The internet has made freelancing an incredibly easy profession to choose. For those of us based in developing nations; it offers a level playing field which would have been impossible even 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the low barrier to entry means that there are plenty of folks out there without the first clue as to how to run a business, selling services that they can’t deliver on.
We recently came across an example on Elance. A client had engaged a freelancer with a near perfect portfolio to produce text for their website. The resulting output might charitably be described as unreadable. The client was furious and wanted to withhold payment from the freelancer.
We certainly understand their fury but we think the problem could have been avoided if:
The Client Had Been Prepared to Pay Market Rate for Services
$3 an hour is what they were paying. Now, given that the freelancer agreed to work for that – they should have delivered a usable product. But what do you really expect for $3 an hour? The works of Shakespeare? If a freelancer is charging an unsustainable amount for their services and trust me $3 would be unsustainable anywhere in the world – even those parts of the world that Internet Marketers will tell you are “cheap” – for a professional service provider. Educations, computers, software, etc. all cost roughly the same wherever you are in the world.
You can save money using online freelancers (particularly if they are based in countries with lower costs of living) – you can’t get work done at 1/10th – 1/100th of the going rate though. People who assume that Indian or Filipino professionals don’t know their worth (on the open market) are making a serious mistake. $3 an hour gets you an amateur at best. $50-$100 an hour gets you a professional.
In the last 2 months alone we’ve invested over $2,000 in new software licenses, over $1,000 in new hardware and several thousand in training. We’ve rented offices so that we can bring together a larger team to better serve our clients. We’ve bought web domains and invested time and energy in testing several online platforms that can benefit our customers. We could never do that if we charged $3 an hour.
The Client Had Provided a Detailed Scope of Work
We touched on this last time around but “online education articles” isn’t a scope of work. We suspect that the client got more detailed in direct discussions but this isn’t a good start to finding the right freelancer.
The Client Had Checked the Provider’s Portfolio
We always provide links to the original pieces when we provide our portfolio. You can see our byline and you can see it’s our work. If the freelancer doesn’t provide links or you think the links don’t verify the person’s identity – check to see where the piece was published. Just cut and paste a copy of lines out of the text into Google and see what results it brings. If you can’t find a name or you can’t find the text at all… it’s time to ask to see another sample that you can verify. Unfortunately a lot of the worst freelancers online will copy and paste other people’s work into their portfolios. Don’t be fooled always check.
The Client Had Checked the Provider’s References
Elance, etc. provide really good referencing services for established freelancers. Every client gets to comment on the quality or lack thereof of a provider’s work. It’s OK if a provider hasn’t got a perfect score (we don’t have a perfect 5 star rating but we do have a 100% recommend rate) and it’s OK if a client has complained about the freelancer (hasn’t happened to us yet). What you’re looking for is an established track record of project delivery and that the freelancer deals with any complaints professionally.
A new freelancer to the platform won’t have an Elance (or Odesk, Guru, etc.) reference in place. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them but it should lead you to ask for other checkable references – LinkedIn profiles are a good start but if there’s not much there; insist on talking to a former client and insist on a verifiable identity (e.g. a landline contact via a company switchboard, an e-mail address which corresponds to the company’s web domain, etc.)
The Client Had Insisted on Speaking to the Provider
You can weed out a writer who can’t write with a conversation. If their spoken English is grammatically disastrous; their written English will be too. Insist on a Skype conversation or a mobile conversation with every freelancer you hire. If the freelancer genuinely can’t speak – have a face-to-face video chat using an Instant Messaging utility so you can be sure that they are the ones typing the response.
The Client Had Taken the Same Care as they Would Appointing an Employee (BONUS TIP)
A freelancer is a partner in your business; no matter how small or how brief the job you’re engaging them for. Would you hire an employee without carrying out the steps above? Of course not. Don’t hire a contractor without conducting proper checks on them; it’s a recipe for disaster.
Cambodia Creatives is proud to be part of the online freelancing revolution. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet (either virtually or face-to-face) some of the top professionals in almost every field of freelancing. We’ve also met plenty of not-so-hot properties too.
We are happy to work for a fair market rate. We are happy to provide a unique portfolio with work that has only been created by us. We are happy to help you construct a scope of work. We are happy for you to check our references. We are happy to talk to you over Skype. If your chosen freelancer can’t tick the same boxes – why are you allowing them to work for you?