Achieving Success Using Popular Freelance Sites
Getting your feet wet as a freelance web designer can be a daunting task. Especially for students and young designers, the lack of a rich and meaningful portfolio or a client network is a tough hump to get over. Popular freelance sites such as elance or odesk can provide a great way to get started in the industry but with such a large user base it can be tough to stand out. However, if you can manage to milk some success out of sites like these it can lead to a very bright future in freelance design.
Beware though! Getting work through these sites is hard and turning a meaningful profit is even harder! High traffic job boards have thousands of designers and programmers competing for work and the international scope of things will drive prices way below what you expect. But the jobs are not impossible to get and while you won’t be turning $50.00/hr (or anywhere near it) it is an attractive alternative to seeking out non-profit organizations, friends, or family to provide with free web design just for the sake of building a portfolio.
There are some guidelines that can be a huge help in carving out your piece of the freelance pie.
1. Your Profile
The information you put in your profile is crucial to getting clients. Think of it as your resume, it’s the first thing the client will see and often times clients pick a freelancer without having more than a message and a profile view for communication so it needs to represent you and your skills well.
Make sure you have high quality work in your portfolio. Even if it amounts to school projects, your personal site, or something you made for your parents office, you need to have some kind of work for the client to see and it needs to be the best work you have done.
2. Market Your Skills
Freelance communities such as elance allow you to display your skills as a part of your portfolio. They also allow you to test your skills through their system and show off your results. On elance the tests are free and if you do well they will display in your profile with your tested percentile. This can be a huge help since some clients will search out freelancers with specific skill sets. Having clients contact you asking for a project bid is a giant success in a community with thousands of other options.
3. Pick Your Battles
While there may be a lot more fish in the sea the size of the ocean is also much larger. Elance and Odesk have literally hundreds of job postings to choose from and you can’t bid on every one, so be smart about the jobs you do bid on.
Use the provided client information to your advantage. Have they posted jobs before? If so what type of jobs were they and did the client actually pick a bidder or were they just price shopping? Try to avoid clients that have a low percentage of awarded jobs as you could be wasting a lot of time bidding for jobs that no one gets. Also you can use projects they have awarded in the past to gauge what the client is comfortable paying for a project to make sure your bid lands in the sweet spot.
4. Bid Smart but Fair
Certain projects will always have similar average bids, you can typically see the average bid price and use it to make sure your proposal doesn’t get rejected immediately for being grossly over or under priced.
Bid fair to yourself. Placing the lowest bid of any provider or going with the minimum bid for a project may seem like a good tactic for the designer who just needs some jobs but on the contrary it will almost never get you work. Most buyers understand the concept of you get what you pay for, so the provider who shows up and bids the lowest amount all the time starts to look like the one who doesn’t value their own work. Don’t be afraid to bid higher than your competitors if you feel like the job should cost more and your services are worth it.
5. Value Local Buyers
Finding any way to connect with a potential buyer provides you with an additional advantage for getting some work. A lot of people feel more comfortable working with someone of the same nationality and communication is much easier when you don’t have a huge difference in time zones. I have had buyers contact me in the past and say they wanted to work with me because they had family that lived in a town near me. If you are a college graduate, especially from a large school, there is a good chance that every now and then you will run into an alumni that trusts you because you have an educational connection.
6. Don’t Quit Your Day Job
While it is certainly feasible to make money through these resources it becomes extremely hard to make a living off of them. It can be easy to get excited when you see other accounts that have earned over a million dollars in revenue over the past year but those accounts are almost never associated with a freelancing individual. Rather companies with dozens of designers and developers place bids on hundreds of jobs and rake in the cash all to be split among a number of people.
A successful freelancer will use the work they acquired on elance or odesk to expand into your local or regional market. If you are able to complete a few jobs and receive positive feedback on your work you can use your expanded portfolio and encouraging testimonials to help secure larger and more profitable projects.