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

Carson Brackney: This is my primary site.

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

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Adventures in role reversal...

I have been very busy lately, working on a variety of writing assignments. In fact, I have been so busy that I have had to outsource some work to others.

I refuse to outsource content writing orders from paying customers. I believe that when someone hires a writer they are paying for the work to be completed by the chosen author. I also feel strongly about providing my clients with high-quality content for which I can personally vouch. The prospect of simply acting as an intermediary worries me a little bit in that regard.

However, I have been able to outsource various components of my forthcoming new product. In order to stay on schedule with the "side project," I was compelled to actually hire two writers to work for me. It's been interesting to be on the other side of a content transaction.

I hired one writer directly and found the other through Rent-a-Coder. So far, it's been great to work with both of them. My interactions with them, however, have given me some additional perspective on what it must be like for my clients to hire out their content writing needs.

Specifically, I can better understand why clients tend to get a little antsy as deadlines approach. Even though the two assignments I doled out were both relatively small, I felt myself feeling a bit apprehensive as the due dates got closer. Both of the writers with whom I worked were great front-end communicators--we discussed my needs in sufficient detail and they obviously took great care in making sure they understood what was expected. After things kicked off, though, all I could do is cross my fingers and hope they would deliver as expected.

Fortunately, both did a pretty good job. I had to perform a little light editing, but otherwise the materials provided met specifications. I was lucky enough to pick two winners right out of the gate. However, that time period between starting the project and the deadline was a little unnerving.

This adventure in role reversal has had an impact on how I will be doing business with my clients. I have always provided progress updates on larger jobs, but now I will also be making sure to touch base with clients during every project. If someone has a relatively small job with a two-week turnaround time, for instance, I will be making the extra effort to contact them at least once during that time just to let them know they are not forgotten and to advise them of the project's status, etc. I feel as though I would have felt more comfortable as a buyer had that happened with me.

It's easy for those of us who write content to look past some of those details. We grow accustomed to taking an order, completing it before deadline and moving on to the next task. I am always writing with the specific client and his or her needs in mind, but it is easy to neglect communication during the process. When I am exceptionally busy, for instance, I might schedule even a small project to be completed within a week of ordering. If I know I can complete the assignment relatively quickly, I may not even place it on my scheduler until a day or two before it is due. Although I know it will get done to specification on schedule, it's very possible that the client may have some concern if they haven't heard a thing from me in five days. They don't need to worry--but it is natural. I think that a little extra effort just to let the client know everything will be done on time can take some of the stress out of their outsourcing experience. I think that kind of extra contact might be especially nice for those clients who are working with me for the very first time.

My experience as a buyer at Rent-a-Coder was also a source of some perspective. My simple bid request generated a slew of bids. Some were low-ball offers from questionable providers. Others were ridiculously over-priced bids. Sorting through the bids, checking each writer's profile, looking at various samples, etc. was pretty annoying. The idea behind outsourcing is to make one's life easier and more efficient. I found that the Rent-a-Coder process was less than optimal in terms of efficiency. The need to communicate on-site was also a minor aggravation.

Meanwhile, my examination of bidding coders made it very clear that there are a lot of horrible would-be content writers out there looking to snag a buck. Many of the bidders for my project seem to specialize in other areas but are willing to take on content work, even though they clearly cannot write effectively. It is as if every coder on the system is ready to go after a content job. I had several programmers with no writing background and profiles that were so poorly written you could barely decipher them bidding on my content job.

There are some good providers on Rent-a-Coder. I will occasionally bid on projects there myself. However, it really is difficult to separate the good from the bad and a cursory examination of things showed a disproportionate number of writing jobs end up in arbitration. From a buyer's perspective, I would be reluctant to use Rent-a-Coder to find a writer again.