In recent years, there has been an explosion of freelance job bidding sites that promise quality work and lots of money to be made. In 2015, eLance and oDesk merged to become Upwork, the largest freelancing platform in the world, worth tens of billions of dollars.
As businesses flock to these job bidding platforms to hire all kinds of freelancers, including copywriters, these problems quickly come to light. Many businesses have lost money on poor quality work. They’ve also wasted time wading through useless copy-and-paste bids ridden with typos from non-native English speakers from around the globe.
Don’t be that client who falls for the sirens of cheap freelance labor.
Here are 5 reasons why you should be careful when using the likes of Upwork, Freelancer.com, Guru, and other major job bidding platforms. Hiring a freelance copywriter from these sites can actually cost you dearly.
1. Spam Bidding
The way freelance job sites are structured makes it easy for freelancers to copy and paste job bids to any jobs they could find. What they do not realize－or perhaps they do but don’t care－is that clients like you are smart enough to see a boilerplate cover letter coming from a mile away.
If writers show that they aren’t willing to put in the effort to show how they can help you and your business, should you expect them to put any effort in the actual work you are paying for?
No. Of course not.
Some sites like Guru allow freelancers to save cover letter templates for future bids. While it serves as a time-saving benefit for freelancers, it also encourages laziness. The least they could do is take their template and modify the text to tailor it to each specific job.
However, many freelancers don’t do this. Instead, they use the exact same template over and over again, spam bidding on every job they come across. Their marketing strategy consists of throwing everything against the wall and hoping something sticks. It’s too easy!
On the client side, you receive 50, 80, 100+ bids for a job, most of which make it obvious that the bidders didn’t even read your job description. You spend all this time going through the bids to find maybe one or two that even bothered to read your job description, let alone have any skills that you need.
The biggest problem with this is it encourages the commoditization of low quality writers. Borne perhaps from desperation or from living in a country with a much lower cost of living, freelancers doing the spam bidding offer the lowest rates in order to get the most jobs.
As you and other businesses get inundated with worthless bids that waste your valuable time, therein lies the temptation to hire a decent writer for a few pennies per word.
It becomes a pricing race to the bottom.
The biggest side effect of copywriters competing on price is that the quality of their work suffers. Poor quality copywriting actually costs you far more than what a high quality copywriter would charge for their work.
2. Shamelessly Poor Quality Work That Cost You Money
Not only freelance job sites are races to the bottom in price, but also quality. The proverb “you get what you pay for” holds especially true here. Copywriters who compete on price are not the ones that you really want. They’ll take any job they can get and turn in mediocre quality work at best.
This hurts clients even more than freelancers. Why?
The best copywriters tend to not linger within a commoditized market where freelancers compete to be the cheapest, not to be the best.
With the decreasing pool of top-tier talent and increased competition at the low-to-mediocre levels, many low-cost freelancers resort to copy-and-pasting their cover letters to every job posting they could find. Then clients like you get inundated with cookie cutter bids that show zero ability to follow simple instructions.
You get frustrated, and justifiably so.
The quality you get from these freelance sites is often horrible. In most cases, these jobs need to be re-done. You’d have to hire someone else and pay more to fix these jobs, but all this could have been avoided with a quality freelancer who knows how to do the job right.
To be fair, some quality writers can indeed be found on these sites needing to earn some supplemental income when business is slow－but expect to pay higher rates for better quality.
If you want the best quality copywriter who provides a real solution to your problem, you want to find one in your niche, through your professional or trade groups, or through LinkedIn. Even better, you want to develop a relationship with a strong writer who truly understands your business if you have ongoing work.
3. Communication Issues With Non-Native English Speakers
The mainstream freelance job sites like Upwork and Freelancer.com have a global reach. With it comes freelancers from all over the world, including Europe, South America, Asia, and India. Problems tend to arise when the native language of these freelancers isn’t English.
While many freelancers from outside of the U.S. are quite skilled in web development and writing mobile apps, sometimes even more so than those within the U.S., clients who want to market to an English-speaking audience should be careful with whom they hire on these “global” sites.
Native fluency in the English language is a fundamental requirement for any copywriter targeting an English-speaking audience. If a freelancer’s native language isn’t English, that should be an automatic disqualifier for any copywriting job－for two reasons:
One, a copywriter obviously must have a masterful grasp of the English language to be able to persuade prospective customers to buy a product or service.
