Monday, 6 January 2014

Why cost shouldn't be your only consideration when hiring creatives

This is a true story.

For my fellow creatives, this is an anecdote. For me, it was a lesson. For anyone thinking of hiring creatives, it's something to think about.

This happened to me when I first started freelancing. The details are inconsequential, but I think the results show why hiring creatives cheaply can be a false economy.

A company was looking for a copywriter.

It all began when I was approached by a start-up company looking for a copywriter to write their first website.

I met with the clients. We seemed to get on well and had very similar ideas about the style and tone of the copy. Where they needed more help was in deciding on the content for their site.

I was happy to help. I spent a weekend researching their business and put together a proposal for us to discuss and develop. I submitted my proposal along with a rough quotation, which the clients had specifically asked for.

Admittedly, the quotation was high, but it needed refining. It was based on rough numbers of words and included everything I had researched. As I explained in my accompanying email, the figure included a lot of content they might not want to use and would, most likely, be reduced quite considerably. 

I didn't get the job.

I was never given the chance to talk them through my proposal. Another copywriter had provided a cheaper quote and the company had decided to accept it. 

A couple of months later, I decided to look up the website as I was curious to see the finished result. I typed in the URL, but there was no website, just a holding page.

Six months passed by and still no website. 

Eight months, nine months, ten months and still nothing. 

I wondered what could have happened. Why was a standard website taking such an inordinate amount of time?

Maybe the clients had been indecisive. Maybe one of their creative team had let them down. Maybe there were technical issues. Maybe the clients hadn't paid.

Finally, a website appeared.

I continued to check the URL at regular intervals, but the holding page was still there. 

Then, more than 12 months after I submitted my quote, a website finally appeared — and it was a catastrophe.

Long lines copy spanned the entire screen.  There were spelling mistakes. At various points the copy ran underneath photographs and disappeared from view completely.

The organic SEO had not been applied properly. Headings and page titles were missing.

'Customers', including Fred Bloggs and John Doe, had given strangely identical testimonials.

The stock photographs used were poor-quality, watermarked composite images, which had not been properly downloaded or, indeed, paid for. 

The site was littered with paragraphs of Lorem ipsum placeholder text, where it was still waiting to be finished.

The site looked like a bad mock-up — a rough design put together for the client to comment on. It should never have been displayed like this, at the URL that potential customers were being directed to. Yet here it was and here it stayed, in that state, for three months.

How could this have happened?

Had the clients approved this? Did they even know the site had been uploaded? Surely the creatives who had designed and copy-written the site must have realised it was a mess.

Seeing the site reaffirmed to me how much value my services add to the projects I work on. If I had been involved in this project, my professional pride would have stepped in. 

I would have proof-read my work and corrected the spelling mistakes. I would have liaised with the web designer to highlight all the problems I saw. I would have done my best to insist that the site was taken down until the amendments had been made.

Don't let the same thing happen to you

The creatives you hire will be representing you. Their work will communicate your brand to your potential customers. It should do so with the same passion and professionalism you use in every other aspect of your business — if not more.

Here are some things to think about.

  • Price is important, but it's not the only consideration. You also need to make sure you find someone you feel comfortable with, someone who shares your vision, someone conscientious and reliable with the skills to complete your project successfully. Before you approach anyone, take time to peruse their website, view their portfolio of work, look at their credentials and read their testimonials.
  • Set a schedule with dates for the completion of each stage of the project. This is particularly important if you are working with several individuals. Coordinating the project successfully means that everyone knows where they stand and when they will be required to start work on their part. It also gives you the best chance of having your project completed in a reasonable time.
  • Be prepared to keep a check on the work that is being done. If the creative side isn't your area of expertise, assign someone you trust to look over it for you. If you are commissioning a website, your web designer should upload the site to private area for you to view it. The private area is only accessible via a password that your designer will give to you. If you can see your site online without entering a password, then it is likely that other people can too.
I am an experienced and skilled copywriter who has worked on a wide variety of projects, including websites.

If you need a copywriter to help with your new project, why not consider me? You can find out more about me, my skills and the work I have done on my website.

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