Monday, February 16, 2015

Exclusive Interview with Co-Founder's Dariush Vollenweider and Michael Speziale About the Newest Freelance Writing Site

Freelance Writing Site Copycontest Exclusive Interview

Exclusive Interview with Co-Founders Dariush Vollenweider and Michael Speziale of the newest freelance writing site on the Internet;

Dariush is one of the nicest guys I have met on LinkedIN in a long time. He has a passion for what he does, and it shows in his vision of what CopyContest will provide both clients and writers.

I have scoured CopyContest and truly believe it could change how freelance writers find jobs. The pay is exceptional and could give us all a place to earn what we deserve. I will write a complete freelance writing site review in the next few days. Until then, enjoy what Dariush Vollenweider and Michael Speziale have to say about their vision of a new way to earn money writing.

Also, I am not an affiliate of CopyContest nor am I trying to promote the site for any hidden benefit. I am just a member and a reporter interested in giving my freelance writing colleagues the chance to make their own decision on whether they should check it out or not.

1. Could you take us through the writer’s process on CopyContest? How will a typical contest play out for the writers?

• ANSWER: Signing up and participating as a writer is a simple process on It’s simple just visit the site and sign up as a writer. We have no vetting process. Our thoughts are if you limit this process to experienced writers you hinder all new and upcoming writers trying to break onto the freelance writing scene. We understand you do not need a law degree or anything alike to call yourself a writer. So allowing new comers with little or no experience you get a vast amount of experience.
• Participating in projects is easy. We just launched so unfortunately there is none listed but we are continually marketing this site and to drive new business for the writers that are eagerly awaiting. We just had a slogan contest end for a new business. Writers can choose to participate in as many or as little projects as they want and it’s never any cost to them to sign up or participate. We have many type of writing categories projects could be listed in. For instance business names, slogans, taglines, headlines, emails, email subject lines, voicemail scripts, advertisements, brochures and many, many more. You sign into your account and view the projects. You read the brief that the project holder as submitted and you make the determination as the writer if you wish to participate or not. If you want to participate you simply click on the “Submit Concept” button and enter your idea. Your writing submission will show up to the project holder as an entry. The project holder will receive your writing submission and then view it and then give you some kind of feedback to further guide your writing efforts. Or if you are way off with your submission the project holder could simply delete your entry and then no further contact would be made. If you entry is ultimately chosen as the winner you will receive payment of whatever the contest amount is listed for. Once the contest is over the project holder will rate your services and leave you a review that will be visible to others in the future.

2. You offer a lot of small project types from which a client may choose. Other kinds require a big wordcount and could be very large. What type of content do you think will make up the bulk of the contests? The shorter ones or the longer variety?

• ANSWER: We have did a lot of research on this. There is not really one project type that clients choose over another. It really boils down to what type of consumer is visiting the site. We may have a new business owner looking for a slogan. We may have someone thinking about starting a business and needs a creative business name. We may have an established business that needs help with creating a crafty sells letter to pitch their products. Likewise we may have an established business that needs a brochure created which would require a longer amount of copy. The potential is endless really. We are concentrating in marketing to all the potential possibilities of clients who can utilize this service.

3. Considering project awards range from $75 to $300, this could be one of the highest paying freelance writing sites ever. Do you think clients will actually pay those prices for copy as small as a Tweet or a headline?

• ANSWER: I do think this. Studying other freelance sites people will pay for great copy. Even more so that they can actually see it beforehand. The problem is with those other type of freelance sites like Elance and Odesk people pay in hopes of getting great copy not knowing what they are really dealing with on the other end. As with my past experiences I have chosen writers who had padded their resumes and attached fake writing samples that misguided me when making my decision who to choose. With our platform you get submissions from great writers all over the world ensuring you will get the copy in the end that best for you.

4. Could you explain Guaranteed and Standard Contests? Also, what recourse do you have if a client doesn’t pick a guaranteed winner before the 22 day grace period is up?

