Feb 25, 2014 - Personal    No Comments

Tips For Freelancers on Screening Potential New Clients on Craigslist

As a freelancer, I have many resources for finding new contracts and clients, but I’ve had the most luck finding excellent clients through Craiglist. A lot of freelance information sites will say not to bother with Craigslist ads in the search for work, but I’ve really had more luck there than with cold emailing and specialized transcription and freelance job boards.

Yet, for every good company I’ve signed on with, like A and P Transcription, I’ve rejected at least five. I now have enough experience looking for work on Craiglist to quickly catch the companies that won’t be worth my time.

Let’s start with the ad. Very few companies put their details on the Craigslist ad, so for an initial review, I look at the kind of work that is expected and the pay, if that is included.

When I see an hourly rate for transcription, I know the client has no experience working with transcriptionists, so I send my stock email detailing my qualifications and explain that I charge per audio minute because it creates a flat fee for the project.

I very rarely get jobs from these kinds of ads because people who know nothing about transcription have no idea of how long it takes to do the work and can’t fathom that the $75 per audio hour rate only represents an hourly work rate of $18.75. And if they can, then they usually find that rate is way too much anyway.

I’ve probably gotten a half dozen jobs over the years from an ad like this and only one repeat client. I still reply to them because it takes just a minute of my time, but I don’t expect anything to come out of the email.

If a per minute rate is given in the ad, then that tells me the client likely knows a little about the transcription world. If the rate is half decent, then I send my stock email without mention of rates.

The second stage of screening comes when the prospective client replies to me. I am now going to give two concrete examples to explain why one seemingly promising email was rejected while one email with red flags turned into an ongoing job.

Last week, I replied to a Craigslist ad seeking experienced legal transcriptionists. The per minute rate was excellent, so I fired off an email. Sunday afternoon, I received an email containing instructions and attachments for a transcription test. The test was a of reasonable length with clear instructions and decent quality audio.

But the email had a huge red flag: absolutely no client information.

I have no problem spending a half hour completing a transcription test, it’s just part of the process of getting a client, but before I spend that time, I want to know if it’s a client I’ll want to work with. When there’s a transcription test involved, I’m dealing with a transcription firm, so there’s always information on the web about them. The transcription community is quick to review firms, both good and bad.

I pasted some of the text of the email into Google and found a link to a site that gave a lot of information about the company who sent the email. What I found was not good. There was an issue with lack of payment to transcribers as well as lawsuits under an old company name. Now, it appeared that the firm had reorganized itself under a new name.

Just in case my research was wrong, I replied to the email asking for the company for some information about themselves before I take the test. I don’t expect a reply.

Now, compare this to my experience with A and P Transcription.

The owner’s reply to my initial email gave her full company information. I was able search for reviews of A and P Transcription immediately. I found one red flag, a Rip Off Report post that claimed that the owner, Heather, had stiffed transcribers out of a lot of money.

But I wasn’t a government analyst all those years without being able to read between the lines. And there were a lot of lines to read between because Heather replied in great detail to the claims in the Rip Off Report. Based on the two stories, I was able to determine that the only thing she had done wrong was hire unprofessional people who didn’t deserve to be paid.

I agreed to take some work with her and started slowly to see if she would pay when she said she would. Absolutely!

I’ve been working with A and P Transcription since October of 2013 and am thrilled to be on board. Their rates aren’t great, but the work is steady, I have always been given as much as I wanted to take on, I am paid promptly, I can talk to Heather about any issues, and, best of all, I know the week before what the following week’s workload is going to look like. In the freelance world of feast or famine, steady work like this is a rare treasure.

After I finish today’s work with A and P, I have to start on a new assignment for a seemingly shady company that I also found through Craigslist last fall. I took a chance on them and am happy I did. The work is sporadic and pays in 60 days, but it’s interesting and the unexpected little injections into the cash flow are most welcome.

The takeaway from this is that when you’re going through Craigslist ads, it’s important to be cautious and to do a lot of research, but it definitely doesn’t pay to be cynical or to jump to conclusions without all the facts. I just about never bother with my other resources now!

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