Working with Freelancers? Here are 5 Common Problems to Avoid

Freelancers can make or break your SEO agency. Whether you’re looking for a helping hand with copywriting, or trying to outsource a killer link-building infographic for a client, third-party help can make your agency stand-out in a crowded market.

With that said, hiring a freelancer isn’t without its risks. Many SEO agencies make disastrous mistakes, and end up shelling-out a small fortune for low-quality work. Thankfully, you can avoid making the same mistakes – and by heeding these 5 common problems, you’ll be on your way to a fruitful freelancing relationship!


5. Falling for big upfront payments

Cashflow is a serious issue for businesses everywhere – your SEO agency included. As a result, you’ll be able to relate to the ‘payment upfront’ ethos which many freelances adopt. But you shouldn’t.

If you’re working with a trusted freelancer, or you’re embarking on a major project, a small upfront payment can be seriously beneficial to the freelancer. However, if your chosen freelancer asks for a significant upfront payment, alarm bells should start sounding. Large upfront expenditure significantly increases your risk, and leaves your agency powerless in the event of your freelancer disappearing.

Instead, get to know a freelancer with a sample piece of work – a single blog post or image. Agree a fixed rate payment for the work, and assess the performance of your freelancer afterwards. If you’re happy with their responsiveness and quality of work, you can feel more confident with future upfront payments.


4. Obsessing over strict word quotas

Freelance copywriters play a crucial role in many SEO agencies; and there’s truth to the idea that longer content performs better than shorter content. After all, epic blog posts and guides contain more information, more resources and more value – and they’ll be read, shared and linked-to more than a shorter piece.

With that in mind, there’s no real reason for obsessing over a strict word quota. Forcing a freelance copywriter to stick to reach a 1000-word target on every single blog post won’t boost your rankings – it’ll ruin your content.

The length of your content needs to be determined by its subject matter. Some topics require over a 1000 words to cover properly; but some can be comprehensively tackled in less than 500. Set your writer rough guidelines, but don’t force them to hit a strict target.


3. Deciding on per word payment

Payment can be a sticky issue for many freelancers, especially when working with professional copywriters. Around intermediary sites like oDesk and Elance, per word payment is common practice – but unfortunately for you, the client, this can lead to seriously shoddy content.

Per word payment incentivizes your writer to create long content, not effective content. It encourages them to write, and keep on writing, because every word they add to your blog post or email adds a little bit more to their payment. As we’ve just discussed, content length isn’t as important as the depth and breadth of your content – so why should you encourage your writer to create empty, meaningless copy?

Instead of per word payment, discuss project rates. This ties your payment to a quality end-product, and encourages higher-quality results.


2. Not setting ground rules for communication

Full-time employees have a one huge benefit over freelancers – they’re always around when you need them. If a client brief appears out of the ether, you know that you’ll be able to call your team together, and start work on the project. If you get an unexpected revision from a client, or a code-red style website emergency develops, you’ll be able to respond.

Whilst you’ll never have quite this level of responsiveness from a freelancer, you can at least take measures to ensure regular communication. Setting ground rules for communication will allow you to keep track of your freelancer, and their work. You’ll be able to plan your workload more effectively, and you’ll never have a client stood-up by a freelancer’s lack of communication.

Most professional freelancers will be happy to respond to email within 24-hours, factoring in time differences. If you’re looking for a slightly more intimate relationship, you can even suggest monthly or weekly calls to check-up on progress.


1. Hiring the cheapest writer

There are huge price discrepancies in the freelancing world. In the hunt for a killer copywriter or superb designer, you’ll come across freelancers willing to work for a few dollars, or a few hundred. When you’re running an agency, it’s your job to keep costs down – so you’d be forgiven for hiring the cheapest freelancer.

Unfortunately, there’s usually a reason for cheap freelancing rates:

  • Your freelancer is from a different country. This isn’t always a problem, but it can lead to serious issues with cultural knowledge, communication and copywriting. When you’re building high-quality links, non-native English won’t do, so check your freelancer’s background.
  • They’re inexperienced. Many freelancers start out doing super-cheap work to build-up their portfolio. Unfortunately for you, this usually means amateurish results; and it’s your reputation on the line.
  • They’re downright useless. Whilst some freelancers are unskilled because of inexperience, there are many who are simply bad at their job. Thankfully, asking for a look at their professional portfolio should help you to identify (and avoid!) these types of freelancers.
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