• ANSWER: When a project holder guarantees a project it means they guarantee that they (the project holder) will be picking a winner, not CopyContest. Project holders know that they are responsible for picking a winner when their contest is over. If they don't choose one right away, our support team goes to work. Our team will contact the project holder to be sure they choose a winner, as they committed to. CopyContest will be forced to pick a winner based on the feedback the project holder has left. We can view this feedback from our administrative side.
• Standard projects mean the project holder can request a refund and get all of their money back. The refund policy is on our site. Our refund policy is very strict. For instance the project holder cannot receive a refund if they have received more than 5 submissions to their project. Also the project holder cannot receive a refund if they have not left feedback for at least 80% of the entries. All this can be found in our refund policy. Since money is taken upfront for projects to assure writers get paid in the end, we can control the refund.

5. Many freelance writing sites are open to writers from specific countries only. Will CopyContest allow writers from all over the world to join?

• ANSWER: Yes we allow writers from all over the world to participate. We realize that every country and culture has talented and creative writers and we welcome all. After all some projects may ask for something to be written in another language.

6. How do you protect the writer from plagiarism? Since clients are allowed to request a finished copy from the writers before choosing a winner, what’s to keep them from taking the content without paying the award?

• ANSWER: Our terms of service were written by a very good attorney. The clients agree to these terms when signing up for an account. If they use anything other than the winning copy they can be held legally liable. Also we hold the money in escrow once they sign up for a writing project. We assure a writer gets paid unless the project qualifies for a refund then will we refund the money.

7. After going over both the client and writer FAQs numerous times and exploring as much of CopyContest as I could, I think I understand how the process will work. It seems like the writer will essentially open the proposal process with something like a query letter explaining how she plans to create the content described in the contest’s creative brief. The client then sends messages to those writers whose opening proposals caught his eye. After that, the client and the writers communicate back and forth until the client picks a winner. Is that even close?

• ANSWER: A little different than that. The client posts a project and a brief of what they are looking for. The writer submits the copy. There is no query letter or process. For instance let’s say a client needs a slogan. Writers submit what they think the slogan should be. The client reviews the submissions and gives their feedback or communicates back and forth until the client picks a winner.

NOTE TO READER: The following has to do with a LinkedIN discussion we were having in a Freelance Writer's Group. A commenter was accusing Dariush of trying to scam writers with CopyContest. 

NOTE: I misquoted Robert Marks from the LinkedIN conversation. He never said "scam". He was concerned about the writer's wasted time.

Clarify the whole “working for free” and “doing too much work for potentially no gain” argument that the Mark dude was trying to say. I think people need to see the process more like a negotiation with a client they found through traditional means like query letters or applying to ads on ProBlogger. The only difference is that you offer to bring everyone together, moderate the proceedings and ensure everyone involved is happy with the end results.

• ANSWER: Well he said work for free. So a writer participates in a contest. He submits copy and may not win or other words get paid for their submission. The client picks the winner. A writer is showing their writing capabilities by submitting concepts to the project. I say concept but I mean writing. A person need a business name then a writer submits what they think the name should be. Someone needs a slogan, and then the writer submits a slogan and so on. Instead of bidding on a project and never getting picked to even allow them to show their writing capabilities a writer can now submit and let their writing speak for itself. We are not talking about submitting pages and pages of copy either. We are talking about business names, slogans, taglines and smaller projects.

Continue the discussion in the comments or the forum. Tell us what you like or dislike about the idea. Dariush and Michael are very open to hearing suggestions for bettering CopyContest.


Anonymous said...

It's worth a try. Seems that getting the jobs is a bigger problem then submitting copy in response. Also, the reputation of the company will be as good as the follow-through of paying the writer. Word travels fast in our closed community. So the company's reputation will be cemented pro or con in a relatively short time.

Anonymous said...

I thing the entire setup is good. And I agree with the above comment. In regard to longer projects, I think they shouldn't allow clients to ask for the completed project before awarding the job. What if it's like 1000 word blog post? Writing that while in competition with 25 other people is ridiculous. Otherwise, I think it's a sound idea and can't wait to join.

Dariush V said...

Thank you for the feedback! We assure full payment for project winners. The only thing that will be deducted is the fee when transferring to Paypal or Moneybookers. They take their fee but it is relatively small.

We are working hard at getting projects. We are new and getting the word out anyway we can!

Robert B. Marks said...

I'm that "Mark dude" who was in that LinkedIn back-and-forth. And, while this is an interesting interview, I still think writers should approach this with severe caution...and, frankly, that it's a waste of their time (and please note - I did not ever use the word "scam" on LinkedIn - there is a distinct difference between scamming a writer and wasting their time, and this falls firmly under the latter).

