All writers need a workflow process to manage contacts, proposals, projects, and billing. You can do this any way you want, but some methods will be more chaotic than others.
You would think finding software to automate this administrative workflow would be easy. Nope. I spent months testing software and integrations for my freelance writing business. Here's what I found out:
Your must-have app is the one piece of software is most critical to your business.
I invoice clients online and need full-featured accounting, so Quickbooks Online is my must-have app. I use it because it is the gold standard for accounting programs, tax categories are provided so I can easily do my taxes, integrations are decent, and no contract is required.
To invoice and get paid online, you will need a merchant account to handle payment processing. Quickbooks has built-in payment processing for credit cards (including AmEx), ApplePay and bank transfers. The cost is 2.9% + 25 cents per online credit card payment if you bill less than $7.500 per month. Bank transfers are free.
Quickbooks doesn't handle foreign currencies. For that, I use Stripe because it is easy to set up and can integrate with Quickbooks. It costs 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction,
Quickbooks Simple Start: $20 mo. + 2.9% and 25 cents per e-invoice.
Quickbooks offers a built-in estimating feature, but it isn't very powerful. It has native integration with Quotient, which can produce basic quotes that would be appropriate for a caterer or lawn service (but not complex projects like branding).
Proposify integrates with Quickbooks online. It has reduced its pricing, making it more competitive with alternatives. However, if you want custom fields and variables, standard integrations, real-time chat, and a custom domain, the cost is $49 per user (payable per quarter). Proposify integrates with Stripe, so a prospect can approve the proposal and make a payment within the app.
PandaDocs also costs $49 per user per month. It does not offer more than Proposify (IMO) and the interface is less attractive because it does not separate content sections.
I have used NiftyQuoter for several years. It has many of the same features as Proposify but costs $19 mo. ($29 mo. with a custom domain). Prospects can leave comments (none do) and say why they rejected a proposal (none do), but the content library is chaotic compared to Proposify and the lack of real-time chat is a disadvantage. It integrates well with Quickbooks Online.
I prefer to invoice from Quickbooks, not the proposal software. This allows me to track accounts receivable within my accounting program.
NiftyQuoter: $19 per mo.
If you are a sole proprietor, project management software may not be worth the effort. I decided I was better off just using my calendars and reminder list to manage myself.... until I came across Airtable. Airtable is not just about managing teams who in turn produce work. It is about managing project elements. It's free, so yeah, I'll give it a go.
Airtable Essential: $0
Organizations with remote workers often use Slack as a collaborative tool. It offers a single platform that can organize messages and files for various communication threads. For a sole proprietor like myself, it is overkill. But I need to know how to use it because many of my clients do.
File sharing is another necessity. Documents files can usually be sent by email, but image files often require a file sharing service. For this, I turn to the free version of Dropbox, Google Drive or Apple iCloud.
My favorite is WeTransfer, which is free.
Google Drive: $0
Apple iCloud: $0
I use a variety of meeting tools. Skype (available from Microsoft) is the simplest and its free. I also buy a Skype phone number to use on my website so my real mobile number is not spammed to death. If you travel for work, a local Skype number can enable you to avoid roaming charges. Grasshopper is another good service for phone numbers.
I'm also a fan of Zoom. A basic meeting space is free and is ideal for one-to-one remote meetings.
Grasshopper: $29 + $10 taxes per year
Skype phone numberL $53 year
Microsoft Office is a necessity simply because everyone uses it. The suite comes with two other important tools, PowerPoint and Excel.
LivePlan is invaluable for creating readable, engaging business plans. Unlike a Word document, sections can be edited and moved around easily. Projections automatically update when numbers are changed. Comments can be added quickly. And LivePlan acts as a living document because it can be integrated with Quickbooks, so you can see whether you are meeting your benchmarks.
I also have Grammarly installed on Chrome. It's free and it just might catch a spelling error . So it can't hurt.
Balsamiq isn't really a writing tool. It is a content planning tool for websites. It allows you to map out the wireframes and content using simple, intuitive software. I am including it under writing tools because it is the best place to start when writing web content from scratch. I bought the standalone app last year for $89.
Acrobat Pro DC is useful for editing PDFs and creating forms. I use it to compile portfolio samples and e-books. It is $24.99 mo. without a contract.
Microsoft 365 Home and Office: $100 year
LivePlan: $20 mo. or $140 year
Balsamiq: $49 mo. o4 $89 for downloaded app
Acrobat Pro DC: $24.99 mo.
