From AudioBrain to AudioBrain.Language or Intermediate Freelance As It Is

    When developing our first AudioBrain project, which I talked about in a previous article on Habrahabr, I mentioned that, due to the specifics of the application and the lack of our own production resources, we were forced to turn to freelancers for help, which was our first such experience , as well as the opportunity to look at the whole process “ from the other side ”. After the release, we switched to creating a new AudioBrain.Language application, which should have been an adequate answer for those who consider themselves unable to learn a foreign language (in short, for people like me). The new application set us new and more complex tasks, for the solution of which we needed specific help from specialists. Therefore, we once again decided to turn to the services of freelancers, and we decided to share the experience of the interaction obtained, licking wounds and bruises, with the entire honorable audience of Habrahabr.

    Perhaps it’s worth adding that both my partner and I have repeatedly worked on freelance jobs with varying success in various fields, so we knew from my own experience what difficulties there are when working with customers and what can be expected even from the most adequate client. Well, and of course, we remembered the nonexistent " ideal client"... Based on our experience, as well as imagining what we want, we have prepared certain rules and requirements for working with freelancers, which are gradually being developed taking into account new situations and new experiences. We would like to share these rules and tips with you in this article. Of course, all projects have their own specifics, but the general rules work with freelancers, regardless of the area in which they provide their services.
    So, in this article we will tell:

    1. How to search and choose the right artist for your job.
    2. How to negotiate with a potential contractor.
    3. How to set an honest price for the work and be able to argue it.

    1. Statement of the problem

    There is one good expression: “ to ask the right question, you need to know at least half the answer in advance .” Why am I writing this? Before setting a task, it is important to clearly understand what you want to get in the toga and it is very desirable to understand what is at stake. I am well aware that, given our reality, it is far from uncommon that a project is developed by a team consisting of one person who is “ both a reaper and a conductor. ” Therefore, this advice is advisory rather than mandatory.

    Based on our own experience in the fields of freelance, we expected that with the setting of tasks everything would be more or less simple. But, as it turned out, there are problems from scratch, related, oddly enough, to the age and mentality of the performer, as well as the " theme " of the assignment. In our case, the tasks were divided into three uneven groups:

    Group I: Voice over of media files

    There are guys who work not just well, quickly and cheaply, but very well, quickly and cheaply. And there are guys who bend prices in a straight place, often get sick, and generally neglect the tasks. Between these diametrical poles there are still performers of the third type who relate to the execution of work with understanding, if you can find the right approach to them. During the development of our application, we managed to intersect with all groups of performers.

    For example, a Russian freelancer sometimes completed an order right on the day of the order! And the Italian lost his voice and was able to complete the task only after a week, about which he had warned in advance and apologized. To which we replied that this also happens, and wished to recover soon.

    But when we needed to voice the task, which was not included in his budget and plans, although later he agreed to do it, which was very nice.

    Group II: Translation (translators) A

    rather interesting story came out with the translation. Basically, there are online translation services such as Gengo. So, if the volume of the text is less than 200 words, then you can do it through such a service, sometimes it turns out much faster and cheaper. But if the volumes are more than one DIN A4 page, then using freelancer services is much cheaper. To be honest, sometimes it’s so cheaper that sometimes it’s even a pity to pay so little for such work!

    In our case, working with freelancers had a specific goal. After the translation of the texts, the verification of the translation (proofreading) should follow. This is especially true for languages ​​that you do not know at all. By hiring a person to record a translation, we received free proofreading, and in real time we could discuss errors in translations and ask for improvements. Such a control system allowed us, on the one hand, to achieve a decent quality of translation and voice acting, and on the other hand, to save a little money. At the same time, it is important to mention once again that the translation and dubbing was done by different people!

    Group III: iOS Application Development (developers)

    We took the freelancer version of AudioBrain for iOS from India. This imposed a certain cultural filter on the entire work process, with which we had to adapt along the way. Unlike translators, developers it is very important to keep in control and be in contact with them all the time. Repeatedly there were paired programming sessions when the Indian got stuck at some points. Also often had to sit with him for hours on Skype, trying to understand the cause of errors, while viewing listing with code.

