Finding help on the internet can be a dicey proposition. After all, even online marketplaces like Beepoly, where we interview providers, validate their personas, bank accounts, etc. still recommend that you use your judgment in dealing with freelancers just as you would with offline businesses and corporations. People, in general, can be fickle, so if you don’t want to get burned, you need to do some of your own research.
Before anything else, inspect the profile of the service provider you’re interested in. A service provider’s profile is the first thing any prospective customer sees, so if they take their business seriously, they should take their profile seriously. Did they?
Do they have a photo of themselves? How about sample photos of their work? Are their descriptions of themselves and their jobs clear? You don’t necessarily want to disqualify anyone who has a simple misspelling in their job description, but if they can’t take their profile seriously, how can you expect them to take the job seriously?
Your next stop is reviews. Marketplaces like Beepoly want to be in the business of recommending service providers who do a good job. This is why we allow our customers to review service providers they’ve hired. The better the reviews, the more trustworthy the provider, but you should also consider the number of reviews your prospective service provider has.
Someone who has a five-star rating and only a few reviews is not necessarily going to be better than someone who has a four-star rating with more reviews. Naturally, the longer someone is in business, the harder it is to maintain a five-star rating. However, you shouldn’t forget that this also means they have more experience.
That said, you shouldn’t necessarily assume that someone who has relatively few or no reviews is inexperienced or unable to do the job. Beepoly can only list reviews for jobs arranged on the marketplace. They have no way of knowing if a new account is the result of someone learning a new skill, or if it’s someone who has been doing the job for years and only recently decided to dip their toes into the online world. It could even be a recent graduate with a History major who can still create a very informative and entertaining tour of New York City.
When you’re looking for an independent provider, you want someone who takes the job seriously. In short, you’re either looking for a more expensive professional or someone newer but dedicated and eager to work. However, you can’t guarantee that someone who has a professional-looking profile will actually act like a professional. It’s easier to look like a pro than be a pro.
What you can do, however, is ask questions. If you’re trying to differentiate between several candidates for a job, you might want to send them each a message. Ask music tutors what their favorite songs to play are and if they have a recording of them. You can ask whether they’ve done something like your job before, or any qualifications they didn’t include in their profile. You may also ask them for references. One of the best ways to judge a potential service provider’s professionalism is to describe the job you want doing and ask how they’d approach it.
Know that you’re not only looking for a right or wrong answer. You’re looking for responsiveness, attention to detail, and willingness to provide additional information. You can’t expect a freelancer to answer immediately as they often ignore e-mail when it’s time to work, but you can expect a response relatively quickly. Most service providers will check their messages at least once or twice a day, so if you don’t get an answer within 24 hours, you’re probably dealing with someone who isn’t going to respect your time. You’re probably better off with someone else.
The other thing you’re looking for is attention to detail. If you message a local freelancer about a job, you should refer to the job in general terms. That allows the service provider to demonstrate that they have the expertise you need by asking more specific questions about the job. Professionals generally like to know the scope of a job before they quote a price. They know what their time is worth and they’ll need details about how long a job will take.
You probably shouldn’t limit your research to what you can find on Beepoly. The internet is a vast repository of information, and if the person you’re looking at has been doing business very long, there is a very good chance someone has said something about them on the internet.
Do a Google search using the name of the person or company you’re considering and put the name in quotes. That tells Google that you’re looking for those specific words in that specific order. That’s important because you’re not interested in looking at people who have similar names but are in a different business. Along those same lines, consider putting the type of work you’re looking for in the same search as the name.
Ideally, you’d enter something like “John Carver” tutor or “Mary Goodfellows” wedding planner. This will help ensure that what you get in return really relates to the person or business you’re researching.
At Beepoly, we do our diligence on every service provider. With time, we will create more powerful research tools to help you choose providers faster and easier.
Once you’ve weeded out people who don’t seem to be taking their business seriously, there will probably be several service providers who could do your job to your satisfaction. Now is the time to have to select one.
You shouldn’t stop there, however. The single most important thing you can do to ensure a good relationship with a new service provider is to clearly communicate your expectations. If there are details that are important to you, mention them upfront. Describe what you want as specifically as possible and in the clearest terms possible. Let the provider know when you need it and make sure that you agree on a price before the provider starts work.
Finding help on the internet doesn’t have to be a trip to the wild, wild, west. Most people aren’t out to scam you, but the only way you can know for sure is to do your homework. When you find a service provider locally, you’ll find that they are almost always a pleasure to do business with.