Among the many RFPs I come across asking for professional service at a rate of pennies per hour, I occasionally come across a complaint from someone on the same platform who hired cheap labor and was disappointed by the shoddy quality of work performed or left incomplete. After that first uncharitable reaction of “serves you right,” I then find these buyers go in either of two directions: 1) They want to go cheap hiring someone who really is professional because they’ve already burned their budget on a poor quality vendor; or, 2) They put all sorts of restrictions and high expectations on the new vendor because they assume the new vendor is out to cheat them.

Neither attitude is fair.

I understand the “once burned, twice shy” attitude, but it shouldn’t be used to punish a second and innocent vendor because you made a mistake. I also understand that your error caused you to lose money; but that’s not the other vendor’s fault and the other vendor shouldn’t feel obligated to accept slave wages because you wasted your money.

So, in order to prevent the added expense of hiring an amateur and then hiring a professional to fix it, here are some tips on hiring a professional the first time around:

  1. Look for experience. Generally, experience in a field indicates expertise. The more experienced the contractor is, the more skilled one can usually assume him to be.
  2. Check references and recommendations. If you’re using a freelance platform, look at the vendor’s profile and read customer testimonials. Be aware that, regardless of experience, the freelancer may be new to that particular platform, so check out his LinkedIn profile and/or ask for references. Review the testimonials, recommendations, and endorsements.
  3. Look at samples. Every writer, whether new to freelancing or not, should be able to provide at least one or two writing samples. The samples may not be related to your project, especially if the writer is a newly minted professional, so review the samples for things like technical competence and writing style.
  4. Test the vendor’s skill. It’s entirely appropriate to ask an editor to edit an excerpt of your book or to edit sample pages. It’s entirely appropriate to ask a writer to write a sample article. Doing so helps the buyer evaluate whether the writer or editor is up to the work needed for the project and can meet expectations. It’s absolutely not ethical to use the sample if you’re not willing to pay a fair wage for it.

Once you’ve determined your budget for a project and posted your request for proposals, let the freelancer reply with what he or she can or will do for that budget. If your budget is $20 and you want an original novella of 10,000 words written, don’t expect to get top quality talent. Freelancers have to make a living, too–and working for a buck or less an hour won’t attract them.

Being a freelancer myself, I suggest not publishing your budget. Post the RFP and describe the work needed in as much detail as you can. A true professional will respond with his or her proposal stating what he will do–or not do–and tell you how much he will charge for that service. That’s where negotiation begins. Sometimes, the vendor will offer his lowest rate at the get-go because he knows he’s competing against other freelancers who don’t mind devaluing the work they do. Sometimes, the freelancer proposes a rate that’s what he would like to earn and he ‘s willing to negotiate. Just be aware that the more experienced and professional your freelancer is, the less room you’ll have to haggle down rates.

A true professional won’t undervalue or devalue his work.

If you need expert writing or editing, contact Hen House Publishing. We ain’t the cheapest game available, but we provide good value for our fees.

Every word counts.