Airstory is a browser-based tool that allows you to clip and store research sources. It integrates with Office 365, WordPress, Medium, MailChimp, Proposify and a bunch of social media platforms. It started out as a writing platform, but Google Docs could do what it did. So now it is just a convenient way to source and store citations.
Research studies generally cost $2500 and up. I can't afford that for most projects. So I rely on Statista instead. It summarizes research from a broad range of studies. It is a strong general research database.
Data Hero creates beautiful tables and charts from raw data such as Excel sheets.
Statista: $49 mo. billed annually ($588)
Data Hero: $49 mo. billed annually ($588)
I need stock photos and illustrations for my website and occasionally for client sites. I subscribe to BigstockPhoto and sometimes buy individual photos from Shutterstock. I also use free sources like Pixabay, Unsplash, and Picjumbo for images.
I'm not a graphic designer so I don't know how to create mockups. That's okay, because I've discovered Placeit Mockups.
The Internet Archive is a repository of free books, movies, and music. I use it when I need a music loop for an animation. I also buy music from MelodyLoops. If I need a voiceover, I go to Voices.
For animations, I use Vyond, formerly GoAnimate. It is animation software designed for business people, not artists. The unbranded version (so you can use your own logo) is great but costly; I go the cheap route.
BigstockPhoto: $79 mo.
Placeit Mockups: $29 mo.
Vyond Personal (branded) is $49 mo and Premium (unbranded) is $89 mo.
I switched from Flywheel to WPEngine. It runs a little faster and the customer service is slightly better. The downside is that the interface is more complicated. I have one site with them, which costs around $45 mo..
I used WordPress and Oxygen builder. Oxygen builder is a great way to build sites without using a template. It cost $99 "on sale" and I can use it forever on as many sites as I like.
I host my domains at Hover. They run about $30 a year. Plus I buy email through them for one site. I use Google Apps for another email. I may switch and use Google Apps for both because the calendar integration is better and I like having access to the apps. Plus, it's easier to manage my Analytics account under a Google sign-in account.
Like most sites, BrandStampede uses a lot of images. Images can really slow down a site, which is deadly for SEO and the user experience. I size them in Pixelmator and I compress them using a paid version of Imagify.
I use Typeform to create lead capture forms. Because I use logic jumps and integrate with MailChimp, I have upgraded from the free version to the Pro version.
MailChimp is used to send out emails. I have not set up my email marketing but at some point I will. I will use their free plan which allows up to 2000 contacts.
WPEngine: $45 mo.
Hover Domains and Email: $30 year and $16 year
Google Apps Email: $12 mo.
Typeform Pro: $35 mo.
You gotta have the basics, namely WiFi and a smartphone. Plus a computer. I also use the free version of Dropbox to share large files. I use Apple iCloud to store documents; I also back them up using Time Machine.
Spectrum Internet: $60 mo.
TMobile: $70 mo.
iCloud Drive: $120 year
State Filing as LLC: $155 year
Essentials Total: $437.50 mo. /$5250 year
Grammar isn't style. Bad style is what you witnessed on the now-defunct reality show Duck Dynasty.
I'm talking about improper noun-verb agreements, fragmented sentences, wrong word usage, dangling modifiers, ad nauseam. Bad grammar is absolutely everywhere.
Businesses want to hire writers who can write grammatically because they think being grammatically correct is good.
But, sometimes, being ungrammatical is perfect.
James Joyce is considered one of the "most influential writers of the 20th century." (Source: Wikipedia). I ran a random paragraph from his masterpiece, Ulysses, through the online grammar checker Grammarly. There were 23 grammar and punctuation errors within one page.
Ernest Hemingway's "perfect paragraph" from A Farewell to Arms has 18 errors plus two punctuation mistakes.
Then there is the short article, Fear & Loathing in America, by the father of Gonzo Journalism, Hunter S. Thompson. Dr. Gonzo had 11 errors in Grammarly.
How about John Caples, possibly the greatest direct response writer of all time? His legendary "They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano" had 30 Grammarly errors, including one misspelling.
One of the most famous headlines ever written by adman David Ogilvy (“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.”) is missing a comma after "hour."
"Think Small" (Julian Koenig's landmark 1958 campaign for Volkswagen) and "Think Different" (Craig Tanimoto of TBWA Chiat Day's 1997 slogan for Apple) are both ungrammatical – and both became marketing beacons.
