I’ve been working in the software industry for a long time now; solving business problems with programs. In this period I worked intensely with clients in different industries, company sizes, and positions. What I like most about is to understand what the customer really wants and needs and to provided such a solution, and solving a real pain. Be it the solution they don’t need any new fancy software, but should just revise their processes.
Unfortunately, that is not so easy because most of the time the clients do not know what they want; how their own business processes work, if they are effective or a waste of time and more. Basically, they guy you have contact to has the order to hire, buy, solve problem X with a software solution Y. And he wants to check it as fast as he can. Not having a clear purpose, not being prepared, sometimes even having company politics in the way, and now picking the wrong service provider. I have seen it too often; conversations like:
Manager: “I like the design proposal of company x, we use them.”
Project Manager: “But they don’t know the technology stack we are working with, company Y is better suited for this.”
Manager: “Hmm but I like the design of company x, we did like it. But you are in charge and make the decision but I can only support you when you choose company x.”
So, what does the project manager do know when she doesn’t trust her supervisor neither has her support? Right, she goes with company x.
Like you probably can relate too, it did not work out with company x and a lot of money and time was wasted going with them. Sadly, the time of a guy like you and me was wasted too as we had to do much work they were supposed to do.
But it is not only the fault of the company, but it is also the fault of the supplier - the service provider. They proposed for a project they did not have the know-how for and were incapable of doing. I’ve been working on such proposals too and often the salesmen just want to get the deal, no matter what. Silly you think? It is true, and since I started outsourcing for my bootstrapped entrepreneurial life I see such proposals all the time, and the kind of work does not matter. I’ll share a bit with you what I learned on both sides.
Before you even look for a freelancer or company, do you homework Why do you need a new website, program or article? What pain does it solve? Can you solve your problem in another way?
So you identified your pain and a way to fix it, now it is time to write anything down for the solution. Be specific as you can and when you have trouble at some points, go back and do your homework. Specify what you want and how it solves your problem.
Take the essentials aka “what you want” out of the previous step and include it in your job post. Leave out company secrets of course, but be specific as what is expect and how. If you use Upwork or co, add a code word into the job description the freelancer should mention in their proposal. Also provide more details in the interview stage so the freelancer can check if their proposed budget fits your requirements.
Hiya Jens Stunning spec and it’s not often I get a detailed one, I love it and thank you for taking the time and trouble to write one as it helps us writers enormously!
That is the kind of responses you get when doing your homework. You can learn that I did too. When I am not accurate enough and did not do a detailed briefing, it did not go the way I wanted. Sometimes you post the job too early and realize later that you left out details, admit it and try to find a solution with your freelancer; one that works for both parties.
Weed out all freelancer who did not include your code word. They don’t read instructions and do not follow them. They did not now, and they won’t be when working for you. I currently use a code word and a screening question of “Did you read the job description” and you would be astonished how many proposals I got stating they read the job description but did not include the code word at all.
Way under or over your budget -> Out, underpaying people will bring you only pain. What do you expect you will get as 80.000 words novel for 100 bucks? Or a Reddit clone for 50$? Trash, usually. Way over the budget does not necessarily mean they are way better than the rest nor do you always need a rockstar. And remember you set a budget for a reason. I am bootstrapping, and I need to stay in-budget, not for a single job, but overall. Keep that in mind. If you are unsure about your budget, set one for the Job post and write in your description that freelancers can propose with a higher budget but should explain it. I did it for my last job as I was not sure what the standard rate was. I got proposals more than twice the set budget and some almost half.
The online platforms usually have a rating for the freelancer of some kind. If you liked the work of the freelancer but the score is messed up, just ask him. I did it and got a for honest sounding response and an understandable too.
Read the feedback the freelancer received and samples they provide, the ones in the proposal and also on their freelancer page.
Do a test job with them. Spend some money before you might waste a lot. When the job is a 2000 word article, do a test drive with 500 words. Or if you got an article series, let’s do half of one article as a test. You usually learn if you can work with this freelancer and if she’s providing the quality you want.
If you find someone good, keep them.
Being nice is way better than being an asshole. If you treat your freelancer as shit, you will get shit. If you forgot to provide relevant information, reply late or whatever it is your fault, be professional and admit it, fix the problem and get over it. Same goes for you freelancers, if you fucked up admit it and fix it. If you send a proposal, and the client asked you questions, answer promptly. Do you expect not answering or 2 weeks later will get you the work? It happened recently to me, I responded to the freelancer having some questions; no answer. I asked again a few days later; still no response. WTF?
Your client has a name. Greet him with it. It will feel more personal. I with my real name on Upwork and the freelancer can see it. Maybe 1% of the freelancers do greet me by my name. By most of the 99%, I feel like just like an obstacle between the freelancer and the money. There is no real interest in the work.
Ask questions. Seldom anyone is asking me questions. Some do, and it is refreshing to have someone at least showing a bit of interest in my needs. It will make you stand you.
If asked for samples in a particular area, send those examples. If you do not have them or can’t provide them for various reason, say it and send related samples.
Write a unique proposal or at least start with a long paragraph targeting the jobs topic. Don’t waste my time telling me you got a Ph.D. MBA in Micromanaging hamsters in a wheel. Reflect my needs and show me how you can help me. Don’t tell me you are a specialist in data entry, SEO, and WordPress for a job of editing and proofreading a text.
Don’t assume the work. Ask for more details. I know it is a problem on these platforms that you can only ask questions when you bid. But still, do it. Also, state your assumptions for your bid. If the clients provide you with a detailed briefing which is way out of scope of your original proposal, say that. Tell him that you bid under different assumptions, and it was not clear in their job post. Often clients do not know how much certain solution costs and tend to set a low budget.
Don’t whine and excuse for your rates. You are a professional, behave like one. Don’t propose with “sorry for the rate it is a higher than my usual one but blah blah blah”; especially when we meet for the first time. WTF were you thinking?
That’s it so far. I’ll revise the article from time to time and add new experiences. What are yours? Share in the comments.