Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to Hire a Good Freelancer on Freelancer Websites Like Guru (Part 2)

Once you have posted, how do you pick a freelancer? Well, there are a lot of freelancers out there and there are also a lot of salesmen and then there are a lot of people who need money and don't have a clue about either. You need to learn to tell the difference. I can't tell you how many times I have looked on a freelancer profile and they are bragging about how they did this or that. When you check, you can't find their name (and sometimes you can't find the project they say they worked on) anywhere. You don't know if it was done as ghostwritten work or not. There bid may be from a template (which doesn't necessarily mean they are bad) and their work posted may be plagiarized. How can you tell which freelancer to hire?

The first thing you should do is look at their posted profile (not how much they said they would charge). This is their resume. On every profile, there will be feedback (unless they are new). If there is no feedback, they could still be a good freelancer, but this means you are taking more of a chance. A freelancer with no feedback should expect to get paid much less than a freelancer with years of feedback. If the freelancer only has a couple of feedback posts, they are newer at freelancing (at least on that website) and should have 4-5 stars in everything. Freelancers with a longer history may have a few lower reviews. If all the reviews (or most of them) say the same thing, chances are good that is how the freelancer is. Can you live with a freelancer like that?

The more work samples they have to post, the more things they have done. Do you like their samples? When you look at their profile, do you think they have a good representation of the work you are looking for? For example, say you need someone to design a webpage for you and you go on their profile and see only samples and information about designing clothes with nothing about website design. That is probably not the freelancer for you.

If there profile is not set up, even with good feedback, that is a warning sign. People who freelance for a living take the time to add samples and make their profiles look nice. Again, you can find a good freelancer with no work samples, a poorly set up profile, and no feedback, but you are taking a risk. If your goal is to hire a good freelancer, you should toss any that don't meet this criteria. Now, if a freelancer claims to be working for years on another website, this person should have a ton of work samples to show you. They should be able to send you a message with a link to the other website profile on it to back this up.

Some freelancer websites also offer proficiency tests and the freelancers can post their scores on their profile. How do their scores compare to others?

Once you have screened out any candidates with the above, put their name into a search engine. Most freelance work is done under NDAs or ghostwritten, but established freelancers should have other work out there. Do they have a book on Amazon? Check to see if it was published or self-published. There is nothing wrong with self-publishing (or even vanity presses)- as long as the freelancer isn't trying to pass it off as regular publishing. If you haven't heard of the publisher, you can do a web search on that (unless the freelancer told you they were self-published). Be wary of a freelancer publishing under another name with no way to link that name to his or her real name. Also, be wary of freelancers trying to get you to go against the website's terms of service (for example, if they bid under $25 on Guru or if they try to get you to pay them offsite).

After all this, you should have narrowed the applicants down. The next step is to ask the remaining freelancers a question about the project. How they answer the question should let you know how familiar they are with the project premise and also how well they communicate. Can you deal with their communication style? If not, toss them from the pile. Be careful that they are really answering your question and not responding with fluff and salespeak. Not communicating in clear English should not necessarily toss the candidate out (unless you are trying to hire someone to write in clear English for you). However, you should be able to understand the candidate.

Once you have gone through all this, now you can look at their bid. Unless you were extremely vague in your bid, the freelancer should tell you about how long they think it would take them to do a project as described and about how much they would charge to do this project. They should also outline what they will do that sets them above the rest. Did they send a sample of a project similar to yours- this should be looked at as a bonus (although because of NDAs and ghostwriting a freelancer may not have a sample of the right kind of work or even be able to tell you where they worked on something similar). Now you can compare which you prefer.

