ElanceoDesk, and other "bid-for-project" freelancer portals have exploded in popularity since the recession hit several years back. Increasingly, organizations desperate to accomplish more with shrinking-by-the-minute budgets are turning to such sites again and again as an alternative to expensive agency relationships.

But with every freelance Tom, Dick, and Harriet out there clamoring for a slice of your marketing budget, how can you make sure you don't get burned?

Each time you dangle a ripe, juicy project over a vast pool of snapping freelancers, the resulting bloodbath could leave you wondering whether it was worth it. You need to get yourself schooled in the following three critical areas before wading into the fray:

  1. Rates. What's a reasonable amount to pay for a freelance writer in your industry?
  2. Skill. What skill level should you expect when working with that kind of freelancer?
  3. Reputation. Does your freelancer have a good reputation in his or her field?

When working with freelancers, "let the buyer beware" is a good rule of thumb. If you aren't careful in the due-diligence process, you may be in for more than you bargained for (literally).

From a Writer's Standpoint

OK, I admit it: Most experienced, reputable freelancers I know wouldn't be caught dead on one of those sites. Some of it is about ego―but there's more to it. Do those freelance portals make a skilled professional feel like one of the desperate "single gals" called out onto the dance floor to catch the bouquet at a wedding? Definitely.

It's never great when a writer with 20 years of demonstrated experience is judged against someone with a murky background (or, worse, no background whatsoever) who will crank a project out for two cents per word.

From a Business Standpoint

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Anita Williams Weinberg is an online content strategist, social marketer, and copywriter. Her company, Poppermost Communications, specializes in case studies, social media content, and strategic Web copy for the technology industry.