Here's the thing - if I enter a short story in a contest and I lose, I can still send that short story elsewhere. Same with a general non-fiction article. So, the work is done, I may not have gotten paid the first time, but I still have something I can try to monetize.

I can't do that with corporate writing, such as a slogan, a product description, or a press release. Submit corporate writing to a contest and lose, and that time is lost...and that time does mean money to any writer scrambling to pay the bills.

But, as I also pointed out in that LinkedIn discussion, as Copy Contest currently stands, the odds of a client touching it with a 50 foot pole happens to be quite slim. It is true that people will pay top dollar for great copy, but before they will commit that money, they want to know that it will be well spent. That means that they want to see resumes, portfolios, and writing samples before they take the plunge. Well, Copy Contest doesn't present any of that up front - all of the writer profiles are just a handle, number of contests won, and a description that the writer may or may not have filled out.

For a site like this, the clients are drawn in by the writers...and Copy Contest is not marketing those writers to prospective clients in such a way that they would take the plunge. So, without the clients, a writer is wasting their time even signing up.

Sorry, but it is what it is.

Dariush V said...

I am going to be honest. No one cares about your resume. This is not coming from me but coming from 863 out of 1000 small business owners we polled before starting this project. Our exact question was "Do you base your copy writing needs on their experience or resume?" I can throw on my resume now that I am an astronaut and been to the moon twice. You can put that you wrote taglines for fortune 500 companies. Anyone can pad their resume with whatever they want. Anyone can take your writing and change it a bit and say it's theirs for their portfolio. If I want a business name I want to see you submit a business name. I could care less what your resume says you can do. That is what we heard from the business owners. Myself and people alike are tired of using freelance sites, while basing their decisions to chose a writer based on some fictitious portfolio they have up. Only to chose a writer based on a fake resume then getting stuck with second grade level copy and no rewrites in the future. People want to see writing. And then you say we should be vetting our writers. No way in the world we would do such a thing. Again for the second time you don't need a law or medical degree to call yourself a writer. If we chose to vet writers based on elaborate resumes and portfolios we would be shutting out all new writers with little or no writing experience. I can almost bet there is a creative writer out there with no portfolio or experience that can write twice as good as you can. If you enjoy writing, our site is for you period.

Michael Davis said...

I've added a retraction on the "scam" misquote Robert Marks. Sorry for the mess up.

Michael Davis said...

I think it should be open to all writers. If I had not had a client give me a chance 5 years ago even though I had a writers resume with very little "writing" jobs on it, I wouldn't be a full-time freelancer today. Because of that one chance, I was able to build my portfolio and become a better writer over time.

I hope you're able to draw in clients. I look forward to working on the site.

Robert B. Marks said...

Michael: Apology accepted, of course. It happens to the best of us.

Dariush: You just wrote that your exact survey question was "Do you base your copy writing needs on their experience or resume?" I have never heard of a business basing their own copy needs on somebody else's resume. And I AM a small business owner, by the way - I own a small publishing company. Copy needs are based on the needs of the business at that time - the launch of a new product, for example, and the customer base said product needs to attract. This question tells you absolutely nothing about what businesses look for before they hire a copywriter.

I'm sorry that an unscrupulous writer once rolled you. But the fact that somebody can put together a fraudulent resume or portfolio doesn't invalidate the usefulness of both - it just means that you need to do your due diligence, actually bother to check references, and follow up on stuff before hiring somebody.

You keep talking up your site, but I have now visited it several times on several different days, and I have never seen a single job or client there. You say that's because you just started, but I would submit that perhaps part of that is because you are offering clients less of what they need before hiring a writer than a Craigslist ad, and at greater cost.

Dariush V said...

Mr. Marks,

While I respect your opinion this is a different scenario. With a Craigslist writer you get one concept and maybe one rewrite. This is a completely different platform.

