Elance: A great way to jumpstart a freelance career


Good morning everyone! Today I have a guest post from Betsy I hope you will enjoy. Betsy writes for ConsumerFu.com, a site dedicated to helping people earn more, save more and make better decisions with their money. Let me know if you would like to guest post on MMYW!



Of the handful of sites that connect freelancers with clients, Elance has provided an excellent platform for starting a freelance business.

After signing up and filling out my profile in September 2012, I had my first job writing content for a website within the first week. That job lasted six months and while it was only a couple of hundred a month, it was a start.

In December 2012, I added another web content job that is still on the books today. Currently, I have two long-term jobs and I fill in with local work as time allows. In less than a year’s time, I have billed enough to consider this a full-time career.

Each job proposal submitted costs “connects.” There are 40 connects provided with the free accounts. I have never once run out of connects. Higher paying jobs take more connects and if you are invited to apply for a job you do not have to use connects.

There is a lot of competition for each job on Elance and you have two chances to demonstrate your skills and professionalism – through your profile and the job proposal. Spend some time making each a solid representation of your skills and experience.


Building your profile

Your profile is organized in several sections. It is important to make sure these sections are thorough without being overly long. Elance offers methods to verify your personal information and job history. Having personal and professional details verified can help you win jobs.


The first sentence of your overview shows up under your name in the public area of the job proposal. Make this first sentence very strong. It helps to go through other provider’s profiles to see how their overview looks and get a sense for how strong the first sentence needs to be.

Job History

Your Elance job history and ratings will show here. This is automated, so there is not much you can do to change what prospective employers see in this section except to make sure you deliver the highest quality work you can so that your ratings remain high.


The portfolio section gives you the opportunity to show off your skills. You do not have to be a professional writer to include a sample of your writing. If you have a personal blog or web site and have a piece you are particularly proud of, upload a copy. You should indicate that your writing sample has not been previously published outside of your personal site, however, do not provide the url of your site. It is a violation of the Elance terms of use to give out personal contact information until a prospective employer has contacted you through Elance.

If you can demonstrate expertise in more than one area, make sure to include samples in your portfolio. Organize your portfolio so that like items are together.


The skills section is a structured list of skills, some that can be validated through a free testing service offered by Elance. Some of the tests are quite outdated, especially in areas like web development. For example, the test for Drupal is based on a very old version with some questions specific to outdated specs. If you do not score well, you have the option to hide your scores and take the test again in two weeks.

Scores on the test are based on the performance of other Elance providers. I do not typically display scores unless I place in the top 10% of Elance freelancers, especially if it is a skill critical to the work I am seeking.

Service Description

The service description area gives you the chance to go into detail about the services you provide within the areas you work. For example, I write journalistic articles and technical documents along with web content and marketing pieces.


This section of your profile is much like an employment section on a job application or resume. Include all of your professional experience instead of tailoring it too much for one specific job – especially if you want to work as a writer. Having depth and breadth of experience is an asset for a writer. Of course, use your best judgment if your employment history makes you look like you cannot commit to a job.


Include all relevant training and education in this section. If an employer offered specialized training on the job or you have participated in continuing education training this should also be included. In other words, do not reserve this area just for education that resulted in a degree or diploma.


This section allows you to list keywords to help prospective clients find you based on their searches. This can help you get more invitations to submit proposals for jobs.



Looking for a job

Finding quality work on Elance – or any online platform – can be daunting. The listings are filled with people who want to pay pennies on the dollar for professional work. There are also scams to watch out for, but Elance does remove these once they’ve been reported.

Look for established, reputable clients

Finding reputable clients is one of the most difficult parts of getting freelance work through a service like Elance. Before submitting a proposal, click on the prospective client’s username to see a quick snapshot of their experience on Elance.

One of the first things you will notice under the “Client Info” is a series of gray or green circles. There is a dollar sign in the first circle. If that first circle is green, the client’s payment source has been verified. All this means is the client has registered their payment method. It does not mean the job has been funded.

If more than one of the circles is green, this is an indication that the client has worked with other freelancers on Elance and has paid for these jobs. This is obviously a good sign. It is always more reassuring to work with an established client. Just remember, they feel the same way about working with established freelancers.

When looking at a client’s stats you can also see the feedback they have left for other service providers. Did they give detailed feedback? Were they overly harsh in their criticism? Did they give excellent feedback to a provider who has mostly negative feedback? Pay attention to what they say about others and you can pick up on details that might clue you in on whether this is someone you want to work with.

Is the job listing thorough?

