5 Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Freelancer

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 content 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. While most freelance writers are dedicated professionals, you will find scammers, spammers, and just plain incompetents out there, all offering website content services. How do you avoid the not-so-great freelance writers when you need fresh content? These tips will help:

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 representing your name, product and service online?

2. You don’t like his samples: Writers usually submit the best samples they have for review. Don’t just skim these pieces, read them out loud. Don’t like what you hear? 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 are farmers, and sweatshop ethics aside, you’re better paying for quality writing from an individual that you can actually build a relationship with.

4. He’s an expert — on everything: Writers can be skilled in many different areas; most freelancers are able to 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, what keywords should be incorporated, the ideal length, and more. No questions? Either your potential freelancer is a mind reader or not really doing his 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? Hire your writers through a reputable website content services provider, and your writers will be pre-vetted for you.

Samantha S is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.


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