Wednesday, October 10, 2007

POST #30: 40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career

PUBLISHER NOTE: If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know about the upcoming freelance writing seminar this month. Details.

Many have inquired about what will be discussed at the seminar. So, in order to answer your questions and to get you prepared for what to expect, I started a series of posts entitled "40 Days to a Successful Freelance Writing Career (which will continue, despite the notice below)."

Freelance Writing Seminar Cancelled: Unfortunately, due to my stepfather's illness, which I wrote about in the last newsletter, the seminar has been cancelled. But, you can still take a class on how to start a freelance writing career. Click here for details.

To start at the beginning of the "40 Days" series, click here. And, welcome to the blog. Now, on to today’s post . . .

Freelance Writers & Outsourcing: How to Decide What to Pay

Freelance writers do a lot – writing, designing, marketing, building websites, etc. Sometimes, outsourcing some of your duties can pay off big – in a lot of ways.

Usually, I outsource when I either don’t have the time or knowledge required to complete a project. However, I also outsource when these things are in place to free up time to spend with my family and/or to work on personal projects (eg, my ebooks and seminars).

Many freelancers are averse to outsourcing because they are either: i) struggling just to make enough to cover their bills; and/or ii) they don’t know how to go about acquiring independent contractors – and what to pay them.

Following are some rules I use when I decide to outsource. Use them as a guidepost for your outsourcing needs.

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3 Things to Consider When You Outsource a Project

1) Time: As in, don’t outsource at the last minute. You’ll see why this is important in the next point.

Outsourcing at the last minute can create a host of problems, eg: i) you may not find the talent you need; ii) you may have to pay too much to get the job done (hence, eating into --or completely away -- the job’s profit); and/or iii) the independent contractor you employ does a horrible job causing you to have to redo it (which means more work, not less, for you – and, possibly a missed dealine).

2) The Contractor: As mentioned above, outsourcing at the last minute can eat up any profits from the job if you hire someone who does a horrible job.

And this is more common than you think. You want sufficient time to be able to check the credentials (eg, portfolio, references, website, etc.) of the person you are considering using.

There are so many contractors out there who are desperate to get their foot in the freelancing realm that they’ll take on almost any job – even if they don’t know what they’re doing.

They’re after samples, samples, samples. Now, as a freelancer of course, I’m not out to bash other freelancers.

My point is, choose wisely. The guy who offers to do your newsletter for $150 bucks may be much better than the one who charges $475, or vice versa. But, you must see samples first.

Newbie note -- how to get your foot in the door. This is why I encourage newbies to do mock samples. Even if you’ve never written a newsletter, designed a logo or edited a website for a paying client – do mock ones for your portfolio. These are valid, bonified samples because they showcase your ability. The fact that no one paid for them is irrelevant.

3) Bid it Out: When I outsource, I usually put it out for bid. I’ve found this to be the best way to get a good idea of what you should be paying.

And, I don’t always go for the cheapest bid. What I look for is quality, ease of working with the person, turnaround time, etc.

This is another reason you don’t want to outsource at the last minute. I recently outsourced a logo redesign. I bid it out three weeks before I knew I’d need it because I wanted to have sufficient time to sift through the bids.

You’d be amazed at what you can learn by bidding a project out as well.

I’ve gotten well over 50 responses from one ad. As I know practically zilch about redesign, I’ve learned that the file format I asked for was incorrect – that it should be something else.

Rates have ranged from a low of $35 to a high of $375 – no kidding! But, from all the bids I’ve gotten, I feel that I should be paying somewhere in the $50-$100/range for this project. And, I should expect a 1-2 day turnaround.

Only by sifting through 50+ bids have I been able to determine this.

If I’d outsourced this project with no built-in time for sifting through bids, I could easily have overpaid – and not gotten the wrong file format – which could cost me more down the line.

So, to effectively outsource a project, give yourself some lead time, do a thorough check of the independent contractor, and bid the project out. This will tell you so much more than what price you should be paying.

Contrary to popular belief, outsourcing can increase – not decrease – your income as a freelancer, if you do it wisely.

Good luck!
Yuwanda (who is this person?)
P.S.: I apologize for this post being a day late.
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