Some job listings need more information than others, but if you find that you are having a hard time filling out a proposal because you have too many questions, it is a good sign that the client does not really know what they need. Do not quote a price or accept a job before you have ironed out these details. Submit your proposal with all of your questions and indicate you will quote your price or rate later.

Most people will respond to your proposal. Each time I have requested more information, the prospective client has responded with the information I needed to submit a proposal.

Skype or Google hangout to confirm

It is a good idea to talk with the client by phone, Skype or Google Hangout. This is especially important if the listing is from someone with no history on Elance. I have only one client who likes to meet via Google hangouts and one who likes to have phone conferences. While I haven’t had any problems with the clients who don’t want to have a virtual meeting, I have a much stronger relationship with the clients I meet with on a regular basis and I feel a much stronger connection with the project. That makes the work more gratifying.

Make sure funding is in place

If your proposal is successful, you will be asked to agree to final terms of the job. Look over the final terms carefully to make sure that nothing has changed or that new details and expectations have not been slipped into the proposal. Once you are pleased with the final agreement, accept it and wait until the job is funded to start work.

Elance does send an automated email prompting the client to fund the project, however, it is your responsibility to make sure the money is there before you start work. You will receive an email from Elance once the job is funded. When I accept the terms, I usually send a note to the client thanking them for the work and letting them know that I will start work as soon as the job is funded.



Your proposal

Once you have found a job that sounds interesting and a client that looks to be reputable, it is time to put together your proposal. Do not use a copy and pasted, cookie cutter proposal. Not only is it usually obvious to the prospective client, you run the risk of including information that does not apply to the current job.

Take the time to write a thorough proposal that includes all information requested by the client. Do not assume he will check your portfolio or profile. If work samples are requested, attach them to the proposal. Good job listings attract a large number of providers and the best way to stand out is to submit a complete, well-written proposal.

As mentioned above, it is best to ask questions when a job listing is incomplete. I have had very good luck getting a response when I submit the questions at the end of a proposal that includes my experience and writing samples. The more qualified you are for the job, the more likely it is that your questions will be answered. Once you have all of the information that you need, complete your proposal and resubmit.

Sample work

Some clients have sneaky ways to try to get work free of charge or at a greatly reduced price. While it is a violation of Elance terms for anyone to request free work samples, that doesn’t keep people from trying. They will also request an introductory rate just to determine if you are a good fit for their project. Often the initial work is the only work they have available. It rarely pays to offer introductory rates and it often makes it difficult to raise your rates later.

When it comes to starting a business online, many of us open a shop on one of the auction or shopping venues. Others start a blog and develop affiliate relationships with other online businesses. Both of these are great ways to earn extra income, and they have long-term potential for replacing a large part of your regular take home pay. Working as a freelance writer and using Elance to help build a client base has allowed me to earn more money much faster than other online endeavors.


Thank you for reading! Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Never miss another post and subscribe via Pinterest RSS feed or email. Or come and say hi on Facebook and Twitter

About Pauline

A 30 something French girl looking for ways to make more money. I blog about real estate, side hustles, improving your career, investing and making money online.

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  1. I’ve never tried elance before.. I am really familar with odesk but haven’t looked around much on elance. thanks for the information!
    Liz recently posted…5 Facts About the BloggerMy Profile

  2. I’m looking to get into some freelance writing, and potentially other freelance work as well. To be honest I’ve got my reservations about Elance just based on stories from others, but I like the tips here and it may be worth checking out. Thanks.
    Matt Becker recently posted…Traditional vs. Roth IRA: Some Unconventional Wisdom on Which is Better for Young InvestorsMy Profile

  3. Very thorough write-up on Elance. I haven’t ever taken a job through Elance or any other freelance website, but I have checked out some of the spreadsheet consulting competition. Unfortunately for those who do freelance work in spreadsheet design, these sites can really bring down the overall asking price for the market. That’s good news for people hiring, but also makes me less motivated to go after jobs through it.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…My Top 3 Financial ResolutionsMy Profile

  4. I have definitely checked out elance before but I’ve never pursued a writing job on there. So much competition! I have heard several people say they’ve gotten work there, though. It must work!
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted…Hey Guys, it’s 2014: Saving on WirelessMy Profile

  5. I feel that all those sites- elance, task rabbit, fiverr, etc are so over saturated. How does someone new without reviews get noticed?
    Stefanie @ The Broke and Beautiful Life recently posted…Stage Door Series: Is It Worth It To Go Local?My Profile

    • Stephanie,

      When I have available hours or I know a job is about to end, I go through the writing jobs twice each day and those I’m interested in to the watch list. I write custom proposals for each one, but after a while they are very easy to write up. Make sure you have a complete profile, take some tests to verify your skills and upload your best work to your portfolio.