Two, the copywriter must be able to understand your project requirements and communicate with you in a way both sides are able to stay on the same page. A writer with non-native English may not be able to follow complex discussions about your project requirements, especially if your business involves technology.
Many clients have attempted to work with writers whose first language is not English, only to have the work bogged down in misunderstandings and confusion, ending in a lose-lose situation.
The best copywriters for the English language can only be found in either America or England.
4. Lack of Credibility
A freelance copywriter whose sole online presence is an account on one of the freelance job sites does not hold the same amount of credibility as a copywriter who has his own website with a portfolio, testimonials, and original content.
Freelance job platforms attempt to boost the credibility of its freelancers by offering payment protection, identification verification, skill tests for freelancers to take and display their test scores.
These only go so far to establish an individual freelancer’s credibility when it comes to doing the job as expected.
Here are the problems with each:
Payment Protection & Escrow Systems
Who would you rather hire? A copywriter who relies on a third party job platform to do the invoicing for him, or a copywriter who knows how to independently run his own business with his own invoicing system?
There is a big difference between the two. All a freelancer has to do is create an account on a jobs site, and start bidding. Almost too easy.
But what about a copywriter who sets up his own website showcasing his personal brand, uses his own invoicing system, and sets up his own inbound lead-generation funnel for getting his own clients? Now, that is a serious copywriter－one definitely worth hiring.
Note many copywriters charge 50% of the project cost upfront before starting work, and then they invoice the remaining 50% once the work had been completed. This is standard copywriting industry practice and would apply to most projects.
In and of itself, there is nothing wrong with ID verification on job sites and it does help filter out spam accounts. However, it does little to help a freelancer stand out from the rest in the eyes of paying clients.
A copywriter who has worked hard to build his brand, website, and to get his name out there through a variety of marketing channels understands credibility and stands out from the riff raff. There would not be any question about his identity. Plus he has a vested interest in delivering high quality work because his personal and business reputations are both on the line.
Freelance job sites sometimes use tests to verify a freelancer’s skill in certain areas. These are useful for programming skills such as C++, Python, or Java. Multiple choice skill tests can measure concrete skills and knowledge-based fields such as mathematics, statistics, web development, app development, and so on.
But these tests are a poor indication of their real-life salesmanship and copywriting skills that cannot be gleaned in a multiple choice test.
The best way to actually test a copywriter’s skill is to run a controlled A/B split test to monitor how his copy performs in terms of increasing the conversion rate. A copywriter could post screenshots of his own A/B test results within his portfolio, or include a testimonial from a happy client whose conversion rate jumped as a result of the writer’s work.
This isn’t possible to do on a skill test on a freelancing platform, however.
So what do you look for when you want to assess a copywriter’s credibility and authenticity?
Here’s a simple checklist to go through when looking at a copywriter, each of which increases credibility:
- Has website with own domain name
- Has a LinkedIn profile
- Maintains a social media presence on Facebook and Twitter
- Lists authentic testimonials on their website or on Facebook
- Displays a portfolio with at least 8-12 pieces
- Has a blog or a set of 5-10+ articles with valuable and original content
Remember that freelancer job sites don’t boost a freelance copywriter’s credibility just because they have payment protection, skill testing, or ID verification features.
5. Freelancing on Job Sites Is Not a Real Business
Anyone can create an account on a freelance jobs site and start sending out bids. It does not mean that they know how to run a business, nor are remotely qualified to perform the job to your expectations.
As someone who runs his own business as a sole entrepreneur, I understand what goes through the minds of both freelancers and clients.
As a client, working with a freelance copywriter on a freelancing platform like Upwork is very different from working with a copywriter who has his own invoicing and payment system along with website displaying a robust portfolio containing strong content and solid testimonials.
The latter understands how to run a business, which consists of marketing, generating leads and following up with them, selling professional services, sending invoices, collecting payments, and doing proper bookkeeping on top of the actual work.
Freelance workers on a mainstream freelance jobs platform, do not do these business functions. Therefore, they cannot begin to understand how clients run their businesses unless they’ve done so themselves.
It is a more intelligent use of resources to hire a copywriter who, like you, understands how to run basic business functions that one cannot learn from a freelance jobs site.
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