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How to Get Work as a Freelance Writer on Bidding Sites Like Elance and oDesk

Updated on March 7, 2012

One way to make money as a freelance writer is by finding work on bidding sites, such as Elance and oDesk. However, there are countless numbers of people trying to make a living on those sites that never get work. It can be discouraging and seem hopeless until you get your first job.

I don't consider myself an expert, but I do make a steady income on both sites. So I will pass along the things I have learned about getting a job on these sites as well as any others you might want to try.

How It Works

Let me first explain how these sites work. You sign up for the sites and create a profile. Then you can browse the job openings for writers and bid on any job that you are interested in. You will have to write a proposal telling why you would be the right person for the job. Then you will give the price you require to do the project.

If you are chosen, you will receive an email and you will begin the project. Once it is completed and submitted to the employer, you will either be notified to make changes or receive payment.

This sounds simple and easy and a great way to make money doing what you love. It can be if you can get the jobs, but it can be discouraging if you do not get chosen. Once you get a few jobs, you will get feedback from those jobs that helps you get more jobs. The problem is getting that first job. How do you make that happen?

I was a member of Elance for 3 years without a single job. I admit I didn't try very hard and it showed. When I got serious last year, I finally got my first job and others after that. I signed up for oDesk and got my first job there within the first month. I'm passing along here what I have learned and I hope it works for others who share the same dream as me of becoming a freelance writer.

Create a Winning Profile

I'm still working on this point myself. I'm constantly updating mine and changing it to sound more professional. Employers will look at your profile to decide how capable you are of handling the project, and it should reflect your strengths and skills.

List all of your writing credits, whether they were paying jobs or articles you wrote for sites like Hubpages. List any writing classes, courses, or seminars you have attended. Also list other employment if you want to write for those areas, too. For instance, I used to work in home health care. Since I like to write about health care topics, I list that employment to give me credibility.

List all types of writing you have done. You can get an idea of the types by looking at the categories listed under writing. You may have your own blog; if so, list blog writing as one of your skills. The more things you can list, the more you will stand out to people reviewing your profile.

Create Samples

You will be asked to have writing samples for most of the jobs. There is also a place on your profile to put samples of your writing. If you do not have samples you have written, take the time to write them now. Start your own blog at a place like blogger.com or Wordpress. Write articles for subjects you enjoy; you can post them here at Hubpages and create a portfolio at the same time.

Try to have a diverse portfolio by thinking of different topics that you would enjoy getting work on. I have samples on parenting, health and fitness, foster parenting, and topics pertaining to the elderly. These are topics I really enjoy researching and writing about. I also have topics on advertising, finance, and technology because I know these topics are popular and I am willing to do jobs on these subjects.

Browse the ads on the websites and see which jobs appeal to you. Write samples for those even if you don't bid on the projects. It will give you something to put on your profile for when you do start bidding.

Start Bidding

Once you have your profile and a few writing samples, it is time to start bidding on jobs. This can be an intimidating process, but don't let that keep you from jumping in. I'll tell you my tips for writing a good proposal or cover letter, but first I want to give you some suggestions for choosing your jobs to bid on.

1. Bid only on established employers. There is nothing wrong with trying out new employers, but I wouldn't advise it until you have been there for awhile. There are people who never award jobs and others who are hard to please or don't pay. When you are first starting out, stick with ones that have feedback and have awarded jobs in the past.

2. Look for jobs that you can get. You will be bidding against a lot of other people, many who are established on the site. Give yourself an advantage by choosing jobs where you have experience in writing or experience in the subjects through other means. For instance, if you are a teacher, you will have an advantage on jobs asking for curriculum.

3. Look for new jobs with few bids. The best ones are the jobs where you are submitting the first proposal. Employers will remember the early applicants better than the later ones after they have read 30 or 40 proposals. And if you stand out, you may get awarded the job right away. Just because a job says it has 5 or 7 days, doesn't mean an employer will wait that long to hire. Even after all of these months, I still pass the jobs by that already have a bunch of proposals unless I think I offer something different.

4. Look for average paying jobs. You probably won't start out making the big bucks right away. So be willing to bid on lower paying jobs. With that being said, don't give away your services. I started out with jobs that paid $1 per 100 words. Since I can write about 1,000 words in an hour, that came to $10 an hour. Not outstanding, but not bad. I have taken lower paying jobs than that, but not many. I do find those do not take the time on research that some of the others do.

Once you've won a few jobs, you can look at better paying ones. With positive feedback, you will be able to compete and prove you are worth the extra money.

5. Bid on multiplte projects. This holds true for your first job or any other jobs you are bidding on. You will never get all of the projects you bid on, because some are never awarded or are given to others. So look for several jobs and keep bidding even when you are working on a project. I still have trouble with this one, but I usually have four or five bids in at one time, while I am working on two or three other projects.

Write a Great Proposal

Once you've chosen a job to bid on, you want to write a winning proposal. Your job at this point is to sell yourself. Be honest, but don't be modest. List your strengths that pertain to the specific job. Mention something about the job so that it doesn't look like a generic proposal. It can be why you want to work on this project or what experience you have for it.

Mention key strengths that you will list for all of your proposals. For me, that is my availability by email any day, including weekends and my willingness to do revisions. I also mention that I research all of my articles and meet deadlines.

Always include samples instead of referring them to your profile. Try to choose samples that are relevant to the project. This may mean you have to write one for that project. I would advise doing that for your first few jobs, even though you may not get the job. You can use it again for the next job that is similar.

Other Tips

Spend time on the forums (but not too much time). You can learn from others, but don't let their discouragement get you down. Focus on comments made by the ones who are successful on the site.

Keep learning your craft and be willing to branch out. If you don't understand SEO, read about it. If you don't know how to write a press release, research it on the internet. You will get more jobs as you learn more about writing.

Most of all, don't give up. Be willing to make changes and learn, but don't give up. Persistance does pay off.

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    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Immensely informative article for anyone striving to build credibility as a freelance writer. Thanks for sharing so thoroughly your tips for success.

    • jm72writes profile image
      Author

      jm72writes 5 years ago from Missouri

      Thank you. I just wanted to share things I wish I'd known when I first started. It might not have taken me three years to get my first job!

    • profile image

      paralegalpro 5 years ago

      This is fascinating. I was not aware that such freelance opportunities existed, but am excited at finding such great advice before I give it a try. Thank you.

    • Author Cheryl profile image

      Cheryl 5 years ago

      The only problem I have with this kind of freelance writing is basically they are asking to plagerize your work and take credit for writing it. Not that I havent done some on my own from other sites but when I found out that this is what they were doing it was a big turn off for me. It's not giving me credibility as a writer. Your signing a statement that says your work can be copied and being a professional writer, they are doing exactly what writers were never told to do and that is to plagerize.

    • jm72writes profile image
      Author

      jm72writes 5 years ago from Missouri

      Author Cheryl,

      It's not for everyone, but it is an option if you want to make money as a freelance writer. My goal is to find my own clients someday who will pay the top rates for my writing and this is just helping me learn the trade better and make money until I get to that point. Even then, most copywriting does not give credit to the writer, but you make excellent money. I don't consider it plagerizing if I give them permission to use my words.

      I will say I don't bid on fiction writing on these sites, because I do want credit for that. That is my dream career and I want my name on those projects. But with the copywriting, I don't care who gets credit as long as I get paid to write.

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