Way before the days of WordPress, I hired a freelancer to do a website redesign. It was my first experience working with a freelancer. He had an engineering degree from a prestigious university and had just opened his first freelance business after years of a successful career in high tech. Baffled, I asked him why he’d chosen to become a freelancer.
“I like the ‘free’ part,” he asserted.
We worked together for a few months, and things were great. He was professional, responsive, and always delivered. The company I was working for then saved lots of money, as we no longer required an in-house webmaster.
But after some time, things began to change. I found myself constantly needing to run after him, and the quality of the work was declining.
I was beginning to understand there was in fact a dark side to working with freelancers.
The freelance marketplace has of course come a long way since then, and I’ve had many more freelance experiences along the way—both positive and negative.
As the popularity of remote work increases and with quality B2B tech content now more in-demand than ever, the tech gig economy is booming. Over a third of the U.S. workforce freelances, with the number forecasted to increase to over 50% by 2030.
This blog post will explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of the tech gig economy from the client perspective.
Why Hire Freelancers
In a previous blog post, we discussed the perks of being a freelancer, but there are numerous benefits from the client side as well.
Time and Cost Savings
While a freelancer’s per-hour rate may be higher than that of an in-house employee, after benefits, vacation, taxes, and other such expenses are factored in for the latter, this can amount to a difference of 40% to 100%. There’s the cost of office space and equipment to consider as well.
You don’t need to worry about perks, meals, or keeping the office fridge stashed with snacks, which these days, 88% of in-house employees consider important.
When it comes to productivity, it’s estimated that the average employee wastes three hours per work day and spends 18 hours a week surfing the web. Again, with freelancers, you’re charged only for the time spent on the task. You’re not paying for lunch hour, coffee breaks, or social media scrolling. This can lead to significant cost savings.
IOD is a content creation agency focused on expert-based research and content for tech companies. Contact us for more information about our services.
Not only does the ability to hire freelancers from across the globe mean there’s a larger pool of candidates and thus a greater likelihood of finding the right person for the task; it can also lead to major cost savings.
For small startups and SMBs, which often lack (large) marketing departments and rely heavily on freelancers and agencies, local wages may be beyond their budgetary means. But sourcing candidates abroad can allow them to hire quality talent within their budget. For example, according to Glassdoor, the average annual salary for content marketing writers in the United States is approximately $55,000 compared to $29,000 in the UK.
When it comes to writing tech content, this can also mean that instead of hiring a marketing writer locally, who may or may not have knowledge in the area of expertise, you can hire a tech expert for the same price or less, and work with him collaboratively on a tech marketing article.
Let’s say you want to create a DevOps-related article, for example, and need an SME to consult with; the average annual wage for a site reliability engineer in the United States is roughly $137,000, whereas in India it stands at $17,000, significantly cheaper than a content marketer salary in either the United States or the UK. Therefore, a freelance DevOps expert is likely less expensive to hire from abroad, too.
For ad-hoc work, hiring a freelancer makes sense. For example, since the advent of WordPress, sites can be easily managed by the existing in-house marketing team. So, web and graphic designers are usually only needed on a per-project basis. And of course, with no long-term commitment, it’s easy to try someone out and part ways if the work doesn’t live up to your standards.
And when it comes to tech content, any tech marketer knows that the struggle to find good writers is real. You might go through dozens till you find a decent one. You may also discover particular writers do well on certain topics, so being able to hire them only for these specific tasks is certainly an advantage. For example, a writer may do well on thought-leadership articles, but for articles that go deeper into the tech, hiring a writer who previously worked in-house for a tech company may be best.
Another client advantage of the tech gig economy is the ability to distribute the work among more than one contractor to get it done faster. When it comes to content, it can also be good to have different writing styles and perspectives to avoid repetition. This can be particularly helpful for ghostwritten articles with different bylines or if you’re writing from the perspective of different personas. For example, you might choose a regular writer for the CEO, another for the CTO, the CMO, the CIO, etc.
The Challenges of Working with Freelancers
How many freelancers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Well, you’ve got the freelancer who agrees to change the lightbulb but never shows up; the one who claims he/she can fix anything, but causes the light to short circuit; and hopefully one who finally delivers. But it’s not always easy to find that person, and until then, you’re in the dark.
Let’s explore the downside of working with freelancers.
Despite the greater pool of candidates on the freelance market, it’s not so simple to vet them. While it usually takes three interviews before a job candidate is hired in-house, the vetting process isn’t nearly as thorough with freelancers.
First, HR typically isn’t involved in hiring freelancers. Even if they are, the inability to meet a candidate in person can make it more difficult to establish whether the individual is trustworthy and stable. And giving people you’ve never met access to some of your most sensitive, often proprietary, information without really being able to supervise them is no small risk, even if an NDA has been signed. You also have no idea whether the freelancer you’re hiring is writing for your competitors.
So if you don’t know someone who’s worked with the person offering the services, it’s a real gamble.
While in-house workers deal with the products/services their company offers on a daily basis, freelancers, on the other hand, are not part of this work environment. The learning curve can therefore be steep. Freelancers will thus require a greater time investment on the part of the client in order to teach them about the product, branding, and messaging. This can be time-consuming, but is necessary to keep the content accurate and relevant.
