A note from Janice:
I know that not every technology company has the budget to hire a freelance technical copywriter with my depth of subject knowledge, writing skill, and marketing savvy. For these companies, the freelance marketplace sites can be a good way to find writers for less-demanding content projects. But using these sites can be overwhelming and nonproductive if not approached carefully.
In this helpful guest post, marcom manager Christine Farrier offers practical advice on finding the right freelance writer on the marketplace sites. Her tips also apply to finding writers through a LinkedIn or Google search.
Four Tips to Guarantee Freelancer Websites Deliver Great Results
By Christine Farrier
The current stable of freelancing and crowdsourcing sites offer a compelling solution for the staff-poor and most likely budget-poor marketing leaders who are increasingly called on to do more with less, while still attempting to uphold their personal and corporate standards of professionalism and effectiveness. The challenge is to make certain that the job or projects you identify as suitable for virtual outsourcing won’t bounce back to your mile-long checklist as an item you end up doing yourself. That would sort of defeat the point.
In the beginning, there was the creative brief . . .
Just as in the offline world, preparation is key. Taking the necessary time to organize your thoughts and to clearly identify the outcome that you want to achieve will save you hours of frustration—hours that could be better spent on those tasks that truly make the best use of your time and talents. One of my first posts on a freelancing site yielded so many proposals that I yanked the listing in a panic, realizing that I would never be able to weed through the hundreds of vendor responses in the one hour that I had optimistically allotted to the task.
A few posts later, both the websites and I had become a lot smarter. All the established sites (e.g., Elance) now require much more complete project descriptions to make the selection process more efficient for everyone involved. [Editor's note: an experienced, independent freelancer will also ask for complete project information before giving you a cost estimate for accepting the project.] And while the design marketplace 99designs is the only site that actually calls their task description a creative brief, in preparing your project requirements, this is the perfect approach to take. Be ultraclear. Be superspecific. Be ridiculously concise. Pretend you are talking to your 17-year-old nephew, because for coding or SEO jobs, you very well might be.
1. Who are you? This is not the time to cut and paste your three-page mission statement, value proposition, brand DNA, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Think more along the lines of your firm’s elevator pitch or press release boilerplate. If you are masking your company’s identity (no sense in alerting the competition that you lack in-house AdWords expertise), you might mention that you are a company “similar to” the biggest player in your space. The 600-pound gorillas are likely to be more easily recognized to a wider audience of freelancers and provide the appropriate context, tone, and connotation for your project.
2. Who are you looking for? Aim high—it can’t hurt, and it will certainly help. If your ideal provider is a Hedge Fund SME (subject matter expert) and Chicago Manual of Style-freak who dabbles in social media, works in your time zone, and can turn around edits within two hours of receiving your draft comments, say so. Someone (or a team) in Istanbul, Rio de Janiero, or Brooklyn has the skills that you require at the ready.
3. What EXACTLY do you need done? If you don’t know the answer to this question, you aren’t ready to outsource, and you especially aren’t ready to crowdsource. Work through breakfast, lunch, and dinner (again), and do it yourself. You might get a headache, but you will save yourself a migraine. Imagine every question that a clamoring throng of freelancers might ask and answer it in advance.
For example, do you need a thought leadership piece, a case study, or an advertorial? How many words does it need to be? Is it a part of a larger campaign? What goals do you hope the piece will achieve? Where will the document be published? Your website, a trade pub? Who is the target audience? Are complementary components required like a client email announcing the availability of the material or a concurrent social media push? Do you have a sample of something similar that you love? Something you hate? How long will you use it for? How long have projects like this taken in the past? What’s the normal review process? You get the idea. I have found that the clearer your job description, the higher the quality of the response you will receive and typically an end product that is achieved faster and closer (or even better) to what you originally had in mind.
4. Use a trap door to help with vetting. The best freelancers are conscientious and pay attention to the details. It is what truly separates them from the crowd. Plant a booby trap in your task description that will help you quickly identify providers who have actually read the brief that you have put valuable time and effort into versus the trigger fingers who apply for every job that appears in their highlighted category. Mention that you can only consider freelancers who provide a link to their latest project or send you a private message with a knock-knock joke. Not only will this help you select resources that are going to give you exactly what you need, but you also might actually smile during the process.
About the Author: Christine Farrier is a Marketing Communications Manager at a financial services firm that specializes in cloud-based risk and portfolio management solutions for the alternative investment industry. She can be reached though her LinkedIn profile.