All of the following are ungrammatical or nonsensical, and all of them are great slogans:
I am really bad at proofreading my own work. I suspect this is the case for many writers.
You’d be surprised how far you can go without catching every typo. I’m come to accept the fact that there’s always a few that go out when I publish. Even with spellcheck and plenty of editing, I always miss a couple. One time, I even had a super obvious typo within a CTA for an email that went out to 100k+ people. How (sic) people mentioned it? Two. And how did it impact conversions? Not one bit. – Lars Lofgren
Sometimes, I hate it when I don't catch typos and regret it even more so when a client doesn't hire me because my proposal has a few random mistakes. C'est la vie, if I have to, I'll build in the cost of a proofreader.
Copywriters all are about brand voices and selling. They are also the most highly paid tier among writers.
If you do not need a brand voice or sales power, you'll save money by hiring a grammatically correct writer who knows how to communicate clearly.
If you need to sell a brand, product, or service, you will be better off with a solid (but sometimes ungrammatical) copywriter.
Back in the 1990s, it was relatively easy for good writers to thrive. They rose through structured funnels, such as ad agencies and newspapers, which taught them their craft and separated the wheat from the chaff.
Freelance copywriters obtained referrals from printers and pinch-hit at agencies. It was a small, hyper-local world where 250 words of sales copy sold for $300-$500. Freelance journalists could pitch their stories to hundreds of publications nationwide that paid a living wage; it was common to make $2 a word, but an important feature in a publication such as Vanity Fair or The Atlantic Monthly might pay $25,000 up to $50,000.
Of course, now the Best Decade Ever is solidly behind us. Anyone who writes for a living knows that.
Freelance journalist Scott Carney gave a 2015 interview to Pacific Standard Magazine in which he spoke about the commoditization of writing. On the one hand, you have "subsistence writers" who miserably and unprofitably pound out underpaid content. On the other end, you have writers like Scott who parlay a few articles into a nice lifestyle.
It's a perspective problem that writers see their work as a commodity. It's been my experience that if you go out there and sell your work as a piece of art, you actually are able to sell it for more money. –Scott Carney
In others words, it's up to writers to set their own worth. Part of that involves educating clients (without boring them to death) that writing is a bespoke product, much like fine carpentry. Buyers who want cheap, throwaway furniture can turn to Ikea. But buyers who want to nurture a brand need finely crafted copywriting. That will be more costly simply because it takes more time and expertise.
There's no need to shroud your pricing in secrecy. If you are unwilling to sell yourself short, a price list will pre-qualify prospects. You will spend less time putting together proposals for people who cannot or do not want to pay your rates. There is no shame in making a good living as a writer. The best of us perform a valuable service and help businesses to be more profitable. We are an investment, not an expense. Experienced writers know how much time and effort will go into most projects. While a final estimate tailored to the client's needs is a good thing (and it should include a contract), there is no reason not to be open about ballpark pricing.
Clients quickly catch on to whether you are worth their money. They gain insight into how you think by the questions you ask and the suggestions you make. If you dig deep into how the client's business operates and make worthwhile marketing recommendations, the client will come to view you as an important ally. As long as you help the client make dramatic improvements to his bottom line, you won't have to worry about your fees.
There are two broad types of writers: storytellers and spinners. Storytellers believe in their own stories and want you to share their conviction. Spinners care less about the story and more about the craft of shaping perception. At heart, storytellers are truth sayers and spinners are liars.
George Orwell's 1946 essay, "Why I Write," states four basic motives for writing, which exist in different degrees in every writer: "sheer egoism, aesthetic enthusiasm, historical impulse, and political purpose." But, based on research, what's the truth?
Over 100 published authors said why they write, and the reasons were all over the map, from self-expression to fulfilling a creative urge.
If you ask published writers at the tippy top of success what they like about writing besides the money, you are likely to get more examples of their creative abilities, like Truman Capote's statement, "To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it's about, but the inner music that words make."
William Somerset Maugham (a personal favorite) said, "Writing is the supreme solace." Solace for what? And why not chocolate ice cream?
Half of journalism students can't find work when they graduate, so why do they choose to major in it?
Most say they like to write, according to a former journalism instructor at San Francisco State University and the London School of Journalism, Gary Moskowitz.
But what do they mean by writing? Self-expression has nothing to do with journalism? Having the power to influence, which certainly is at the root of breakthrough stories, has nothing to do with writing. Writing skill per se is relatively unimportant in journalism.
