On Mondays I usually post a list of freelance blogging jobs here. Today though I found myself somewhat disgusted by the blogging jobs I found. Based on those ads and their requirements, I wanted to offer a few tips for those considering hiring freelance writers. Here's what you should not do in your job ads (and why):
Don't ask for custom samples unless you're paying for them.
Working as a freelancer doesn't mean we work for free. If you want a freelancer's time, pay for it. If you want a sample before hiring them for long term work, you have two options to do that. First, you can review their past portfolio pieces to see if their style fits your needs (the most common route). You could also hire them to write a single article (or whatever you need) up front as a test, and then make a long term hiring decision based on that. Asking for free custom work on the hopes of being hired is completely unprofessional and inexcusable.
Don't act like you're hiring a full-time employee.
I'm shocked by how many people request formal resumes and such from potential freelancers. What's worse though is that today I saw a company asking for things like cumulative GPAs. Folks, these traditional requests are fine if you're hiring an employee. They're often completely overboard when hiring someone for short-term per-project gigs. Instead look at their portfolios. Their work will speak for itself. (And frankly, there's no reason you need someone's GPA to hire them as a part-time, freelance blogger. That's just silly and makes a bad impression - this particular advertiser came across as absurdly demanding for example with their list of requirements.)
Don't tell us what you think is normal or standard pay.
For starters, I can almost guarantee you're wrong. Beyond that, you just look foolish and inexperienced when you tell writers that their standard rates should be something like $5-10. Get real. If you can only afford to hire amateurs or hobby writers, that's fine. But don't waste your time (or ours) trying to justify those rates as anything more than what they are -- token pay.
Don't tell freelancers how to manage their clients.
Frankly, you don't have the right to do this (in the US at least). One ad I saw today emphasized that while the writer would be allowed to take on other clients (not that the writer needs their permission), they would have to be their primary client. Um, that's not how it works. You're a client. So are their other clients. It's up to the writer to decide when to work for each, how to work for each, and how to prioritize their time. Clients can't control these things without crossing into an employer / employee relationship (and if they try, they can end up subjected to taxes and other expenses on the writer's behalf because of demanding an employee-style relationship).
It doesn't matter if your project is estimated at 30 hours per week. That doesn't mean you're a primary anything. Maybe that writer works 60 hours per week. Or maybe a client they work with 10 hours per week pays them several times as much. Only the freelancer gets to determine their priorities. Their responsibility is simply to deliver their work as promised by their deadline. Anything else is out of your hands, and shouldn't even be discussed in a job ad.
I really can't understand why some people think it's alright to be overly demanding, especially when many aren't compensating fairly to begin with. Those looking to hire freelance writers should spend a bit of time understanding the differences between contractors and employees, the market and real rates paid to these professionals (not just what you see advertised on Craigslist), and some need a basic dose of reality (Would they ask an employee to work for free first? Unlikely, and probably illegal).
Writers, the best thing you can do is pass up opportunities expecting too much for too little. Don't allow others to control you. Don't work for free in the hopes of getting a paying gig (it's the equivalent of paying to be considered for a job). And for goodness sakes, respect yourself enough to hold out for the clients who are going to respect you. There are plenty of them - you just have to work a bit harder in the beginning to find them (and it's worth it!).