Why go through all this to find a good freelancer? Because once you have found one, you can return to him/her whenever you need that kind of work (and potentially other work if they have it listed on his/her profile). You can build a team. Most freelancers prefer working with regular employers and working with a freelancer repeatedly means you no longer have to go through this process because you already know you work well together.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

How to Hire a Good Freelancer on Freelancer Websites Like Guru (Part 1)

If you have been following me for any amount of time, you know that I not only have my self-publishing work (Dreaming Reality Publications), but also work as a freelancer on Guru (Paradoxical). The purpose of this blog is to talk (and vent) about my freelancing jobs as well as offer advice to other freelancers and self-publishers. However, it recently dawned on me that most freelancers complain they don't like working on freelancer websites like Upwork (previously Odesk and elance) or Guru. The reason is they feel they are too competitive and most of the work goes to people living in third world countries. On the flip side, most people who want to hire freelancers also complain that there isn't any quality workers on these websites.

Now, I have done both sides of the coin on Guru. Sal and The Corruption both needed illustrators. Sal also had a page formatter because it was my first children's book, and then there are editors. Occasionally, I have worked on a job where they wanted me to find an illustrator for their cover art for them.

I would have to say, yes, I get cruddy employers sometimes, and, yes, I sometimes get paid less than I would like to make (or less than I am worth), but overall, I like working on Guru and I like most of my employers. As far as hiring goes- I have only had one freelancer that I did not pay and I asked for a full SafePay refund. This person did not do a good translation into Chinese for Sal and the Chinese editor I hired caught it. Since I hired two editors and both flagged this person as not know what she was doing, I think they were right. I don't read much Chinese, so someday when I am retired and learn more, my opinion might change. Right now I am satisfied.

So, how do you find a "Good" freelancer? First, you have to think about your job. You need to know how much you can afford to pay the freelancer to do the job. What is your maximum budget? Now, think about your work. How long would it take you to do the work yourself. If you started a book and just don't have enough time to finish it, how many hours did you put in? How many pages did you get done? How many pages do you think the book should be? If it is an editing job, go through and do a spell check. See how long it takes MS Word to check your paper and then multiply that by 10.

Once you have really thought about your project, how much you can spend, and how much time you think it is going to take (based on how much time it would take you to do it), then you can get an idea of what kind of freelancer you can hire. Do the math. If you can only afford to pay $5 or less per hour, you need to find a freelancer that could make that much and live on it in their geographical location. Note: Freelancers in developed nations will need a minimum of $10-$20 per hour. A good freelancer can live in a third world country- but don't expect them to give you perfect English. If you look at my slop-shod blog posts and turn your nose up because they need better editing- you probably won't be happy with a third world freelancer. Also, keep in mind that better freelancers don't want to just scrape by in the country of their choice. You can look in plenty of manuals to find out the average cost freelancers charge to do your job, too. That perfect English writer living in Malaysia is going to want to make a little more than $3/hr he or she will need to support himself or herself. You need to be realistic about what you can afford and then figure out how to make that work- or just don't post the job.

Once you have thought about how much it is going to cost and what you can afford, you need to post a specific job. "Editing job: Need some editing done" is not a good job post. You need to tell the freelancer up front how much you can afford and then tell them a little (no more than 5 sentences) of your story- why you want this done. Most freelancers want to connect with the project in some way and this will help them. Then you need to outline exactly what it is you want done- you may have to look up the terminology to do this. Do you want someone to format your book? Do you want someone to proofread your book (formatting and last round of editing)? Do you need a ghostwriter or will the author get credit? You need to know what you want before you post it. If you have a sample of the work (don't post the whole thing), you should include it. Again, all these things help the freelancer decide if you are going to be a good fit.

Hiring the right freelancer begins with knowing exactly what you want. If you are vague and the freelancer guesses wrong, it will lead to dissatisfaction on both sides.

Updated note: If you are hiring a freelancer because you want them to write an e-book from scratch that you can post on Amazon and it will be an immediate bestseller, you might as well expect disappointment now. If it were that easy (as plenty of others claim it is), then the freelancer would not be offering their services. They would instead be a famous e-book author. Selling books on Amazon requires good writing (which is expensive), good formatting and layout (which can be expensive), and good marketing (which is even more expensive). If you want people to buy your books and keep buying your books, you have to devote time and money to doing it - in addition to hiring good freelancers.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Why is it when you look online you can find many different ways to do Harvard style citations?

