Has this ever happened to you? You wait all week for the content you ordered from a freelance writer, watching your Inbox and ready to post the fresh content to your site or blog. Finally, the material arrives. You open it and…
• “What is this – it has nothing to do with what I asked for!”
• “This is awful, incomprehensible writing, my third grader could do better”
• “OMG, this totally failed Copyscape, it’s a direct copy from Wikipedia!”
Sadly, the above scenarios can and do happen every day I get asked all the time — how do you hire an excellent freelance writer? A lousy freelancer can cost you big in terms of both cash and wasted time, so choosing right at the start is essential. Here are some signs of a weak freelance writer — spot these red flags and you’ll avoid wasting time and money on your next project:
5 Warning Signs of a Bad Freelancer
1. They offer unbelievable (and unrealistic) rates: Sure, you love a bargain—who doesn’t? But before you hire the “Wal-Mart” of the freelance world, take a minute and think about why their rates are so low – and what those low rates say about their commitment and professionalism.
Consider this scenario:
Writer #1 charges regular industry rates. She’ll take the time to research your piece, write it out, edit it and make sure it is perfect before she sends it to you. Why? Because her time is valuable and she’s charging a rate that allows her to dedicate enough time to craft you something special.
Writer #2 offers an unbelievable bargain – much less than writer #1 – and lower than anyone else you’ve seen. To earn money, Writer #2 needs to work as quickly as possible, churning out content, getting paid and then moving on to the next piece. She doesn’t have time for much research, hopes the content will be “good enough” and may even need to take some shortcuts to get the job done quickly.
Which writer do you want to represent your name, product and service online?
2. You don’t like his samples: Writers usually submit the best clips they have for review. Don’t just skim these pieces, read them out loud. Don’t like what you hear or they totally miss the mark? Hire someone else!
3. She is an article farmer: Article farming is one of the dirty little secrets of content writing – sweatshops made up of struggling, desperate beginners and writers from developing nations.
Here’s how it works: A farmer will approach a client with a well-crafted proposal and secure the job, usually at slightly lower than industry rates. The farmer will then turn around and outsource the work to writers they pay very low rates to –.50 to $1.00 per 500 word page is typical.
The farmer edits the work a bit and then passes it off as his own, pocketing the difference in pay. Some of the biggest providers on huge freelance sites like Upwork are farmers, and sweatshop ethics aside, you will be better off paying for quality writing from an individual that you can actually build a relationship with.
Over time, a writer will learn your preferences, gain in-depth knowledge about your brand and even help you craft a compelling strategy your prospects won’t be able to resist. If you are looking for quality content that performs for your brand, expect to pay at least $150 for that 500 word piece.
4. He’s an expert — on everything: Writers can be skilled in many different areas; most freelancers can write about a variety of topics and provide different types of work. The red flag to watch out for is the writer who is an expert in every topic you suggest. Not sure if you’re talking to a pro? Ask a few more questions or request previously published samples in your niche area to be sure the claims are not exaggerated.
5. She asks no questions: You may be one of the few clients that provides freelancers with every bit of information about a particular piece – if you are, Bravo (or Brava!) to you, you’re awesome! If you’re like the rest of us, though expect a good freelancer to ask you some questions. He’ll need to know the main goal of the piece, who the target reader or prospect is, what keywords should be incorporated, the ideal length, and more.
No questions? Either your potential freelancer is a mind reader or she’s not really doing her homework.
Look for these red flags and you’ll spend less time wading through applications and portfolios and more time actually working on your business. Want to streamline the process? Start with someone with experience, schedule a discovery call to be sure you’re on the same page and ask for clips and references.