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5 Lessons From An Elance Newbie

Updated on March 22, 2013
Simple Lessons to Make the Most of
Simple Lessons to Make the Most of | Source

Tips to Build a Solid Freelance Career

In mid-September, I joined as a freelance Provider for Writing, and I have to admit I’m really enjoying it! Unlike a salaried role in a private company, I have a wide variety of writing gigs to choose from, and I can focus on exactly the areas that I believe I’m best at.

The past four weeks has taught me some important lessons in how to focus my efforts to minimize waste and maximize my earning potential.

1) Track Your Average Hourly Wage

The only thing worse than making $5/hour is making $0/hour, so be prepared that you may have to pick up some low-wage jobs to fill in the gaps in your day. Your goal should be a good averaged hourly wage.

If you work quickly and efficiently, fixed price jobs generally have a greater profit per hour than the hourly jobs. I believe you need both hourly and fixed rate jobs to succeed. I try to divide my time as 40% working on hourly rate jobs, 40% on high-margin fixed price jobs, and 20% on Proposal writing and communication.

2) Not All Employers Are Worth Working For ….

Just as every Provider gathers stats and feedback, so does every Employer. You should be leery of associating with any Employer who:

  • frequently given low feedback,
  • rarely or never gives feedback, or
  • has been reviewed as being hard to work with, difficult to get in touch with, or prone to changing the requirements of the job after awarding the job

This is especially important early on in your Elance career when a bad review has a larger effect your feedback score.

3) ….And Not All Jobs Are Worth Bidding On

Although I do recommend that new Providers be willing to bid low to win early jobs and build positive feedback, you have to be aware of opportunity cost. Simply put, time you spend working at $5/hr is time you can’t spend bidding on the $25/hr jobs.

The primary example is article writing; I’ve seen jobs posted where the Employer is offering $1 per 400-600 word article. Now, assuming you’re legitimately writing new content (Providers who don’t are a whole separate discussion!), you can probably crank out 2-3 articles per hour on a subject you know well. That’s $3/hour. Unless you have a bullpen of unpublished articles that you can sell off, you’re better off paying yourself in the form of looking for a better jobs.

4) Beware of Skimmers

I might be naïve, but I found this a particularly nasty discovery; some Employers post jobs without any intention of awarding them. Although there are genuinely Employers who just couldn’t find the right provider at the right price, if you see 3 or more unawarded jobs in the Employers history over the past 3 months, you should look at them askance – they could be simply shopping to compare freelance costs to “real world” costs, or they could be trying to land deliverables for free.

The worst experience I had was bidding on a resume job for a very particular role in a specific industry. With my Proposal, I included a sample resume for a similar role with the same scope of responsibility in a different industry. The Employer responded privately asking for an exact match resume to his experience and qualifications before he awarded me the job. I didn’t respond, but I have no doubt that at least one other of the 20+ bidding Providers foolishly did… and the job wasn’t awarded to anyone (surprise!)

5) Be a Bit of a Nag

Competition is fierce and it’s not uncommon to find jobs that have 40 or more Proposals. Your Proposal can easily get lost in the shuffle, or the Employer can feel overwhelmed by options.

After submitting a Proposal to a potential Employer, you gain the option of sending them private messages in the Workroom. If you want your Proposal to stand out, follow up with the Employer a couple of days after submitting your Proposal to remind them why you’re the best candidate, and ask if they have any questions about your Proposal.

This nudge to the Employer could prod them into action. It proves that you’re a go-getter and that you’re eager for the opportunity. If you review your Proposal and think perhaps it was light, that’s also a good time to add samples or list some additional reasons you’re the right Provider for the job.

The first month is for learning; the second month is for earning. Individually, none of these Elance tips is going to rocket you to the top of the pile, but together, they build the foundation for a solid, professional freelance career.


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