Guest blog by Nexus Copywriting
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A couple of months ago I posted a guest blog here about how to make the most of People per Hour as a freelance copywriter. I set out the drawbacks of a freelancing jobs site such as this, but also the benefits on offer and strategies for success.
However, recently there have been changes in the approach at People per Hour which make it less appealing for truly professional writers. These changes also invalidate at least one of my pieces of advice, so I felt I should write a follow-up to my original piece to keep you up to date.
As noted in my original article, I don’t put in many proposals at People per Hour. The vast majority of jobs are a waste of time and frequently don’t even offer the minimum wage. But occasionally a very attractive job turns up, which is what happened recently.
A non-governmental organisation working internationally wanted their website completely rewritten. It was an interesting job which would pay handsomely, so I put in my carefully constructed proposal and hoped it would catch their interest.
Several hours later I received an email, written in the increasingly irritating ‘cool’ style People per Hour has adopted:
Subject Line: “Oh No! Your message was edited.”
We didn’t have a choice! Your message had to be edited, because some of its content was against our policy.
Learn more about it:
This message contained contact details. Please communicate directly on the Workstream where you can also exchange files.
The Customer Support Ninjas”
What had I done? Following my own advice in the previous article I’d included my contact number in case the potential client wished to discuss the proposal with me. I’d also included the phone number and email of a client for whom I was currently completing a very similar job so they could find out what he thought about my services.
These are the details any professional would wish to include in a serious bid, but with stealth living up to their name, the Customer Support Ninjas had slipped into my proposal and carved it up with their Client Satisfaction Nunchucks.
My proposal now had gaping holes where the contact details once sat and looked thoroughly unprofessional. It was instantly clear I wouldn’t be hearing from the NGO anytime soon, even though I sent a follow-up to explain and apologise.
The rationale behind People per Hour’s move is clear. Whilst they suggest it’s for my own protection the reality is they want to avoid people finding clients on People per Hour and then arranging to do the work outside their payment systems. Now I can understand that because doubtless many people do exactly this. However, self-protection needs to be balanced with allowing people to make professional bids, and that’s why I now have serious doubts about the value of People per Hour to professional freelance copywriters.
Here’s the real irony. Following more of my own advice from the previous article I researched the company which placed the work. On their own website they had advertised the same job. So I could have applied for it there and avoided the commission People per Hour would charge. But I’ve always approached this business with a desire to act with integrity and so because I would not have seen that job without People per Hour I still submitted my bid through them.
However, another copywriter applying for that job through the NGO’s website would have an advantage over me. They could include the contact details which would make their proposal fully professional. Any organisation intending to spend a four-figure sum will want to speak with the contractor. Frankly they’d be crackers not to. So if I don’t provide contact details to enable this, they’re going to go with the freelancer who does.
In other words, People per Hour expects you to submit proposals to potential clients with one hand tied behind your back, seriously damaging your chances to compete fairly with other freelancers.
I sent an email to People per Hour complaining about this and received a reply. It was very polite and had the good sense to leave Ninjas well out of it. They accepted my complaint was made from a concern about being able to submit effective proposals but they would be unable to help me at this time.
To be fair, I’ll share their justification. They want initial discussions kept on their ‘workstream’ so everything is on record:
If this information is not in the workstream it makes it very difficult for us to act on your behalf should you run into any issues with your Buyer as we can only verify information in the workstream.
This is also to ensure that payment is being held in Escrow before any work is undertaken to ensure that we can release these funds to you if your Buyer does not accept your invoice or get in contact with us about it.
Personally, I’d rather be able to submit professional proposals which win me work. That’s why I’m on the site in the first place.
In fact, they made a telling statement:
We appreciate that this change will not be popular with the majority of our Users.
Hmmm. Possibly not a smart move then?
Personally I now regret not making my bid directly to that company on their site. After all, they were advertising it there so I would have been perfectly entitled to do so. I didn’t because I wanted to play fair with People per Hour, but they don’t seem to want to play fair by me.
So, I need to revise my previous advice. Don’t include your phone number or other contact details because they will be unceremoniously sliced and diced. Don’t include any contact details for reference purposes either. Prospective clients will be able to see references left on your People per Hour profile, but if there are other clients who might be more relevant to that job you can forget it.
This approach by People per Hour is fine for very small jobs because the clients won’t be interested in speaking with the copywriter. But then they’re not going to be interested in finding a great writer anyway – just a cheap one.
My own goodwill towards People per Hour has evaporated and I suspect other professional copywriters will feel the same. That means we’ll be less inclined to use the site. Which means it will increasingly be a place for piecemeal, low-rent jobs.
If you’re a quality company seeking quality copy, I recommend you look elsewhere.
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