Why We Killed the Open Assignment Feature on nDash
Product launches are usually about adding new features to improve the user experience. Once in a while, however, removing a feature can have just as big of an impact.
Such is the case with the latest release on nDash. Although we added a ton of updates (see the full list here) our biggest change was arguably the removal of what we called “open assignments.”
In short, open assignments were when a brand posted a writing job that was visible and available to every writer in our network. Now, with a community of well over 10,000 writers and thousands of companies, it might seem that a feature like this was vital to our business. It wasn’t.
In case you’re wondering where this went (or for new companies, why it doesn’t exist) we wanted to share some insights into why we made this decision.
It Went Against Our Mission
nDash was never intended to be a one-off content mill. There are plenty of race-to-the-bottom platforms where this is the modus operandi. Instead, we aimed to become a quality-focused “content community” platform where brands would develop real relationships with a small team of writers.
The practice of posting assignments and fielding tons of applicants went against this vision. It started to have a very $5-feel to it, and we didn’t like it.
Neither did our customers – our brands and writers.
The numbers don’t lie. Here’s a quick breakdown on 2019 CSAT scores based on assignment origination:
- From nDash-suggested writers: 91% positive feedback
- From open assignments: 14% positive feedback
Ouch. So what do these numbers really tell us? Two things:
- nDash has the writers you’re looking for
- nDash has a lot of writers you’re not looking for
This isn’t meant to suggest that we’re not focused on quality. Quite the opposite. It just means that when it comes to content, the concept of quality is highly subjective. One writer might knock it out of the park for luxury brands, but be a complete dud if asked to write about DevOps.
It was, unfortunately, hard to convince some writers to not apply to certain postings, even if they were a bit unqualified. They are a confident bunch, and we love them for that.
The good news for us was that this feature was not very widely used. In 2019, open assignments accounted for less than 2% of total platform volume.
As it turns out, our writers disliked this experience almost as much as our customers, albeit for different reasons.
nDash writer Patti Podnar recently wrote:
Even on nDash, brands who are accustomed to the typical content mill experience often post assignments in the $30 – $50 range. But the thing is, those assignments tend to sit there, unclaimed, for weeks. Because writers know that there are brands willing to pay a lot more for quality content that accomplishes their goals.
Companies that used the open assignment feature tended to be those more accustomed to the content mill experience. In trying to procure low-price content, they immediately ruined their reputation among our elite community writers, who never took them seriously after that. Bummer.
The top writers on nDash have always gotten their assignments by having great profiles, pitching relevant ideas, and being suggested by our amazing customer success team, which brings me to my next point…
Staff Picks & Dedicated Support
Instead of putting the onus on our customers to build their elite team of writers, we want to take it on for them. In practical terms, here’s what that means:
- Onboarding & Writer Suggestions: We’ll take the time to learn about you, your brand, and its criteria around topics, expertise, budget, volume, and other factors. With that information, we’ll flag a few writers we think will be a fit, and you can begin working with them directly. You can learn more about our new (free with subscription) onboarding process here.
- Staff Picks: Replacing the open assignment feature is “nDash Staff Picks”, where you post the assignment and nDash selects the most qualified writer. The idea behind this feature is that it’ll be used sparingly. Once you’ve found some great writers this way, we’ll want you to assign your subsequent projects to them directly.
If you’re an existing customer that wants some help building a core team (and hasn’t yet) then contact us through the platform.
Don’t have a company account on nDash yet? Create your free account here.
If you’re dead set on receiving a lot of applicants, there is a work-around: the Request Ideas feature.
Instead of providing guidelines on topics (the standard use case for this feature), you could post an “idea” that’s more of an assignment request. Writers will view it, and if it seems like fit, they’ll pitch you something for review. Not ideal and not recommended, but it will work.
Note to Writers: You’ll notice that the “Browse Assignments” section is still up. The difference now is that every assignment will be managed by a nDash staff member, with the exception of idea requests.
Let Us Build Your Writing Team
I founded nDash as a freelance writer — a freelance writer who hated everything about content mills; the low rates, the obscene platform fees, the forced anonymity, the unresponsive clients. It wasn’t the features or the UI that turned me off. It was the experience, where it was every company and writer for themselves.
We built nDash to be different, and a big part of that difference going forward will be our role in matching great writers to amazing brands. We’re excited to do this without open assignments.
If you have any platform feedback to share, I’d love to hear it! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.