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Why paid-membership job sites may not be right for you

I tested a paid-membership site for freelance writers (my personal form of freelancing) and realized in the course of several weeks that it was the wrong choice for me. I found that it distracted me from focusing on my primary niche, marketing communications for the insurance industry.

I am talking about writing-specific sites, not the big, general ones such as Guru or Elance. I have scanned these sites but I have never fully signed up or applied for anything there.

Here’s how the recognition of this problem played out for me. See if it resonates with you.

As background, there are several paid-membership websites specifically for freelance writers that list freelance assignments with links or sufficient information to enable you to apply for them. I will not reveal in this post the site I used because I do not wish to imply that there was anything wrong with the site. Customer service questions and complaints were handled promptly. It was no secret that the postings were gleaned from elsewhere on the internet; they were not exclusive to this program—not so good but it was honest. When I left the list, it was easy to cancel effective immediately. All in all, the program was well run and ethically managed.

Still, there were no listings during my membership period that exactly fit my niche. This had me considering assignments of a financial or business nature that were close but no cigar, such as how to save money by maintaining a formal household budget or how to manage a charge-card account.

In a few instances I put a little work into a customized response, but more often I skipped over all the listings for the day. I didn’t get any assignments. No harm done . . . unless you count a little wasted time as a problem. (Me, I waste time on the computer every day so nothing unusual here.)

The problem is that I took my attention away from what is important for me—finding the best prospects in my own narrow niche and contacting them directly.

There is something pleasant about having leads land in the inbox without effort and having the luxury to pick and choose.

The problem is that the assignment leads may have generated tens or even hundreds of applications, all received within the same few days. I had no way of knowing how widely they were disseminated and how many responses they attracted.

I was hoping to find assignments so close to my niche that I could land them at respectable rates and that my qualifications and portfolio would set me apart and make me the clear winner.

During the limited time period I participated, I did not see such projects listed.

I had to decide, do I want to go after assignments for which I am not clearly the best qualified? Do I want to price low enough to compete in an area where I am not otherwise the leader? And on the flip side, are the hiring managers much more interested in price than in specific qualifications anyway?

I came to the conclusion that I was taking my attention away from what has always worked for me—phoning the marketing managers most likely to need my work rather than competing against large numbers of other writers for assignments that I am only moderately qualified for.

And then there’s the question of money. If I wasn’t actively applying for assignments, why pay for the membership service?

Yes, there were some instructional and motivational elements to the membership program, but they were of much less interest to me than identifying actual writing assignments.

So it’s back to the phones for me!

Originally posted 6-23-14

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