re: "Is there anyway to contact a potential freelancer before hiring them? I want to ask a question about a freelancers work"
Yes. Absolutely. There are many ways.
You can post a job posting and let anybody who finds it send you an application (which is also called a "proposal").
When you receive the proposals, you can initiate a conversation with the freelancers. This conversation is called an "inteview." This does not commit you in any way to actually hiring them. It's just an opportunity to talk.
You an also search for freelancers and send them invitations to apply to your job. Once again, this doesn't commit you to hiring anybody. Even if they respond, the two of you are just talking.
You actually have to click on the "Hire" button to actually commit to anything. (And even that doesn't guarantee that you will be hiring somebody, because they still need to accept your offer.)
What happened to the feature to just contact a freelancer, get a response, and have a back and forth conversation comparable to an email correspondence? There now seems to be a lot of overhead to just do what I mentioned above. To be clear, I'm not interested in posting a job in order to open up dialogue. My objective is to find a freelancer and contact them about a job versus having freelancers contact me about a job.
Once you find a freelancer either by searching for one, or from one who submitted a proposal just click on the Invite to Job button that’s on the freelancer’s profile. After that, just fill in the contact about a job form. If the freelancers responds, that opens up communications and then both of you can message back and forth in the message section.