounds like – a small test of some basic design elements (or other, depending on what your post is) to determine IF the candidate is going to be able to do what you want.

The other benefit here of course, is that you get to understand the freelancer, see how good their English actually is, see how timely their responses are, if they deliver when they say they’re going to, etc.

Of course, you have set a small fee for this task, so I suggest you size the job at 1 to 2 hours – understand that this might be money that you completely waste, but in the grand scheme of things it is a saving – you will get to see how effective the resource is and if they can deliver to the standard you expect…and the standard they claimed.

So lets have some fun. Right now I’m about to brief in this Design Test to a freelancer who looks pretty decent. I’ve run a filter and his stats and profile look good:

The design test that I’m going to assign him is simple – its recreating a very basic social media post/advert but with a new image and colour scheme. In fact, I’m going to add this image below so you can see what he has to copy. Please note, that I have simply taken the below as a screenshot off an Instagram page that just came up on my feed.

Now, try and set a test that does make the freelancer work, even for his $50.

For example, in this design test, based on the above concept, I’m going to ask the guy to do the following:

  • Use a different background image, replacing the women with another image that I’ll provide
  • I’ll request a different colour scheme too, greens to replace the blues
  • And finally, I’ll provide him some new text which I’d like instead of the existing text, but using a similar font please.
  • And I asked for the image to be no larger than 150kb

Basic design work…lets see how he goes.

Now, as a very loose comparison between websites, I’m also going to send this to a 2nd designer, but from Upwork – this guys profile looks very similar in skills and expertise, here he is:

I’ll continue to write this article tomorrow, hopefully with the results…

Ok, so here we are, actually 3 days later and we have just the one reply.

The Freelancer guy didn’t respond, but the Upwork designer did, and here is his response to the design test:

Competent. You’re hired.

In summary, the above process isn’t flawless, but it sure has hell has saved me a lot of time.

Hope you find it helpful.

And if do, feel free to use the exact same design test I did – the brief and images can be downloaded here in a zipped file.