So, one employer asked me to take a test to show I have editing skills. This is not the first time I have employers require tests (even though I have already taken tests through Guru and they are displayed on my profile). However, as all of you should know, editing is not cut and dried: This is right; this is wrong. Yes, certain things are right and certain things are wrong, but there are some things that change depending on the style manual you are using. The last time I did an editing test for an employer, I was told I failed because I did not know which style manual they were following (after the fact, I determined it was probably Chicago style, which is my least favorite).

Before taking this test, I asked which style it would cover. I was told APA and Harvard. The first part of the test was simple, but then the second got tricky. When I came to the first Harvard style question: "Which is the correct way to cite this reference in Harvard style?" Neither of the two answers was correct: (Wayne, Smith, Johnson, & McClennen, 2014) OR (Wayne, Smith, Johnson and McClennen, 2014). The correct in-text, parenthetical, Harvard style citation would be (Wayne, Smith, Johnson & McClennen 2014). This happened for three questions- I only guessed correctly one of the three times.

Needless to say, I went online to find out why this test was messed up- after all they had to use some resource that obviously wasn't the original (which is the Style Manual for Authors, Editors and Printers, 6th Ed. 2002). What I discovered was that people are confusing Harvard style (which is a complete style guide) with the Harvard system of referencing. I also think I know why Harvard style is called Harvard style even though it is from Australia.

It all started when a Harvard professor decided to use the in-text citation at the turn of the 20th century. The other methods of citation use footnotes and endnotes (Vancouver- IEEE uses this). Technically, any parenthetical citation in-text is the "Harvard" system and that is probably why the AGPS became known as Harvard style. However, some people use "Harvard" to refer to the name-date parenthetical style. This is where it gets confusing. If, as some people on the Internet claim, Harvard style refers simply to a citation system where you use the name and date in parenthesis- it has nothing to distinguish it from, say, APA which is also a name-date citation style. In general, if professors and journals want any name-date style, they will simply say use a "name-date citation style." (Or that is what they should say rather.)

Internationally, commas are frowned upon as a general rule (sad, but true). So the AGPS, which is the official style manual of Australia, is an international standard when house style manuals are not used. Keep in mind that Harvard style is a full style guide. If you are writing a thesis in Austrailia, you will be required to follow it. Harvard referencing or the Harvard system of referencing only means you should not be using foot- or endnotes. Keep in mind, though, that many of the websites talking about Harvard referencing (1) Are university websites compiled by librarians and seem to be based on what the librarians themselves prefer, and (2) have no clue what they are talking about: One stated that MLA was a footnote/ endnote referencing style. MLA is actually a parenthetical style (like Harvard) that uses the author and page number (instead of author-date).

So, that is why there is the confusion about style online. Some people (and universities) have created their own style guides using Harvard referencing as their citation method. This is very wrong of them to do. If they want to use Harvard referencing, they should call it the name-date system to help avoid confusion. Especially since they use "Harvard referencing" to specifically mean name-date as opposed to parenthetical referencing. In general, I think it is due to a lack of knowledge- kind of like when I bought the Harvard Blue Book, which is not a style manual but a legal citation guide. To further reduce confusion, Harvard style should go back to being AGPS style, but that will probably not happen.

So, your professor told you to write a paper and you don't know if you should follow the style manual or just cite works using an author-date system- what do you do? First, if you follow the Harvard style manual, you won't get marked down- or if you do you have a case you can present and you should win. (You did know you can appeal university grades, right?) Second, if you don't want to purchase the Harvard manual, you could just use its method of citation (follow the link above under "Harvard style"). Third, you could ask your professor what exactly is meant and impress (or irritate) him or her with your knowledge of citation and referencing systems. Or, fourth, you could hope your professor meant Harvard referencing, find a citation method that is name-date that you like, and be consistent throughout.

Consistency is the key with anything. That is the whole reason style manuals were developed- so you didn't use serial commas in the first paragraph and drop them elsewhere (for example). In fact, that is the whole reason Webster wrote the dictionary- so there would be more consistency in spelling. As an editor, consistency is the number one thing I have to fix.