With the growth of the gig economy, freelancing is becoming more common every year. In 2018, a study conducted by Freelancers Union and Upwork indicated that 56.7 million people were working as freelancers in the United States, an increase of 3.7 million from five years earlier.
Modern freelancers can take many forms, from journalists to graphic designers to film production professionals to public relations experts. During the coronavirus pandemic, more education-related professionals have been working in a freelance mode, including tutors and homeschooling teachers. A big question for families that are considering working with these freelancers is how to vet them properly.
The first thing to understand is that there is a difference between hiring a tutor, teacher, academic consultant, college advisor, or other education professional through an agency versus seeking out an independent contractor. An agency may have already conducted background checks on a contractor. When you hire a freelancer, however, you are likely hiring someone who is self-employed, which means that it falls on you to perform any due diligence that you deem necessary.
The second thing to remember is that background checks for freelancers are advisable, no matter who is doing the hiring. A study conducted by HireRight found that 86 percent of employers had made a habit of running background checks on freelancers before hiring them for one-off assignments. This number marked a sea change from 2012 when only 45 percent of companies were conducting background checks on their contractors.
The trend is clear: as freelancing grows, so does the use of freelancer background checks.
As an individual or family hiring a freelancer, you should consider running background checks. Tutor background checks, for instance, can ensure that you are hiring someone you can trust to work closely with your student and whose background makes them qualified to work in an educational capacity, and the same goes for homeschooling background checks. A mix of criminal history searches (preferably those that incorporate sex offender registry checks), verifications of resume details (including work history and education), and reference checks will give you a clearer picture of who the person is and whether they are the right fit for the job.
A key word in that sentence is “job.” While you may be hiring a freelancer or independent contractor and not an employee, the person is still working for you in a formal capacity. As such, you need to approach the screening process formally, which means obtaining written consent to perform a background check. Employers must go through these same steps whenever they vet employees or contractors, and the same rules apply if you are hiring freelancers—such as babysitters—and wish to run background checks on them.