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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.