Last week, in an attempt to re-engage old leads I’d given up on, I took an inventory of all of the freelance opportunities I’ve persued over the last two years. I was pretty surprised to see that I’ve applied/pitched/reached out to over 200 different people and organizations.
I mean, desperate times called for extreme measures. There was one month where I sent five cold emails a day for 30 days. Another month I applied for every single freelance job I saw on the job boards. Job boards are attractive because it’s an existing opportunity. You could call it a warm lead because you know they need the service and have a budget (albeit not always a good one). If you can stand out from the sea of other freelancers who peruse those boards daily, you have a chance at finding some pretty good work.
However, there are definite signs that an opportunity is either a waste of time or will likely turn into a living nightmare. Here are my personal deal-breakers when it comes to what I look for in a job post on a freelance writing job board.
Freelance Job Board Red Flags
The company remains anonymous in the post
The first time I applied for a job where the company chose to stay “anonymous,” I thought it was because I was about to contact Netflix. Or at least a company that was so big and important that they thought naming themselves would destroy their inbox. That logic was seriously flawed. I could not have been more wrong. I wrote my best and most humble-braggy introduction and even wrote out a mini content plan to impress them. On the other end of the post was a guy with an IDEA for an agency. He was pitching a potential client and was fishing for ideas and rates because he had never sold content services before. He was anonymous because he had no website, no experience, and nothing to offer a freelancer.
I don’t trust clients who don’t view the relationship as a mutually beneficial thing. You need to vet potential clients just as much as they need to vet potential freelancers. If they don’t give you any information about their company, who they are, or what they do, that’s a bad sign. Either they are ashamed of their company, or they aren’t as legitimate as they claim to be in the post.
There is no contact information in the post
A Google Doc on a job posting is essentially an internet trash can. You spend time filling out the form, send it off, and that’s the end of it. When it comes to opportunities that a lot of people are after, like the ones on job boards, the power is in the follow-up. If you can’t follow up with someone after you’ve sent the form, you might as ball up your email and throw it in the trash.
They want you to do a free test
People have different opinions on “paying your dues” and “working your way up.” I say that there is absolutely no reason not to be paid for your work.
Some companies will try to leech every ounce of value out of you before they even think about making any monetary investment. Those people are the worst. I saw from experience. The clients who nickel and dime their businesses have a long way to go, mindset-wise before can see the value in the things they are paying for.
If a potential client is asking you to write a completely original article for their blog, from scratch, as part of the application, run. Reputable companies will pay you for your time, even they choose not to hire you.
They want a million references before they talk to you
It took me a while to realize this, but if a company hires you as a freelancer, you are not an employee. Company’s that want to treat you as an employee but don’t want to give you any of the benefits of perks of being an employee are a huge red flag.
It’s always a good idea to have testimonials or an area on your website or portfolio that highlights happy clients. You never have to give a potential client contact information of the people you’ve worked with. If you want to, that’s fine. But if someone asks me for numbers of a reference, it tells me that they have trust issues. It means that they can’t look past the work you’ve done. They need to question your character by interviewing other people instead of assessing it for themselves by getting on a call.
Overall bad vibes
This is strictly a “me” thing. But the “vibe” of the post has a significant impact on whether or not I pursue the opportunity. If I was having a conversation with someone and they were telling me about this opportunity, how would I feel about it? I ask myself if it seems like they know what they want or if they haphazardly threw up a post. If they aren’t serious about how they present themselves, they likely won’t care enough to nurture the relationship. You deserve to work with people who make your job enjoyable.
Turns out, that after years of terrible prospecting experience and even worse clients, my standards are pretty high. Always remember that your time is valuable. For every opportunity that seems awful but you feel desperate, there is an even better opportunity that has your name all over it. Don’t waste time with projects that drain you and prevent you from pursuing the opportunities you deserve.