It’s incredibly difficult to find a freelancer who’s truly committed to the client and the project.
But this isn’t at all surprising considering freelancers juggle 14 different clients on average. With so many projects and deadlines to meet, if you as the client can’t offer substantial, long-term work, you’re likely not going to be a priority for them.
On numerous occasions, I’ve even had face-to-face meetings with the freelancer—some lasting several hours—that ended up being a total waste of time. We’d come up with a detailed work plan, I’d think we were all set, and I’d hear nothing from them.
Eventually, I’d have to start the process over again with another freelancer and hope he or she would deliver.
The Supposed Jack of All Trades
All too often, freelancers claim they can take on virtually any project. I’ve seen this a lot when it comes to tech content writing. The tech gig marketplace is flooded with these “jack-of-all-trade” types.
Global professional freelance services generate $7.7 billion annually, and the number is growing. The marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive. Often eager to land their next gig, freelancers claim to be able to write about anything, instead of focusing on what they can really deliver on. It’s not uncommon to see freelance writer resumés with cybersecurity, health and wellness, architecture, marketing, and biotech juxtaposed.
Be wary of those who claim to be able to do any job or project. More often than not, it’s the freelancer who readily admits a particular task is beyond his or her scope who is more trustworthy and reliable than the one who breezily says he or she can do it all.
Pros and Cons of Freelance Marketplace Platforms
Freelance marketplace platforms like Upwork or Fiverr aim to address the above issues, including making it easier to find the right freelancer for the job and helping freelancers get gigs. But do they succeed?
Convenience is the greatest advantage these platforms offer:
- User-friendly features: Topic tags, reviews, writing samples, and the ability to favorite freelancers on the platform can make it easier to sift through the candidates. Some platforms even allow freelancers to pitch their ideas, which might make it easier to find the right person for the project.
- Assigned account managers: Having a middleman and someone you can turn to with any problems you’re experiencing is reassuring and gives the impression that there’s a greater degree of accountability. This provides a sense of security to both the client and the freelancers.
- No Need to Commit: Since the freelancer is paid through the platform, there’s no contract required. The freelancer can get to work immediately. Some platforms also make it easy to cancel or reject an assignment if you’re not satisfied, without having to pay.
In reality, however, these platforms fail to deliver. Why?
Everyone’s an “Expert”
The issue of no vetting discussed previously applies here as well. With the overwhelming majority of the platforms, anyone can join, and anyone can claim to be an expert, so the topic tags really give no indication of the individual’s knowledge and capabilities.
While there are literally thousands of writers and “experts” to choose from—many offering to do work for ridiculously cheap prices—few are truly qualified for the job. My experience has been that when it comes to tech content, for the most part, the quality of the content, and often the writing itself, is poor. It almost necessitates the “reject assignment” option built in to some of the platforms. As an editor, many a time, I’ve had to do complete rewrites and additional research to get a piece to a good standard.
While some writer profiles feature writing samples, many don’t. You also never know if the sample piece wasn’t edited extensively before published.
Unqualified Account Managers
One of the duties of an account manager is to help you find the right person for a job, especially when it comes to tech content creation, but unfortunately they often have no qualifications whatsoever to be making recommendations. The account managers themselves aren’t experts in the tech. Time and time again, people who weren’t qualified were being recommended to me.
I’ve also found the reviews on such platforms to be unreliable. On some platforms, negative reviews can be removed, and there’s even a practice of review exchanges. Other times, people don’t want to write a bad review that could affect someone’s livelihood, so they either write a very generic review or don’t write one at all.
A large number of writers listed are inactive. Often someone decides to freelance between jobs and then forgets about the account. And since the platform doesn’t do any maintenance to delete these inactive users, many of the freelancers listed aren’t even available and don’t respond to messages.
Some of these platforms have numerous technical glitches. This can happen on a regular basis and can really slow down the workflow. There have been times when I’ve had deadlines, but couldn’t send any proposals or reach out to writers.
In another instance, a writer I had worked with before was offered much less than our usual, agreed upon rate, and the amount I had actually offered through the platform. Naturally, she was offended by the low-ball offer and it took some time to figure this out.
With commissions as high as 20%, writers can end up costing you much more through the freelance platforms. If the services offered were helpful and of value, it might be worth the extra investment. But time and time again, these platforms have failed to deliver, with unqualified, unvetted experts, technical glitches, and poor customer service.
Navigating the Freelance Market
With the global gig economy expected to reach $455B by the end of 2023, there is no doubt the freelance marketplace is the future. Knowing how to navigate it successfully is key.
This involves finding the right people, building relationships, and investing in them.
But the process can be difficult and time-consuming, and the freelance marketplace platforms fall short, especially when it comes to tech content.
IOD was founded in order to fill this gap. We’ve built a reliable network of experts capable of producing high-quality tech content. From recruitment to vetting, management, and mentorship, we oversee the entire process. Simplify the content creation process and maximize your reach with quality, expert-based tech content.
Contact IOD today.