Nicholas Tomalin, the late English journalist and writer, famously said, "The only qualities essential for real success in journalism are ratlike cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability."
Add another requirement: the ability to write content that benefits advertisers. Sports Illustrated laid off four writers and editors in 2014 for this reason, ignoring their competence as reporters.
Ask journalists what they enjoy about their profession, and it comes down to meeting people and exposing their secrets.
Copywriting is the only writing genre that pays a living wage to a large pool of writers.
BBDO adman Philip Dusenberry said, "I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes."
But is money really the supreme motivation? For some, money is the only real validation. Copywriters rub shoulders with business clients all day long, helping them to be more profitable. Some copywriters get the message and recognize money as validation.
Copywriters who work in ad agencies are more likely to work for applause. We love awards. We love kudos for our superior intellects and creative genius. We will work ourselves to the bone to win awards. It isn't just ego. Awards fuel careers and reassure agency clients. So they are worth their weight in gold. Many agencies do pro bono work just to win awards.
And, copywriting is fun. It is the only profession where you are encouraged to drink on the job. It is the only industry where a foosball table is considered office equipment. It's a little misogynistic of them, but many ad agencies deliberately create a frat house environment to stimulate creativity. If you want to fill someone's office with ping-pong balls or post naked photos on Facebook and be praised for it, you should be a copywriter.
Why do I like copywriting? Copywriting is puzzle-solving. It's a game, like million-dollar poker, where the stakes are high and your biggest competitor is yourself. When it goes well... when you are playing a winning game... it's pure euphoria. When it's going badly, it's pure hell. In fact, Arthur Reber, a Fulbright scholar who is an authority on poker, sums it up in one word: dopamine.
There are two broad types of writers: storytellers and spinners.
Creative writers observe the world closely but rarely take part in it. Writing is a craft that demands hours of actual writing and even more hours of brooding, reading other writers, and seemingly useless fantasy. Some creative writers are dyed-in-the-wool storytellers who wind up on the best sellers list or clutching fat checks for movie rights. Most creative writers simply want to get their words out on paper to be read by someone, anyone, somewhere. If you want to know how a creative writer thinks, read his work. He will be there, self-dissected, if you read carefully.
Researchers at the University of Greifswald used MRI scanners to track the brains of fiction writers as they worked. The brains of experienced writers worked differently from inexperienced writers.
In experienced writers, a section deep inside the brain, the caudate nucleus, became active, but it did not activate in inexperienced writers. This section of the brain is active for skilled activities that require practice - for example, chess playing, music composition, and even basketball. Experienced and inexperienced writers also used different strategies. Experienced writers seemed to narrate stories with an inner voice, while novices visualized them.
Copywriters are not in the business of imagining narratives. They are creative problem solvers who use words. Storytelling is a more personal process and relies more on intuition. Copywriters are more objective and view words and ideas as objects to be manipulated.
Cognitive research has shown a strong link between creativity and problem solving. Problem solvers break apart problems in novel ways and have unique insights into the problem. They solve problems differently because they see problems differently to begin with.
While originality is difficult to define as a cognitive process, it has something to do with self-involvement. Copywriters feel satisfaction not only because a problem has been solved and the projection has been completed, but because something of himself is given to the project and recognized by others.
Copywriters are notoriously touchy about criticism because it is a direct attack on their own egos. Experienced copywriters are better able to distance themselves from their work once it has been completed, so that criticism is experienced less personally. But self-involvement is essential to the creative process, so complete detachment is impossible.
Since Aristotle, creativity has been linked to madness. Shakespeare wrote, "The lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact." This view has held up under scientific scrutiny.
Psychiatric studies suggest there are three characteristics common to extreme creativity and madness. These are:
Mood disturbances due to bipolar disorder (manic-depression) are prevalent among writers and artists. The manic phase is associated with tremendous creative output, while depression may slow and order this output.
Translogical thinking is common among both creative and psychotic individuals. Translogical thinking is the ability to combine paradoxical or antagonist objects into a single entity. It is, for example, the ability to look at a black wall and a white wall and see a gray wall.
Creative people and psychiatric patients view irrational thinking as a valid means of dealing with problems. Whereas most people approach life based on facts and visible evidence, creative people give equal weight to ideas and fantasy. In other words, anything they imagine is real.
Good question. As a copywriter myself, I don't think so. However, there is reason to argue that craziness is a little less prominent among copywriters.
