Freelance Keyworders Plus and Minus

With the downturn in the economy, there has reportedly been a surge in numbers of freelance keyworders.  This pool of labour can fill an important gap, but there are potential problems too.

There is a clear advantage in being able to add such people to your staff quickly, and dispense with their services when they are no longer needed.  Often they have good skills, having keyworded for a photo library or libraries before.  At the very least they will have knowledge of the picture business if they have come from sales or the photography side of a photo library.  Ideally then, freelance keyworders can be a pool of skilled labour which can be called upon whenever the need arises.

So what could possibly be wrong with that?

To start with, the ease with which freelancers can be employed is very much a double-edged sword.  As easily as you can dispense with their services, they can decide to work elsewhere.  This is particularly so if the work you offer them is sporadic.  It is likely that in time they will find more regular work elsewhere, and the next time you call them they will already be booked.

There is also a tendency for the overall pool of freelancers to expand and contract based on economic conditions.  Those keyworders who are working freelance may well be doing so out of necessity, and when a permanent position comes up they are likely to take it, especially if it’s their old job.

Freelancers, for all their skills, will always need some level of training.  If your system has a controlled vocabulary, that might be considerable.  If you’re likely to keep that person a long time that’s great, but if they are likely to leave in a short time, then it might not make economic sense.

Because freelancers are not on staff, you have less control over what they do.  Should a bad mistake be made with keywords – perhaps even libellous or with other legal consequences – you may not be in much of a position to call them to account.  Day-to-day supervision may be a problem if the freelancer wants to work from home.

So before hiring freelance labour, read through these tips:

  1. Find out early about their work intentions – Is this a temporary state of affairs, or are they likely to be loyal (proxy) staff members?
  2. Ask who else they work for – If there is a big company using their services, you are likely to run into availability problems.
  3. Get references from previous employers – Just because someone says they are a keyworder, it doesn’t mean they are good or even have experience.  Even if they have experience in one type of keywording, it may not be transferrable to what you need.
  4. If possible, use them for work requiring little training – That will keep down costs and make them easier to replace.
  5. Think carefully about whether to have freelancers work from home – It is far harder to train them and give timely feedback about their work when they aren’t in your office
  6. Don’t be seduced by the relative cheapness – quality of keywording is a major consideration, so don’t fall into the trap of sacrificing quality just to save a little money.
  7. Get them on a contract if possible – Try to get them to commit to a regular amount of work to solve the problem of availability, provided that would fit with your workflow – a regular commitment may not work for you.
  8. Before going down the freelance route, consider very carefully other option – It may well be better to hire them permanently or use an outsourced service which has just as much flexibility but is far more reliable.
  9. Count the full cost – Before hiring, work out exactly how much a freelancer will cost, including the cost of them being in the office, being trained and supervised.
  10. What if they up and left? – Consider how badly your business would be affected if the freelancer up and left without warning.