Hi. This is an old, unmaintained blog. You may find these sites more to your liking:

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

Ad Astra Traffic: Content production/article writing service.

Ad Astra Traffic Team: For those who'd like to get writing gigs with Ad Astra.

Friday, April 14, 2006

The declining value of freelance bid boards...

If you are a writer, consider conducting the following experiment.

Devise a small writing project. Create a buyer's account on Elance, Rent-a-Coder, Scriptlance, etc. Watch how many responses you get.

While you are running this little simulation, try to play the role of a regular content buyer. Remember, you want to outsource the project because it makes your life easier, not because you want to read through 8,000 sample articles provided as zipped attachments from within the job board's interface. Remember, your objective is to find someone who can produce quality content at a fair rate on time and without the risk of an originality or misappropriation problem.

After you let the auction run a few days, pick a writer. How long did it take you to decide? How big of a factor was price? How big of a factor was location? Were you forced to read too many samples in order to make an informed decision? Are you really convinced you found the best possible writer for the job? Do you think there is a reasonable risk that you accidentally passed over one or two writers that may have been able to do a better job? Did you get silly follow up questions that you either had to read and ignore (or even worse, answer)?

Hey, you just wanted to find someone to write some articles for you in a hurry. You didn't want to play make-believe international HR office, right? But you did.

These boards are overpopulated and it is becoming increasingly difficult to accurately distinguish between wheat and chaff within that environment. It's an inefficient means by which to purchase content because the quality of the writing pool and expectations of the buying pool are both so diverse that you cannot trust participant rankings to provide you with valuable information. Meanwhile, everyone who has ever considered writing as a means of generating money has a membership and isn't afraid to use it! There's no barrier to entry and we are learning that plagiarism and quality problems run rampant. Take a look some time at the number of content jobs that end up in arbitration or mediation!

It's an inefficient disaster. And that's just from a buyer's perspective.

Writers have reasons to dislike it, too. Fees, of course, are an issue for some. Trying to find a way to use a small bio space to distinguish yourself from 1,000,000 other would-be writers who may have created fictional bios touting their writing achievements. Knowing that even if you do supply a sample, there is no way in hell anyone has time to read it in all of that mess. Oh, and of course, there is always someone there willing to do the work cheaper than you will.

I believe that smart buyers are going directly to writers they can trust or to other means of content supply and are beginning to eschew the bid boards. I believe that most writers who can do so are abandoning the bid boards and leaving them to the newbies, incapables and con artists.

Can you get work from these places? Sure. Is it worth the effort compared to the utilization of more effective marketing strategies? Not in my opinion.

I think these sites have been a victim of their own success. Their rapid growth, popularity and a growing sense that anyone might be able to become a freelance writer by setting up a free Rent-a-Coder account (regardless of experience or talent) has left them smothering under their own weight. I don't know if these problems are endemic to other areas of the boards (although a job offer I recently posted for some basic site design netted over 100 bids in less than 48 hours), but they certainly are making it tough to buy or sell content there.

The advantages these sites offer are (1) the opportunity to put funds in escrow and (2) to have binding third-party mediation in the event of a dispute. One of these days, someone is going to come up with a popular way to recreate that effect without the hassle of a bid board. In the meantime, good decision making and well-honed instincts on the part of both the buyer and seller can usually make those potentially attractive add-ons seem superfluous.

So, if you were planning on leaving this blog and heading over to Elance, you might want to think about doing something else with your time.