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Table Of Contents  The Online Freelancing Guide
 >  Finding and Evaluating Online Freelancing Projects
      >  Specific Online Freelancing Project Warning Signs

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Guru Magic "Magic Phrases" Like "This is a Simple an Easy Task For Someone Who Knows What They are Doing"

Self-declared “Internet marketing guru” Matt Bacak once published a list of tips on how to “take advantage of outsourcing through Elance.com”. Included in that press release is this now famous—or perhaps better put, infamous—suggestion:

Use the phrase, “This is a simple and easy task for anyone that knows what they are doing.” This phrase will attract the best person for the job at the cheapest price.

I’m not sure if Mr. Bacak was the one who first came up with this particular phrase. But the article was written in early 2007, and since that time, it has shown up in hundreds, if not thousands, of online freelance project listings. I’ve also seen other so-called “freelancing experts” repeat this phrase, or others like it, all of which follow the same theme: “use this line and you’ll magically get great work done cheap”.

Unfortunately, we live in a society where many people are looking for a free lunch. Too many clients actually believe that merely tacking on a particular sentence at the start or end of a project description will let them get cheaper bids without any other consequences. What they don’t realize is that not only do these “magic phrases” not work as described, they are actually a major turn-off that can cause qualified freelancers to instantly ignore their project listings. And for good reason.

These comments are like fingernails on a chalkboard to every freelancer I’ve ever spoken with, and it’s not hard to understand why. First, it’s degrading to tell people that the work they do is easy, as I discussed in the topic on client attitude. And second, the implication here is that if a freelancer doesn’t find the work “easy”, then this means the freelancer must be incompetent.

The truth is that sometimes projects really are easy to do, but clients rarely know when this is the case. I’ve seen projects listed with a budget of $50 that I wouldn’t have taken on for several times as much, and I’ve bid under $100 for projects that a client thought would cost nearly a thousand.

Even when this mantra is true, consider: if the work is easy for someone who knows what they are doing, that doesn’t mean you don’t pay for them knowing what they are doing! An appendectomy is a routine procedure for an experienced surgeon, but that’s only because of the time and money that the surgeon put in to get good at what he or she does. It doesn’t mean that the person hiring for the procedure should get it for a song! Would the people who say things like that line use them on a doctor, lawyer or other professional they encounter “offline”? Almost certainly not. And if they did, they’d promptly be shown the door.

The clients who use these phrases often don’t mean any harm: they have been led astray by bad advice, and are often really not thinking through what they are saying and what it implies. If you don’t see any other warning signs on a project containing one of these phrases, you might be able to safely look past this sort of petty annoyance and bid on the project anyway. In fact, it might even be a more mature and practical response than having a visceral reaction and skipping to the next listing immediately, as many freelancers do.

But even if you perceive no ill intent on the part of the client, consider what it says about his or her attitude, judgment and willingness to pay fair rates that he or she took this approach at all. Even if he or she is following someone else’s advice, the primary motivation here is greed—a desire to get something for less than it is worth. And that something is your time and expertise.


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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012

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