5 Tips for a Successful Start on Elance
Step-by-step strategies that take you from new provider to profitable freelancer quickly.
It’s been one month since I joined Elance, and I have to admit that I love it! Aside from simple joys of working from my home office, I appreciate the variety of work and the chance to engage with multiple Employers.
However, I jumped into Elance with both feet and I wish I had known these few simple tips before I’d started.
1) Build Your Portfolio
When starting off as a new Provider, you are at the bottom of the food chain and you have no history. To land a real-life job, you start off with your resume, and Elance is no different. Filling out your portfolio with photos, samples of your work, and the right keywords for your skills is essential to building credibility. You’re wasting your Connects if you skip this step and start bidding.
2) Bid Low….
No matter how good your portfolio, however, if you don’t have a history of feedback, most Employers will be dubious about doing business with you. Pricing may be the only competitive advantage you have. When starting on Elance, you have to treat it as an entry-level job; be prepared to make the coffee and fetch the donuts before you get the corner office. Win a few solid short-term jobs that are right in your wheelhouse simply by being the lowest bidder. Even if your hourly rate is terrible ($5-10/hr), it’s worth it if you can complete the job quickly and get great feedback.
3) … and Slow
Bidding with Elance proposals is as fun (and potentially addictive!) as betting at the racetrack, but keep in mind that what you’re winning is work. It’s possible that you’ll win more than you can handle, and you will then suffer either long nights or bad feedback if you disappoint an Employer. Keep track of how many hours of work you’re bidding on, and as a rule of thumb, don’t allow that number to exceed triple the number of hours you have available for your freelance work. I got slammed with work my first two weeks, and it taught me to be more selective and to manage my proposal sales funnel better.
4) Communication is Key
Unlike the real world, your Employer can’t stop by your desk to see how your work is progressing, nor can he just pick up the phone and expect you to give him a status report. Although the Elance Tracker will give him some insight into what you’re working on (if you use it), a short daily update message is a more personal and genuinely appreciated approach. Respond quickly to inquiries, to show that you place a priority on communication. I strongly suggest you install Skype or provide your telephone number, as higher paying Employers will want to conduct a telephone interview before awarding you the job.
5) Leave Good Feedback
I’ve had Employers who were difficult, hard to communicate with, or slow in paying, and I’ve still given them relatively good feedback. I’m not suggesting that you should lie; if an Employer refused to pay or dramatically changed the scope of the job mid-work, that’s a serious problem.
I believe negative feedback cuts both ways and complaining, especially unprofessionally, about a past Employer suggests to future Employers that you may be difficult to work with. When there’s nothing good to say, better to say nothing at all.
However, in almost every job, there is at least one good element to give feedback on. I make a point to thank the Employer when the job is closed and privately telling him/her what feedback I’ll be leaving, before I post it publicly. This also gets them thinking in a positive direction for your feedback!
You only have one chance to make a first impression, and these tips are simple but effective when launching your Elance career.