I hire freelance musicians all the time to produce music for my clients. I’m ok at orchestration, but I’m not good at other skills, like mixing and mastering, or arranging in a certain genre of music. Sometimes it’s faster to get other musicians and engineers onboard to create the music that delights the client. This is what I keep in mind when hiring a musician on a site like Upwork.com.
Be very specific and describe everything you can think of about the job in your job post.
Give an instruction in the job post. Ask them to describe their process in writing. Or ask them to send you their sample. Anyone who does not follow your instruction exactly will be eliminated from the job candidacy.
Ask about the freelancer’s thoughts and music-making process pertaining to the project you are about to embark upon. This might be just me, but I prefer working with composers, arrangers and engineers who can articulate what they are doing.
Ask the freelancer to create a demo of a short segment from the music of your project. Specify the segment that’s most important in the music. If you only ask for the “sample,” they will create the first 5 seconds of the intro to the music. This sample won’t be helpful. Judge based on the quality of the demo. If it’s subpar, eliminate the job candidate. The sound quality you get the first time is the sound quality you’ll get the last time. In my experience, sound quality does not improve after revisions. If you are hiring someone to do the mixing and/or mastering, whatever you get the first time is the extent of their mixing/mastering ability.
Take as much time necessary to hire someone who is the best, and pay him well and get the job done right the first time. Hiring someone too quickly or too cheap will result in multiple revisions which frustrates both the client and the freelancer.
If someone answers your question with just “Yes,” do not hire that person. A good freelancer will tell you what he thinks and how he does what he does.
If you’re having a hard time figuring out what the client wants, do not consult the freelancer immediately for help, unless the freelancer deeply understands the client’s space. It’s your job to interpret and find out what the client wants. The freelancer should focus on doing his part of the job.
If you are stuck on a musical idea or interpreting the client demand, consult the freelancer as an idea or suggestion, not an instruction. Make that clear.
Complement the freelancer on his strength, so that he will do more of it.
Be brutally honest with what you don’t like. They’ll appreciate your honesty. If stuck, suggest coming up with multiple options or versions, and encourage them to come up with their own solution. Say something like, “For these measures, I thought about having X or Y, what do you think? If you have other ideas, let me know.”
I made terrible hires in the past which resulted in creating inferior music, frustrated clients and freelancers, wasted time and money. Make sure you don’t hire the wrong person.