      Attach your best work to your proposal even if you have a solid portfolio on the site. Some clients don’t want to have to look at your profile.

      Be persistent. I looked for several days and my first job didn’t pay much – about $35 for an article that I now bill $250+ for, but I gave it my very best effort and she gave me an excellent review. I wouldn’t take any of those $3 for 500 word jobs just to get a review, but even that works for some.
      Betsy @ ConsumerFu recently posted…America Saves Week 2014 – What is Your Savings Goal?My Profile

  6. Great write-up on Elance Betsy! My wife took a job or two from them years ago but didn’t stick with it as there was just so much competition. That said, I think if you know what you’re doing and can get some momentum you can use it to your advantage.
    John S @ Frugal Rules recently posted…I’m on a Mission to Save MoneyMy Profile

  7. I’ve thought about getting on Elance and picking up some new jobs but I’ve been hesitant. I’ve heard there is a TON of competition and a lot of really low paying jobs. Maybe I’ll give it another look but my first glance didn’t feel promising!
    Fig @ Figuring Money Out recently posted…How to save money on groceries & Save your budgetMy Profile

    • Just remember, you wouldn’t look at classifieds in a newspaper or online and declare them a bad source for jobs based on one search. That’s true of Elance as well. There are a ton of low-paying jobs on Elance. Ignore them. There is also a lot of competition, but a vast majority of the writers can’t string two sentences together. I know, I’ve hired through Elance for one of my clients and was appalled at the number of people applying for writing jobs who couldn’t write.
      Betsy @ ConsumerFu recently posted…America Saves Week 2014 – What is Your Savings Goal?My Profile

  8. Hi Betsy. Thanks for the information on Elance. I’ll definitely check it out. It sounds like finding quality work on the site could be challenging.

  9. I’ve hired a few people through Elance and absolutely love the service! As I’m not much of a writer myself, it’s nice to be able to connect with others who have a knack for it. I know it can be difficult for people who are just starting out to get jobs since a lot of people won’t hire without at least a couple reviews in place.

    I’m still working on building a network of Elancers for a variety of projects. I’d be happy to network with some aspiring freelancers via Elance. My username is camelotchampion, shoot me a message and we can get to know each other. Once I learn what your areas of expertise/interest are I’ll add you to my list! Maybe we can work on a few projects together at a discount in exchange for a couple starting reviews. I love helping out fellow entrepreneurs!

    • I wish there was an easier way to network on Elance. I understand they don’t want jobs taken off the platform, but I have no problem with their fee since they process the payment and I get it much faster than through Paypal. It is worth it.
      Betsy @ ConsumerFu recently posted…America Saves Week 2014 – What is Your Savings Goal?My Profile

      • Totally! If I were a freelancer I would much rather have the faster payment processing and a guaranteed place where I know people are looking for me to complete work. It’s the convenience of it all. Makes setting up a freelancing business so much easier! I do wish there were an easier way to get to know other freelancers on there as well, outside of just bidding on jobs posted.

    • Hey Kyle, I tried to find you on Elance. I’m one of the aspiring writers you’re talking about and I’d love to speak to you!

  10. That’s the great power of the internet as people can start a great freelancing career. Helpful tips for others.
    charles@gettingarichlife recently posted…Why Do You Choose Material Items Over Your Loved Ones?My Profile

  11. Hi everyone,

    Sorry I wasn’t around yesterday to answer questions. We were one of the lucky ones without power in this deep freeze. All is well today, but I was worried about burst pipes. We kept water running. Can’t wait to see the water bill next month!
    Betsy @ ConsumerFu recently posted…America Saves Week 2014 – What is Your Savings Goal?My Profile

  12. I’ve made some good money with a couple decent clients off Elance, but I’m no longer really active on there. If you can get some good recurring work off there … but otherwise I find it’s not the best use of my time, trying to get projects on there.
    NZ Muse recently posted…RTW budget: A six-month trip recapMy Profile

  13. Great guide, I’ve only ever used Elance to hire help which was a fantastic experience!
    I’ve been thinking about using Elance as my next side hustle tool. Do you find you have to spend a lot of time looking for jobs or do jobs drip through organically when your profile is set up and you have quality reviews?
    Joe @ Budget Breakaway recently posted…Hiring A Freelancer for Your Side HustleMy Profile

  14. What a great bunch of advice here. Just remember, don’t sell yourself short! Stick to your guns and put out your best work. You will be rewarded in the end.
    J.F. Foster recently posted…Daily Market RecapMy Profile

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