    Developers are a kind of freelance paladins. It is very important for them to prepare a technical task taking into account the fact that there will still be not enough information, and many things will have to be repeatedly explained on the fingers in correspondence or on Skype. Therefore, you need to be patient, and not try to write a detailed technical task with the desire to take into account all the pitfalls. However, this has a definite plus - a description of the algorithms and a discussion of some features in words in the chat can be done much faster. But ... when working with a developer, never demand or even hope for the full completion of deadlines and the timely delivery of milestones with tasks. Anyway, something will be done clumsily or will not be done or will be cut back or require additional payment. It’s also worth remembering

    But, knowing all this in advance, you can save nerve cells and hair, which in another situation, you just want to tear out due to a misunderstanding of the interlocutor. Therefore, it will be optimal to tune in to work philosophically and, if possible, be ready to sit and code with the performer online. For example, my partner sent the Indian function code implemented in the Android version of Java so that he quickly understood how it could be implemented under iOS on Objective-C, which made them both happier: the programmer from the fact that he understood what was needed, and my partner from the fact that the work went much faster. It even got to the point that my partner was sitting and googling software solutions to implement our tasks, so that it would turn out to be the most optimal.

    Be very careful with developers, as the dependence on them is many times higher than on musicians, designers or translators. This is especially true in cases where you need to upgrade or refine, so try not to quarrel. Especially at the finish line when you are emotionally most devastated.

    2. Determining the budget.

    We will be honest. Being on the other side of the barricade, we want to get the highest quality service at the lowest possible cost. On the other hand, knowing from my own experience how money is not just earned, and how often they try to “ chop”, I believe that the most optimal working relationship develops when both the customers and the contractors are satisfied. Before continuing to write platitudes, it’s worth a little deeper into this idea. We all have very different requests, despite the fact that the level does not always correspond to the price. For example, when we searched for a “ voice"For the English voice acting, we liked the candidate, who turned out to be the BBC announcer, asking for such an immodest price for her services that it was even somehow inconvenient to bring here. But, thanks to this lovely young lady, we decided to abandon the female voice and came across a beautiful male English voice for a price three times lower. In addition, we liked the quality and speed of the artist we found so much that we several times later placed orders for voice acting with him.

    Therefore, carefully study the price requests of freelancers and their adequacy. And then compare with your own ideas about quality and value. Somewhere in the middle and there is an adequate price for the work.

    This is reminiscent of a discussion with one acquaintance about his desire to enter the Chinese market and not wanting to give 50% to intermediary firms ... As you know, he never entered the Chinese market, because it is "expensive." True, he forgot to calculate that 50% of the new market is much more than 100% of zero. Simple math.

    But sometimes it’s worth looking for compromises and flexibility. We had a case when for a long time we could not agree with the freelancer about the price at which the potential contractor wanted an additional 10%, and we tried hard to reason with it. Forgive me upwork (at that time it took 10% from the contract, now they have changed the prices and, unfortunately, not for the better), we just agreed with the freelancer directly and paid him via PayPal, so he did not need to give 10% for intermediary services upwork'u. To make it clearer, I’ll show you the numbers: for example, a freelancer wanted to get $ 500, so that by paying 10% upwork he would have $ 450 left. Through PayPal we paid him the same $ 450 directly and everyone was satisfied (probably everything except upwork).

    3. Search and selection of a candidate

    While working with freelancers, we followed several key rules:

    1. To be fair customers, with a clear understanding and definition of the range of tasks and aspects that must be completed and know the cost of such work.
    2. Do not be greedy and leave room for maneuver.
    3. Do not focus on one artist, so do not be afraid to experiment and part.
    4. Seek an opportunity to save your time.

    When choosing an artist for his work, it was necessary to find an acceptable balance between the price of the service and the quality of the freelancer. In our case, before choosing the price and quality, we first asked a few questions on the task itself. For example, wishing to order translations of texts and recording sound, we asked: “ Are you definitely an inactive speaker?” "," Are you sure you will do the work on time? "Or" do you understand what transliteration is and what it is of different types?". Simple enough questions that made it possible to find out the candidate’s motivation and adequacy in communication. Very often we asked to send a demo, which turned out to be a good indicator of the adequacy of the artist and played the role of a buffer. Responsible candidates voiced and wrote down one or two lines from the assignment, while less responsible candidates sent simply links to previously completed work. In addition, there were candidates who did not send anything at all, despite an unequivocal request for this in the announcement. We almost always gave the advantage to more responsible and “ quick ” candidates, as this showed us the person’s interest in the work and gave us a certain sense of confidence in the candidate.

