How I got Freelancing on Elance

Earlier this week I wrote about how I got started in freelance writing, today I want to continue the theme with my insights on picking up work on the freelancing website,

Elance is a mine-field of horrifyingly terrible work. Job proposals that make me shudder, and it bothers me to know that there is actually a market for such low paying work, not to mention people who will accept content of such low quality just to cut some costs.

We are talking 50 cents per 500 words – that’s under a dollar for a blog-post length article, around 25 to 50 cents per hour, depending on how much research and editing you do.  Anybody serious about making a career of writing is not going to make a living off these kind of jobs.

Don’t feel disheartened yet though, as I have still managed to earn enough through Elance jobs to support my travel. Well paying Elance gigs aren’t always obvious to spot, however there are a few tips I would pass on to help any future Elance freelancers pick up the good work.


1. Complete your profile

A large proportion of Elance users have a very basic or non-existant profile.  From the perspective of an employer, somebody with an incomplete profile doesn’t have the same credibility, or they could potentially be a non-english speaker who uses article spinners to create unique, but not quality, articles. It is in your best interest to come across as a real person.

  • Get verified – it’s very easy, just involves a photo of your ID (drivers license or similar) and a quick Skype video cal to show you are who you say you are.
  • Add your photo – something that shows you, but in a professional-yet-approachable way. It doesn’t need to involve an expensive, professional shoot – my photo was taken with a mobile phone!
  • Fill in your info – tell people who you are. Add your skills, take some tests to show them off and put in a bit of history. You don’t need to go into depth, just demonstrate to people that you are real person, with an interesting and real background. Even if it isn’t directly related to what you are doing, you’ll be surprised how many different professions and jobs will come in handy for different jobs.
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2. Pitch thoughtful and well written bids

Having recruited freelancers for non-writing projects of my own, I can testify to the importance of a good bid. So many people and agencies alike use a generic piece of writing, and copy and paste it into the many jobs they apply for.

  • Don’t use a generic copy paste job – they can be seen from a mile away, and detract from all the awesome qualities that you do have going for you.
  • Do proof read – always! If somebody doesn’t take the time to check for spelling and grammatical errors, they immediately stand out as somebody who lacks attention to detail. Don’t be that person!
  • Do illustrate any relevant experience you have, no matter how obscure. Telling somebody that you are a great writer isn’t often enough! They want to know about that time you were the neighbourhood dog walker, and how that experience is perfect for their dog grooming newsletter. Maybe that in your spare time you collect rare stamps, and can talk for hours on the intricacies of them on the clients stamp collecting blog. You get the picture – it is common knowledge that somebody passionate about a subject will write better, and with more ease than somebody who couldn’t care less – if you follow this strategy, in my experience, you will often get picked over more experienced writers who don’t understand the topic as well.

3. Ask for what you're worth & the time you need

A good client is one who values quality work. Unless they have a strict and understandable deadline, taking an extra day to complete a project or spend a few extra dollars is worth it if they know they will have an easy experience and be provided with quality work at the end of the day.

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I try to calculate my bids on an hourly rate even though I prefer to work on fixed price jobs. I quote my fixed price job at a rate I would still be happy with even if the job took an extra hour.

Eg.  if I wanted to earn $30 an hour, and I saw a job for a 500 word article that I could whip up pretty quickly, I might quote at $60 fixed price job. That way, even if I end up spending an extra hour on researching and editing, I am still working within my desired budget.

Don’t ever over-commit yourself. If somebody wants something finished in an hour, and you are not sure you can complete – don’t bid. It is not worth the bad reputation that follows if you take on a job you cannot complete, or turn in bad-quality work because you were rushed for time.

4. Develop a personal brand

Having a brand helps to convey the message that you are a professional in your field, and when you bid on jobs, that brand really shines through. There are many ways to show what you do, and that you do it well:

  • Decide what you specialise in – are you a freelance writer? Great! Maybe specialise a little more than that – freelance finance and business writer sounds a bit more technical/specialised. Find your niches. It doesn’t mean you are trapped in them forever, what you do is constantly evolving. Make sure you pick things you are actually interested in, not just what you think will earn the most money.
  • Put it in writing  – put your new job title everywhere: Facebook, LinkedIn, your Elance profile, slather it all over the internet so a google search on you will return you as the specialist freelancer that you are (or plan to become)
  • Websites and business cards – both can be cheap & easy to put together if you go about it the right way, and I have found that sending people to when I want to demonstrate what I do is a highly effective way of showing that I am a professional. My p post on becoming a freelance writer goes into some more detail on doing this.
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5. Let the work come to you

In my experiences of picking up gigs on Elance, most of the ‘good jobs’ come to me – I am invited to apply for them and often they are invitation only jobs (not even seen by the average freelancer browsing for work). You have to start off by applying for jobs – people don’t invite inexperienced, unknown freelancers. But even if you only have 1 job (with a 5 star rating) under your belt, and a complete profile, you will find yourself getting invited for jobs more frequently.

If you allow your response rate drop below 50%, then you will stop getting shown to potential clients, therefore you will stop getting invited to bid. It would be easy to misunderstand this rule and think that you have to accept at least half of everything that gets thrown at you – even the terrible stuff! But this isn’t what it means. You just need to respond, even if your response is a ‘no, sorry I’m busy currently’ or a ‘Sorry, your budget is too low’.  Make sure you respond to all of the invites you get, even if you are just saying no, and you will keep getting invites.

 There are plenty more intricacies around the art of finding good work on Elance, but those 5 points are, in my opinion, the most important aspects of getting the good Elance gigs. Have you had any luck with Elance? Or any horror stories? Please do share them!


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