You are visiting a site that launched at best about five weeks ago. While I thought 99designs was a crazy idea when they started, they blossomed into a great company. Google wasn't the leader of online searches overnight neither. New business and new concepts takes time to catch on. I have been a part of some pretty decent internet space acquisitions and those businesses didn't take off over night. Marketing, search engine optimization and so much more go into promoting a new idea. We did not go into this blind. We have multiple focus groups and more polls then I can remember. While I respect this is not for you it is a great platform for others. Let us concentrate on getting projects for the writers that continue to sign up every day.

Anonymous said...

Great interview Mike! I have to say as a new writer I have been burned many times trying to collect money from prospective clients on sites like Craigslist. I like the guaranteed part of this process. This site looks legit and nicely laid out. Signed up and looking forward to participating.

Robert B. Marks said...

Dariush: A Craigslist ad is a JOB posting. The terms of what are provided are set between the person who posts the ad and the person they hire. And, as a general rule among professional writers, the job is done once the CLIENT is happy, no matter how many revisions or rewrites that takes.

Kiki Rodriguez said...

From what Dariush and Michael have explained, it seems all legit to me. I have signed up and am patiently waiting for projects. It's a brand new site, I'm not expecting 100's of projects to be available by tomorrow. I just hope the co-founders have a good marketing strategy in place, or it won't get far.

Michael Davis said...

I posted this on a LinkedIN discussion that can be found here

Couldn't agree more Stephen. I started on bid sites, to be specific, and for the most part, it was a complete waste of over 6 months of my life. I was too ignorant to all the other opportunities out there and too complacent/scared to step out and find something that worked.

But CopyContest, in my opinion, isn't a bid site. I look at it more as a way to bring clients who are actually in need of content and put them in reach of the writers who can provide that content. I think of it like this:

When I send off a query letter with a proposal for a certain piece of niche content to a potential client, that query/proposal is a total shot in the dark. The client could ignore me, respond and say that my proposal is way off, begin negotiations but run away when I quote a rate or end up being immoral and never pay for the work I do. At least with copycontest, I know what the client wants, I know that I have at least a chance of landing the project and I know that I'll get paid because the funds are held by CC in an escrow account. To me, it's a better approach to the query/proposal process than what I usually do on a weekly basis. That's not to say that I would completely stop sending out query letters, but it gives me another place to cast a line and hope something bites.

With that said, the pond must be stocked with hungry fish, or we'll cast and cast all day and never get a nibble. As long as Dariush and Michael are spreading plenty of chum in the right places, we'll hopefully start seeing some ripples in the water as the fish come in to see what they can gobble up. (Yep, I did just use a fishing analogy to express a content marketing strategy. I'm a country boy at heart, what can I say?)

My other concern is the project pricing. But according to Dariush, they've done some extensive market studies to determine those price points. Supposedly, clients are willing to pay $75 for a viral Tweet or professional email copy that converts. I guess in the end only time will tell.

Anonymous said...

I have serious concerns about using my valuable time submitting full content that a client may or may not use. I'm not sure if I can add that to my portfolio, but I don't want to waste my precious time on a "contest" that may or may not be paid for.

Elance has issues. This could potentially be worse.


Worth checking out.

Darlene Elizabeth Williams said...

I've worked as a professional freelance writer for several years. I don't care if it's a tagline or a full article, I will not write one word for free. Hire me, then I'll write.

As well, I think the "fake" resume and/or portfolio rationale is overdone. The vast majority of resumes and portfolios are legitimate. The onus is on the client to double-check. Caveat emptor.

Life is not a contest.

Andrew Pearson said...

This concept is spot on. Man on man did I recently have an experience on Elance. I was getting a press release written by someone who had a good portfolio and said he was #3 on Elance whatever that meant. He sent me my first draft and I swear I had more substance in a Christmas card from my 4 year old then this guy did in the entire release. Rewrite after rewrite it was getting worse. All this guy needed was a crayon and it would have fit his writing perfect. I would have given anything to see his first 100 words. I could have told in the beginning not to touch this writer with a 10 foot pole. I will definitely use Copycontest for my next business writing needs.

Michael Davis said...

Andrew, I think your experience is pretty typical for clients of bid sites. I have been the buyer on Freelancer and realized quickly that it's not hard for a bidder to create a scripted bid that sounds great but is a complete front. As soon as you get into a one-on-one conversation or, unfortunately, once you award them the project you realize how much better off you would have been by simply paying your kid a couple bucks instead of getting stuck with a so-called "pro".

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