    If the choice was not very large or we liked the candidate’s demo, we carefully read the reviews of former customers and decided “with our own instincts". The latter is worth a little more detail. Sometimes it happened that we had two or three candidates to choose from with approximately the same reviews and prices, and for all their positive qualities, our inner flair was categorically against everyone. In such cases, we simply refused to everyone and looked for new candidates or took more expensive performers. Such a decision, based on intuition, has never failed us. Once, at the very beginning, we had a situation where there was simply no choice, and we ordered a job from a person despite internal disagreement ... It ended up with the fact that later we had to order work from another artist, and besides, we got it on GooglePlay unit with a comment that we have German read by a robot from Google Translate. Therefore, we strongly advise relying on your inner instinct,not scientific about. " The first tip follows from this: Don't be afraid to trust your own instincts!

    Has it ever happened to you that when you first meet a person, before you even have time to exchange the first words, you already experience antipathy for him? This turns on our internal tracking system, which after checking the “ friend or foe ” is trying to warn us. When choosing a freelancer, you may stumble upon a great candidate, but your inner voice may tell you “ not worth it". So, do not dismiss this inner voice. We had situations when, because of our inner voice, we did not take a good candidate. If such uncertainty appeared, and when viewing the profile, prices and reviews were approximately the same, we did not take a single one. Sometimes this happened with people whose level was higher ... It was important for us to find a good performer, so sometimes it was easier to take a candidate who was more expensive, but more expensive does not necessarily mean better. An exception is when there is simply no choice. For example, when we were looking for a “performer” for a rare Latin language, we found out of tens of thousands of people only two candidates! As you know, here the choice was more than limited. Sober calculation is already coming to the fore: who is better, an American student or an Indian with many years of experience? We chose an Indian and,

    In the search for artists, we all, of course, first of all pay attention to the budget, examples of work and comments on them, as well as the time the person spent on the site. These three elements give us a certain inner calm when choosing a candidate. And what about candidates who have no or minimal comments, and their time spent on the site is estimated in weeks? Is it worth the risk?

    In our case, while searching for an Italian narrator, we came to a “newbie” on a site that turned out to be a fairly well-known Italian radio host with over 20 years of experience. Wanting to try himself in a new business, he was ready to do all the work for us for a relatively small amount of money, while warning in advance that the cost of his services would increase significantly in the future, and now he is working with a minimum price to gain feedback. In this situation, and given his experience and quality of work, this was honest, and we were warned in advance, in contrast to the same German who simply earned his voice between things.

    Here, however, there was a single, but significant minus. Given the fact that a person knew his own worth and was constantly at work, we had to adapt to his schedule.

    A separate sub-item of the candidate’s choice is its adequacy with respect to its own forces to perform a particular job. For example, I attract a programmer to perform a rather non-standard work, which can be conditionally called a task with an asterisk, a person after calculating the cost of work asked a little time to conduct tests and see if he can complete the work. After some time that he took to think it over, the man honestly informed that at the moment he was not able to realize the necessary function. It’s great when a person appreciates both his and others’s time! The worst thing is when a person takes upon himself obligations, and then breaks the deadlines and feeds them “breakfasts”, and it’s good if it ends with the work done of satisfactory quality

    4. Communication and control of work

    Before accepting the work done, it is worth saying that any result needs to be monitored, otherwise there is the possibility that you will receive not quite ready work. Before we closed each offer and paid for the work, we carefully studied the result and, if possible, checked through other freelancers, as in the example of “ proofreading ”.

    Interacting and communicating with a freelancer, you should not immediately rush into battle, but you should ask how he is doing and offer to exchange Skype contacts. In addition, after the first contact and acceptance of the offer, many people ask for Skype, which is also a good sign. Sometimes it makes sense to take a chance and ask the freelancer about a task that is not on his list of skills. As an example, a person who is engaged in dubbing can very well give sensible advice and comments regarding the quality of translation or help to find the content you need in his native language. That’s how, for example, we were to find Korean content for AudioBrain.

