In my last post, I talked about a few of the red flags that stand out from freelance writing project descriptions. In my opinion, writers who do their best to vet potential clients even before the negotiation or bidding process can save themselves a lot of hassle later on. Not all writers are a good fit for all clients, and learning how to identify which projects might not work out for you can help you to avoid possible problems down the road and allow you to focus your attention on clients who are a better match for your skills and working style.
One of the most common red flags that I encounter are what I call “mystery projects.” These involve project descriptions that are almost entirely devoid of any details – the opposite of the overshare I described in my last red flag entry. Most of the time they read something like, “Articles wanted – please send bids,” or “Looking for writer to handle web articles – topics will be revealed to selected applicant.” It evokes a certain “Spy vs. Spy” aura, that somehow the project details can only be revealed to a chosen few at the appointed hour – written in the online equivalent of disappearing ink.
The issue with this type of posting is that writers are essentially going in completely blind. There isn’t a writing project out there that is so top secret that it can’t be at least described in broad terms. To be sure, many companies are unwilling to elaborate on their writing needs in detail in a public posting, but at the same time, it is more than acceptable to write “X number of articles needed, Y number of words each required, on the topic of (General Description).”
This simple yet very effective descriptive strategy informs applicants as to the depth and breadth of the project. It also provides what is possibly the most important detail of all – the topic. If a writer can’t divine what a client wants them to write about, 90 percent of the time they will move on to the next posting that actually does take the time to fill them in on the project at hand.
As a writer, you also need to consider what a project description that is bereft of detail suggests about a future working relationship. If the potential client did not have the time or foresight to accurately describe the work order – arguably the most important part of initial communications – then that doesn’t bode well for any communications past that point.
There are plenty of well written project descriptions out there posted by clients who are looking for a competent writer capable of doing a good job. Skip over the vague, the empty and the confusing projects that you encounter and invest your proposal time in answering those instead.