Looking for a freelance copywriter? Web designer, illustrator or proofreader? You’re not alone. Elance – one of many freelance exchanges – had over 30,000 jobs posted last month.
Companies both small and gargantuan realise one of the most effective ways to economise is outsourcing. Only a few months ago Sir Philip Green’s review of government spending noted this was a shamefully neglected opportunity, losing millions in savings by doing work in-house that would have been completed more cheaply and effectively by freelance specialists.
So you would be well advised in these cash-strapped times to seek out freelance workers, but where exactly does the search for savings turn into a waste of money?
You Pays Your Money, You Takes Your Choice
You know how it goes. You’ll just have the one biscuit… whi-i-ich was very tasty, thank you. Mmmmm. Perhaps just one more. Crikey. These are good, aren’t they? Chocolate HobNobs! Well, they’re made with oats and that’s good for cholesterol, so one more can’t hurt, can it…?
It’s possible to have too much of a good thing and when it comes to hiring freelances savings are rather like chocolate HobNobs. Take it too far and you’ll regret the dead weight you suddenly find yourself carrying.
The internet is a marvellous thing. It opens out the freelance market like never before. You can submit jobs to various freelance sites and before you know it a pile of bids leaves your inbox bulging. Many of them for far less than you expected.
Mmmmm. These are good, aren’t they?
But wait, before you bite into those sweet, crumbly savings take some time to consider your choice.
The Age-Old Truth You Should Never Forget
You get what you pay for. It’s as true for clothes as it is for freelances. Those jeans for a fiver seem a bargain, but four washes later they’re blotchy, the stitching’s loose and the zip unfastens at particularly unwelcome moments. This is equally true for a freelance copywriter. Effective copy needs to be many things:
- Properly researched and targeted for the intended audience
- Effectively structured and expressed with tried and tested techniques
- Flawlessly written
- Imaginative and engaging
- Built around calls to action, ensuring it generates the desired response
This requires a sophisticated set of skills, yet many people seeking cost-effective copy imagine the competitive bidding on freelance sites means they will find people with these abilities for knock-down prices.
Just this week on People per Hour I’ve seen jobs posted with bid ranges set by the employer at £5-10 per hour. The UK national minimum wage is nearly £6 per hour, so what sort of quality do these people honestly expect from such payment?
There’s no shortage of people willing to create work at such rates, many of them from countries where that sort of money is worth far more – and where English is not the first language. There are UK workers too who are not professional, full-time copywriters but instead doing several jobs – the proverbial Jacks and Jills of all trades who will write some copy in the morning and mow some lawns in the afternoon.
You’ll get some copy, but like those jeans it’s liable to leave you looking shoddy and embarrassingly exposed.
How to Find Freelances Effectively
The problem for many people looking for a freelance copywriter is that they are obviously not specialists in that area themselves. Consequently, a lot of dud copy is foisted onto businesses without their realising it. However, if you care about getting it right you can follow some simple principles that will help you avoid being landed with inferior work.
- Previous work. Ask to see some samples – though of course you should be wary of material simply copied from elsewhere.
- Ask for testimonials. Proof of satisfied customers is reassuring, though be sure the people giving the testimonials are named and verifiable. One of the more outrageous jobs on People per Hour recently was someone looking for a writer to create a number of testimonials for his new business!
- Does the freelancer have his or her own website? If not they’re unlikely to be full-time or serious.
- Speak to them! A good freelancer would want to speak to you anyway as part of understanding the requirements of the project. You should quickly get a feel of how authentic they are.
And, the golden rule
- Be realistic! If you’re paying peanuts you’ll get monkeys. An infinite number of them with an infinite number of typewriters will eventually come up with the complete text of Hamlet, so by extension they’ll also write you the perfect sales letter. Unfortunately you’ll also need an infinite number of peanuts so the savings will probably be lost.
Do your checks, pay the sort of money you would expect to pay a professional and benefit from quality copy. If it’s written effectively it will earn your investment back through increased business before you know it. Then you can celebrate with a chocolate HobNob.
Just one, mind!