Looking to hire good freelancers - looking for original ways for paying them?


I am building a small startup.
We haven't raised any money yet, and we're in the stage where we need the help of some very talented free lancers (mostly graphic designers).

The prices they are asking for are high (for us at least, 40 $ /h).
Apart of giving them percentages in the startup, or truly paying this sum per hour, do you have any original idea of how to get this work done?

In short I am looking for an original way to pay less, yet interest the free lancers to do the job.

If you have any idea, I'd be happy to hear.
Thank you

Payments Vesting

asked Aug 23 '11 at 14:46
584 points
  • So, you basically are asking "how to get job done without money"? – Ross 12 years ago
  • And as a side note $40/hr is cheap! – Ryan Doherty 12 years ago
  • Become their butler/maid/cook/nanny/chauffeur/mechanic/accountant. – Thedaian 12 years ago
  • 40$/hr is indeed cheap for a good graphic designer. – Walter Heck 12 years ago

7 Answers


As a freelancer, here are some solutions I've had entrepreneurs offer me.

  • Promise lots of money to the freelancers, but don't pay. (Drawback: this is illegal.)
  • Offer a big reward "when the project goes big". This is like offering a share in the company, but you don't have to set a value on the project. Only gullible freelancers fall for this.
  • Ask for this one to be done for free, in exchange for the promise of future paid work later. You don't actually have to follow through on this future paid work.
  • Convince the freelancer that if he does this for free, it'll be "good exposure" and they can use the resulting work in their portfolio.
  • Offer to pay less than half what the freelancer normally charges.
  • Pay a less talented freelancer less money to do the work. Return to the original freelancer you wanted, and ask him if he'll fix the bugs for free.
answered Aug 23 '11 at 15:34
Jonathan Drain
431 points
  • Wait, really? This was chosen as the correct answer even though it was dripping in sarcasm? Yikes, I really hope vondip doesn't use these 'solutions'! :) – Ryan Doherty 12 years ago
  • While these are all tactics used to get someone to work for free, the really talented people won't go for them, and will instead find a job that will pay money. You'll be left with college students who are just trying to find anything (and the really good ones will eventually find something and walk away) – Thedaian 12 years ago
  • +1 for a great read, even though the answer was missing the tag. – Mike 12 years ago
  • Definitely the asnwer. Basically the OP looks for a stupid smart person. – Net Tecture 12 years ago
  • While this drips with sarcasm indeed, it does list pitfalls that you have to be aware of. If you offer these things you'll get very little response. Don't forget that for techies (like yours truely) money isn't everything. We do things because they are using cool technology, or because we get freedom to choose to do things in a specific way where in a dayjob we can't get it through our 75 layers of incompetent managers. – Walter Heck 12 years ago


In short: don't. If you can't afford $40/hr, just buy some pre-made templates for $20-40/theme. Places like ThemeForest can get you website designs, I'm sure there are options for logos (LogoDesignWorks )

answered Aug 23 '11 at 15:31
Ryan Doherty
598 points


If you believe in your startup you'll find a way to fund it, even if it means working two jobs for a few months.

Of course, the fact that you want to do it on the cheap, or even for free, suggests strongly that you don't have faith in it. If that is the case, you should stop now.

Of course, IMHO, YMMV, etc.

answered Aug 24 '11 at 02:35
Steve Jones
206 points
  • IMHO it doesn't suggest that at all. Sometimes you just need to get the basics goign without too much investment so that it doesn't hurt too much if it doesn't work.. – Walter Heck 12 years ago


While it is nice to see that the overwhelming feeling here is that you need to go for funding and you need to pay relatively high prices, the reality of the situation is that wecan't all get funding, or just dont have the option to invest a lot of money. It's called bootstrapping for a reason, you get inventive.

I choose to do the same: i don't want any external funding for my project (http://tribily.com) because I 'want to be the boss'. That means I'll have to 'suffer' the consequences of that: not being able to pay top dollar, not growing super fast. But that's okay. It's been a year now and we're break even, which I'm proud of but it is only possible because we did everything on a budget.

I found a great sysadmin in India who does very good work for me for relatively low prices. Why? Because I also give him consulting gigs through my other project which bring in more then enough money and he's thankful for working with me on my project.

I found a friend/ex-coworker of mine based in Holland willing to do graphic design/front end dev for 20EU/hr next to his day job. Why? Because he gets freedom to do what he wants that he doesn't get in his dayjob. I tell him I need a new frontpage, he'll go and figure it out. That allows him to play with graphic design and to do html5 and al kinds of cool things, while still seeing teh fruits of his labor in production.

I found another friend who studied communication but couldn't find a job who's doing stuff for me for free. Why? Because I told her she can put it on her resume and she gets real-world experience, which improves her chances for a job n this shitty economy. She just found a job for 32 hours with a good company, but she still wants to keep doing stuff for me as well

I found a C-developer in Malaysia, where I lived for 7 months last year (Kuala Lumpur IS the new Silicon Valley ;) ). Same story: low cost next to his dayjob, excellent quality. Why? Motivated by the technology and the fact that all our stuff is open sourced (http://github.com/tribily)

In short, giving good people in your personal network the freedom to do what they want (use google's 20% rule if you want) works well. It's not all roses though, I went through quite a few people to find this great team. It also doesn't move very fast, but that's okay with me. It allows me to keep building on a project I believe in, while doing something I love. And that's all that counts to me :)

Hope this helps :)

answered Aug 27 '11 at 17:15
Walter Heck
131 points


  • Write a terrific business plan
  • Pitch to angels
  • Get seed funding
  • Hire good freelancers - the cheap ones are either very naive or not very good.
  • ... continue as originally planned.
answered Aug 25 '11 at 18:35
Cyber Fonic
121 points
  • Funding is only given to very few startups, besides not all of us are looking for cash this way.. – Walter Heck 12 years ago


Startups are powered by sweat equity-- working for free as a form of investment, which, in theory, pays off later through stocks and other forms of payment throughout successful funding rounds.

NEVER offer this to freelancers; they aren't part of your quasi-company. That's like offering to take care of a stranger's child. Freelancers don't care about your product, and it's not because they're heartless bastards. They just aren't drinking your startup's kool-aid.

If you don't have the money to pay freelancers, then you need to attract more poison drinkers willing and able to be paid in sweat equity. Go to more startup-oriented mixers and find people interested in both networking and helping each other. That's why those drinking-parties-by-another-name exist. Mingle with the crowd and be on the lookout for interested developers. Give them the 10-cent pitch and go from there.

If you can't attract people to your startup by way of enthusiasm or outright brilliance, then it doesn't matter if you do have the money to pay employees or freelancers, you're doomed from the start.

answered Aug 30 '11 at 21:09
Sold Out Activist
414 points


I came across a wonderful website that offers talents from all around the world. You will be amazed what you can find there. Try to find what you are looking for on odesk.com. Some people will perhaps disagree on jobs being sucked up by cheaper labour but I believe cheap for us is a good living for a freelancers around the world.

I would personally prefer to go local to generate local jobs as much as possible but I am in a start up and I am suffering the same. ( i have a slightly different question to ask as well)

answered Aug 26 '11 at 11:11
21 points

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Payments Vesting