Written by Tom Ewer on 26 August 2013
With the recent boom in freelancing, freelance broker sites likes Elance and oDesk have become increasingly popular. Elance is now one of the largest, with 600,000 jobs posted and $130 million earned by freelancers during the first half of 2013 alone.
While many small businesses and entrepreneurs have opted out of using these sites their worth should not be underestimated. During lean times or as a supplementary boost to earnings while you are building your client base and reputation, they can be an excellent, lucrative source of income.
The key is finding the best clients, who offer the best work and pay the best rates. Once you do that it’s all about beating the competition to secure the contract. In this post I’ll highlight five steps you can take to ensure you win the kind of clients you want.
Step 1: Build a Premium Profile Page
It takes a bit of time and effort to build up a good profile page, but once it’s done you’ll be able to utilize it to secure jobs as and when you need them.
According to Elance, 65% of clients surveyed said they valued a good digital profile over a well-written job proposal, so it’s vital you get it right. After all, it’s a landing page for you. Elance’s Profile page is set-up to showcase the best of your skills, qualifications and experience to thousands of potential clients so capitalize on it.
The key to creating a premium Profile page is writing an awesome service description, which basically provides an overview of the kinds of services you provide as well as your work ethic. It’s your chance to sell yourself and show a bit of personality. Always include a professional photograph of yourself alongside your service description as it gives you credibility and adds a human touch.
Depending on which membership package you have, you can enter up to twenty five skills and keywords that will improve your chance of being found by clients or automatically recommended for new job postings by Elance’s ranking system. Don’t go overboard just include your core skills that relate specifically to the type of work you are looking for.
Within the Profile section is the ability to create a portfolio where you can create a bank of work samples for potential clients to view. This is great as it validates your ability and enables the client to assess whether your work is a fit for their project.
Step 2: Get Five Star Ratings
The feedback system is integral to your success in finding better clients on Elance. It demonstrates consistency, quality and client satisfaction and with many clients automatically rejecting proposals from freelancers with less than a four star rating, it is critical to keep your averages up.
One of the best ways to give your feedback rating a boost is to take on a few ‘easy’ jobs and complete them before deadline to an outstanding, over-and-above level (as if you don’t already!). This should result in a healthy crop of five star ratings and some positive comments you can add to your Profile page.
Step 3: Only Bid on the Right Jobs
That might sound like a bit of a no-brainer but you’d be surprised how many people go with quantity over quality and try to boost their success by applying for anything and everything.
Take time to read the job advert and understand the scope of works involved. Are the aims and outcome clearly defined? Does the client have a grasp of what is involved? It’s no good bidding on a job you will assume will take two hours to complete only for it to turn into a complex, six-hour nightmare which leaves you severely out of pocket.
This leads me on to the importance of researching the client who has placed the job advert.
Clients on Elance have Profile pages in the same way that freelancers do. Take some time to look at the kinds of jobs they are posting, the feedback they are both leaving and receiving and the average amount they are paying. This should help you avoid difficult clients and also save your time in bidding $40 per hour for their latest job when historically the most they’ve paid is $25 per hour.
Step 4: Write a Killer Proposal
Writing a great job proposal isn’t rocket science but there are a few ways you can maximize the impact you make.
Your proposal should be succinct, list only the skills that are relevant to the job advertised and include details of your availability. If it is possible, try to ask a question as it shows you’ve taken time to think about what is expected of you. You should always attach a resume (be careful not to include personal contact details as this is against Elance policy) and remind the client that examples of your previous work can be found within your portfolio.
Naturally, your response should be tailored to each individual job advert and not just a generic response that you’ve copied and pasted hundreds of times before. And lastly, take time to proof your proposal. No one is going to hire someone who makes glaringly obvious spelling and grammar mistakes.
Step 5: Bid the Right Amount
There are two very different approaches when it comes to specifying your bid amount on Elance. You can either choose not to disclose your rates and hope the client will contact you based on your portfolio and proposal, or you can decide your most competitive rate and give it a try.
I recommend the latter, mainly because most clients will receive a huge amount of proposals and will look for any way to filter them down to a shortlist. If you haven’t specified an amount they may assume you charge way more than your competitors, or that you’re just not sure what your services are worth.
Before you finalize your bid amount it’s worth checking out what other freelancers are bidding just in case you are about to wildly overbid by 200%. Once you've gauged the standard it’ll make it much easier to tailor your amount accordingly.
Always be realistic and true to yourself when it comes to pricing. Yes, there will always be people willing to work for $3 per hour but you must stick to a level that reflects your skill. Many clients are now recognizing the value of using home grown talent and cottoning on to the old saying, ‘buy cheap, buy twice’. So hang in there because there is good money to be made.
Although freelance broker sites are still frowned upon and subject to a certain amount of snobbery in the small business world, I feel they are a useful tool that when used effectively to find the best clients can result in good experience, boosted earnings and even possible long-term contracts.
Having a profile on a site like Elance is not something to be ashamed of. After all, as long as you are being paid a fair rate and doing the work you love does it matter where or how you secure your contracts?