Fiction writers lack the external boundaries that might govern and channel their madness. The thinking of a storyteller has nothing to ground it or weight it down. A copywriter's creativity, on the other hand, is tied to specific problems outside himself. Presumably, the greater objectivity of a copywriter's work would keep him saner.
Along the same lines, I can think of numerous storytellers who committed suicide, but few copywriters.
This argument breaks down when one considers that marine engineers, physicians, dentists, and woodworkers have extremely high suicide rates. All work closely with the "objective" world. And while suicide may not be common in the advertising industry, substance addiction is very high (12.4%) compared to "normal" people (8%).
Okey doke, assume your copywriter is mad as a hatter, and take it from there.
A large chunk of the writing market has become commoditized, i.e. bought and sold based upon price, like bananas or soap or widgets. I don't operate on this basis for a variety of reasons, none of which will matter to someone deadheaded on cost. If you are one of these people, here are your options and what writers have to say about them:
Zerys, owned by Interact Media, has been around since 2008. Zerys cites an article by David Shrauger as summing up its benefits to writers, but even David admits he used the site when "he began writing full-time" and now sees it as a place to pick up work between assignments. In other words, like other content marketplaces, Zerys is not the first choice for serious, established writers. This level of wannabe-ness is reinforced by a policy of strict anonymity and a high commission take, which leaves little incentive for writers.
Higher pay for writers means better writers delivering better quality work leading to an increase in orders and clients willing to pay more money. This policy would really be the rising tide that lifted all boats and would benefit Interact Media in the end. - David Shrauger
WA works along the same lines as Textbroker, except that writers can only claim one assignment from a given client until that client accepts an article. Like Textbroker, WA requires an application and plenty of fruitless effort churning out articles that go unsold. Writers on content mills like Textbroker, Writer Access, and Zerys often produce second versions of their articles, which they sell on Constant Content.
WA is pretty bad unless you like churning out stuff for 1c a word. Writer Access is terrible if you don't manage to get four stars out of the gate. I got into WA in mid-September and I think I just did my tenth assignment about a week ago, and I think I've written less than five on Zerys. - Kazmeyer
Clients post assignments for X number of words, which writers can then claim and write subject to approval. The best assignments pay 1.4 cents a word. Writers can build connections with clients, who may then invite the writer to be part of a smaller team. But writers still have to write an article on spec for a relatively small amount of money.
The bottom-feeders in the world of content mills were hit hard by Google's Panda update. They are now struggling back into circulation by adopting the pay scales and structures used by Textbroker, et al. In fact, Demand Studios's CEO and founder, Richard Rosenblatt, resigned abruptly in 2013 when Panda struck, no doubt enriched by the firm's $77 million IPO two years earlier.
Content mills are a big part of my income at present times. It allows me the flexibility to hone my writing skills along with developing a strong marketing plan. I write for Textbroker, The Content Authority and a mill that was not mentioned in the piece, CrowdSource through the Amazon Mechanical Turk platform. I can make a decent living while I pursue other goals, especially through CrowdSource. They pay $11.00 for a 300 word article where I can write two quality articles in one hour where I average around $22.00/hr. I work a traditional eight hour schedule and built a schedule that works for me. My point is, they work as a great supplement to your income while you try and build your client list and move up to professional writing status...I am trying to learn the marketing side of writing and the mills pay the bills while I do that. I have no intention of staying with mills for five years trying to grind out a living. I am trying to build plenty of irons in the fire. - Larry Phillips
This storefront sells pre-written articles, with a 500-word article typically priced between $25 and $50. Buyers can also submit requests for custom articles at a set price. Before you buy, check the bios of the writers. Many are new to freelancing. The majority are blog-style writers.