    And the last - if a person is a beginner, and you are his potentially first customer, you should not be afraid to give him a chance. Very often the price and level of work can surprise you very much. We all started with something ...

    5. Encourages and violations

    If there is a possibility and there is no fear of a “toad” that can “strangle”, you can sometimes thank the performer for a quality and quick work done with a small monetary incentive. This is a kind of tip for a freelancer. It sounds strange, but essentially the same thing.

    While working with one of the translators, we came across a rare kind of freelancers who not only quickly and efficiently did the work, but also added something on their own initiative from above. For example, the person who voiced the Arabic language corrected several phrases, prepared transcriptions for them in English, and at the end sent not one file with voice acting, which I then had to cut, but an archive with five hundred cut phrases and saved each in your audio file. How then could you not mark such a job? Therefore, the second tip: Do not be afraid to encourage a good job! .

    Of course, money is not superfluous, but if a person has done his job well, and if you have an emotional urge to encourage a person to work, do not strangle him in yourself. In the end, once you were in his place, and the "trifle" is always pleasant.

    In addition to financial incentives, it is considered good practice to leave positive feedback on platforms if you are satisfied with the work of a person. This will be a plus for you and him. Working with different artists, over time it will be much easier for you to compare them with each other and have an understanding of who should be encouraged for work and who is not. Do not be surprised if with one performer you have to procrastinate some question for a long time, and the other at this time half the price has already not only managed to start, but is also nearing the end of the work.

    Reasonable generosity is an injection against "downtime ”and“ force majeure ”. Despite the fact that the contractor does not intersect with the customer in any way, no one cancels human relations.  

    6. Pitfalls and force majeure

    Working with quality performers, we took for granted that the work is done very quickly and ... turned out to be hostages of our own illusions. When ordering Italian, we expected quick work, but every day the wait was delayed. Only three days later, when we asked about the “loss”, did the person write to us that he was sick and left for several days. Therefore, no matter how cloudless it seems, do not relax and forget about the importance of planning. We work with living people, which means that they can get sick, tired, they can have problems. Of course, when hiring a performer, we expect that nothing will happen “on our shift”, but anything happens. In addition, another interesting piece of advice comes from this experience: Don’t get attached to one freelancer! .

    According to the law of meanness, danger lurks where we do not even expect it. Imagine that the freelancer you hired is good for everyone: he is efficient, polite and gives work on time ... It would seem that everything is fine. But therein lies the trap. If we are talking about a small project where the services of this person may no longer be needed, then it is not a sin to encourage such an employee, but if the project is planned for a long time and the freelancer knows this, then ... gradually it turns into an analogue of kryptonite for the employer, starting to gradually raise the bar of your requests. For example, when we ordered the voice acting of the German language, we took a new narrator for the second project, since with the first we received a unit in the comment that we use robots, not people.

    After some searches, my partner and I settled on the candidate. The conditions were as follows:

    500 words (conditionally) = 100 euros (conditionally) => we get 5 words for 1 euro

    When completing the project, we decided to add another 70 words. And, of course, we were counting on a certain budget for such work:

    70 words (conditionally) = 25 euros (conditionally) => we get 2.8 words for 1 euro.

    As you can see, we were ready to pay 30% more for a small order.
    However, our German surprised us. At first, he said that now for orders less than 150 euros he refuses to take. But, given the fact that we have already worked with him, he is ready to meet us and voice 70 words for 100 euros. The following pattern came out:

    70 words (conditionally) = 100 euros (conditionally) => we get 0.7 words for 1 euro

    After a very short deliberation and stalled negotiations in the style of “ where is the logic?” "Freelaser was sent" on foot deep into the dark forest . "

    The reason for his act is explained very simply: a person decided that after the first recording we are on his hook and now we will be forced to agree to his terms so as not to spoil our voice acting in the application. In our case, we only had to find another suitable voice that agreed to do the work for the budget that we planned. Plus, throw in the end a little top for efficiency.