I use the site for my writing ideas that I wouldn't put on my own sites. (I don't do pay-per-click.) That is, instead of making blog posts for ideas that have no relevance to my blogs, I'll just write it up and submit to CC. I do not spend more than an hour on any one article, and I price high enough to be worth my while. (Usually $25-$85 for full rights.) But that's me. I also use it as a way to say..."hey, I CAN write on this topic" without creating work for nothing. I've sold 9 articles out of 22, and that's all been in the past 6 months and without marketing of any kind. - Lynn Sawyze
But they take 35% of that $30+. Still better than $5, sure. And since I can typically pound out an article in a little under an hour, when I actually sell an article (as I did recently, because I went back for a bit after reading this thread and submitted to a request), I make about $20 an hour. The thing is, I only sell about 50% of the articles I submit, so we're talking $10 an hour. Not horrible, but not good considering what I make as a freelance editor and writer for private clients. - Ralyks
Constant Content is a fantastic site to work for if you can get into one of the writer pools. Once you start writing regularly - at least 50+ articles a month, from what I can tell - you'll probably get invited into a writer pool. The more you write, the more you're going to sell. I figure that I'll sell about 1/3 of the articles I write fairly quickly, so I base my rates off of that. It's nice to have a website that will pay $30+ for a 500 word article, rather than some content sites that offer $5 for the same amount of work. - The Hungry Freelancer (note: the author does not recommend CC in her list of resources for writers)
Contently is arguably the biggest hit from startup accelerator Techstars NewYork. It is both a marketplace and a platform for managing freelance writers used by big brands like Anheuser-Busch. For Contently, the big money is on the SaS side, not the marketplace side, because it charges anyway from $5,000 to $25,000 a month for the full bells-and-whistles platform. On the marketplace side, Contently creates portfolios of a writer's published clips (articles) and then pairs writers with clients in need of articles. Writers pitch article ideas. If the pitch is accepted, the writer gets paid $5. The writer gets paid the full amount, usually around $100, after the finished story is accepted. The process and focus come from journalism, not the sort of writing you find on a business website or landing pages.
All in all, I only ever made $210 with Contently. I only ever had one client and they only needed the two articles I had written. I haven't received a client in months. Now I cannot be sure what the reasoning for this is, but it may likely be that Contently has a low volume of clients in relation to writers. - Kayvon
Ebyline and its associated site, Content Hub, were started in 2009 by former Los Angeles Times employees. Like Contently, Ebyline is slanted toward article (content) writing, not copywriting. Like Contently, it offers a marketplace for writers to sell pre-written articles. And, again like Contently, it makes its big money as an SaS platform, not as a writing marketplace. About the only way Ebyline can differentiate itself from Contently is by calling itself less brand-oriented and as having "sort of the world's largest newsroom." (Source) Freelancers complain that the platform is cumbersome and obtuse, which may explain the huge amount of crappy content published on Content Hub (provided by eByline writers) that swamps search engine results.
Behance is a true portfolio site. Sponsored by Adobe, makers of design software, the site showcases visual creators across a broad range of categories. Copywriting and content are not among the portfolio categories, so writers are left out. Still, it is a good place to go for inspiration. I have a profile there simply because I like to be in good company.
All of these sites work essentially the same way. You post a project and budget. Freelancers submit proposals. You choose one and pay upon delivery. You can get super cheap website and software development, including HTML5, PHP, .NET, and Java coding for $20 per hour.. You can get a logo designed for $20. You can get 20 articles for $20.
Providers are global so you can get very cheap content from writers in India, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The most successful vendors are those who can produce the greatest amount of minimally acceptable content in the least amount of time. Some sites charge providers to submit a proposal and some don't.
There is no way to really evaluate vendors or their qualifications. Some sites include skills tests, but that is easy to circumvent...have someone else to take the test. You can see reviews from other buyers. These reviews are from people who care more about price than quality. If you fall into that group, it makes sense for you to use these services.
Thumbtack works a little differently than bid sites like eLance and oDesk. Vendors can include external information about themselves, such as a website URL or LinkedIn profile. You have more to go on than just reviews. Thumbtack is supposed to be local, but of course all you have to do is open an account to get notifications of bid requests. A vendor could be anywhere. Often, such as in the case of web content, it may not matter if a vendor is non-local. Vendors have to pay a pretty hefty fee to submit a quote. Vendors who work very cheaply usually get the work, which means that price trumps quality. It's the nature of the beast.
Gigbucks is a marketplace where you can buy a slew of services priced from $5 to $50. You can buy social media followers or web content or guitar lessons. It doesn't matter as long as there is a seller + a buyer. Content is dirt cheap... around $5 for 1,000 words. You have no way of verifying information about providers or their past work. Anyone can post any service for a cheap price. Risky at best.
The granddaddy of cheapness is Craigslist and, as such, it deserves its own category. You can post an ad for a web content writer and people will apply. Craigslist doesn't pretend to have any systems whatsoever in place to guarantee quality. I respect their honesty.
MycroBurst is a design site, but if you want cheap web content you may also want a cheap website or logo. This site allows you to post a project and a price, and then designers submit their work for free. You buy the design you like best. It's called a design contest but it's really just good old-fashioned spec work.