    Beyond the brackets :To be honest, today we are wondering what reins got to this freelancer, who could not explain to us what had changed over the week and why inflation occurred in his head ...

    In case someone considers us to be bad radishes and a freelancer a good fellow, you should note that the other six freelancers for Russian, English, Spanish, Italian, Arabic agreed to an “extra record” and did the work for the budget that was proposed. Therefore, we did not and do not experience doubts about our decision. Still, the team has weight, and demand is responsible for the supply.

    The conclusion follows :

    1. Do not tolerate arrogance and dishonest attitude towards yourself. If the price for one and the same job has increased many times without a reasonable explanation for this increase, terminate the working relationship.
    2. Do not get attached to one freelancer if he is not verified by a long working relationship. The market is full of guys who will perform work at the appropriate level according to your budget.
    3. Do not settle for " exceptions ", remember the saying "put your finger, bite your hand."
    4. Do not “be greedy” for good and honest comments. If the work is done well - write a good review and give 5 stars.
    5. Divide and conquer: never tell or show your project in full!

    7. Useful tips to keep in mind:

    I. When creating a project, you plan your budget, which is systematically allocated to pay for specific work. It is very desirable that you yourself could explain how you get the budget that you are ready to give to work.

    II.If you have decided on a budget for work and placed an order, stand firm on your budget. Very often there are people who are ready to gladly take on your order, but are asked to throw a little more on top. At the same time, interestingly, this happens regardless of the amount of money, tasks and type of activity. Therefore, do not be surprised when you put a task for $ 100, and offers come to do everything for $ 300, so always insist on your budget. In the end, freelancers are more than enough, and tasks can always be undone or supplemented.

    III.Long-term work with some freelancers is comparable to the development of a base in any free online strategy: buying the first territory costs 100 units, and already “buying” the second territory requires 10 levels and 10,000 units. Therefore, be mentally prepared for the fact that most often the first tasks are done by freelancers both cheaper and faster. But, with each subsequent task, they, understanding or believing that you are on their hook, require a large amount for the same amount of work or the same amount for a significantly smaller amount of work. Therefore, the following action pattern is recommended:

    1. Break your project down into a specific amount of work that needs to be implemented. Keep in mind that during work other works may appear that were not initially taken into account.
    2. Keep in mind that the rule “ the larger the volume, the cheaper ” also works for freelance, so try to give a large order initially at the lowest possible fixed price.
    3. Try to break up the tasks so that you can easily delegate the work to another contractor without harm to the budget, time and quality. For example, if initially one artist is engaged in the background for the game, and then suddenly another one comes in his place, then it will not be easy to maintain the overall style, no matter how good the artist is. On the other hand, if you work with one translator, then you can switch to another without harm to your wallet if the work is performed in the same high quality. Therefore, consider the specifics of your project or product. Here the volume rule should apply: "The importance of the freelancer and its dependence on it is directly proportional to the size of the job." This rule in its simplicity and importance is comparable to the Golden Section rule in design. It says that with small tasks, there are no irreplaceable freelancers, therefore, do not be afraid to argue, bargain and refuse conditions that are not convenient or suitable for you. If you hired a person, for example, to fully develop a version for your patterns for an unfamiliar platform, as in our case, then losing a person can lead to critical losses of both time and finances.

    IV. It happens that the freelancers you work with are busy. Yes, this happens too, because you are not the only customer. But if you really really want to continue working with the same artist, you sometimes have to plan content depending on which freelancers are currently available. Therefore, you should consider this before you plan your deadlines. It’s always good to have a spare.

    8. Conclusion

    L. Tolstoy once wrote that “ all happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way". The same can be said about working with freelancers. When you come across an executive, decent, professional and financially adequate performer, you don’t even think about any rules or advice, since such a working relationship is just a thrill. When the contractor is different from the image that you yourself imagine, and the process is already underway, it remains only to hope that the budget does not burst before the ordered work is done and accepted. Unfortunately, all those tips and recommendations that we mentioned in this publication are only our experience of filling up cones and actually our own pattern of communication and finding artists for work. On the other hand, perhaps our recommendations will help you in drawing up your own rules for searching and attracting third-party forces. Good luck and may the Mind be with you!

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